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Montgomery County sheriff reflects on Baldwin County deputy’s death

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 8:27 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - What happened to deputy Bill Smith in Baldwin County is reverberating throughout the law enforcement community in Alabama.

“And you can feel that pain that they’re going through,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham.

Cunningham didn’t personally know Smith, yet in a way he did.

“Yes, it’s just like you just lost somebody,” he said.

Bonded by a common goal of serving the public - brothers in arms, servants who wear the badge.

“You know, this is heroic. Anytime that you’re running into a situation and you got somebody that’s drowning and you’re going in to save that person and you lose your life, yeah, that’s touching,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham has been in law enforcement for some 30 years. Even though the overall number of water-related calls in Montgomery County is less than 1% per year, the sheriff can relate to what Smith was feeling and thinking when he plunged into the water to help save the swimmers west of Gulf Shores on Sunday.

“You’re not thinking about ‘can I do this’ or ‘will I be able to accomplish this.’ Your mind is not thinking that. Your mind is thinking ‘let me go and help this person,” he said.

What happened over the weekend in Baldwin County illustrates an overriding truth in law enforcement. Every day brings its own set of uncertainties and inherent dangers.

“It’s just not going to alarm calls, going to robbery calls,” said Cunningham.

Nearly 200 miles separate Montgomery and the location where Smith gave up his life. But in law enforcement there is no distance among those who put it on the line every day, every hour.

Another Baldwin County deputy was briefly hospitalized after her part in the rescue. That deputy has been released from the hospital. The U.S. Coast Guard also took part in the rescue. The swimmers survived.

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