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January 2006

Deputies Jennifer Fulford & Dwayne Martin

Orange County (FL) Sheriff's Office

 
Deputy Jennifer Fulford Depty Dwayne Martin

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Deputies Jennifer Fulford and Dwayne Martin of the Orange County (FL) Sheriff's Office as its Officers of the Month for January 2006.

On May 5, 2004 at approximately 7:49 a.m., as Isola Allen was preparing to drive her son to school, three men appeared in the driveway, forcing the mother of three back into her home. Although terrified, quick thinking 8 year old Dextin, retrieved his mother's cell phone from her purse, and dialed 911. Deputies Fulford and Martin were among the first to respond to the burglary in progress call. They had been advised that the 8 year old boy, who had made the call, was locked in a van along with his two-year old twin sisters, while three men with guns forced his mother back into the house.

While some deputies formed a perimeter around the house, Deputy Fulford took up a position next to the van in an attempt to get the children out of the area. Regrettably, she found the children too frightened to open the doors. At that same moment, Ms. Allen exited from the rear of the residence screaming for her children, and two armed men burst into the garage taking up positions in the front and rear of the van, cutting off any escape route for Deputy Fulford.

One gunman immediately opened fire. Deputy Fulford returned fire hitting the suspect who continued shooting while sliding down the wall into a seated position. The second gunman shot at the deputy from across the hood of the van hitting her several times. Deputy Fulford was hit in the right knee, left ankle, her thigh, and buttocks. As bullets ricocheted off the concrete floor Deputy Fulford was shot in the right shoulder, damaging a nerve and rendering her right shooting hand useless. With her weak hand, Deputy Fulford reloaded her sidearm and continued engaging the suspects.

With two gunshot wounds to his head, the second gunman managed to stumble out of the garage, just as Deputy Martin rounded the corner. Although the gunman shot the deputy in the shoulder, Deputy Martin returned fire, took down the suspect and provided armed protection for Deputy Fulford until a team was able to tactically remove her from the garage.

The gun battle lasted less than a minute, during which time Deputy Fulford was struck by 10 rounds; seven causing severe wounds and three striking various pieces of her duty equipment. Deputy Martin suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder during the incident. One suspect was pronounced dead on the scene, the other succumbed to his gunshot sounds eight days later. The third suspect, who remained in the house during the melee, surrendered without incident.

While certainly the victim in this deadly home invasion, Mrs. Allen and her husband, who was out of the country at the time, were later arrested as police found 341 pounds of marijuana and $54,000 in cash inside the house. The whole purpose of the home invasion was to steal the contraband the gunmen knew was in the house.

For their extraordinary actions taken that morning, Deputies Jennifer Fulford and Dwayne Martin received the National Association of Police Organization’s 2005 TOP COPS Awards.

For his courage Deputy Sheriff Dwayne Martin was awarded the Purple Heart and Combat Ribbon. He believes that Deputy Fulford and he were "in God's hands that day. Sheriff Kevin E. Beary states, "The bond between law enforcement officers is one that is difficult to fathom to those outside the profession and was epitomized that day by the actions of Deputy Martin." A member of the Homeland Protection Unit, Deputy Dwayne Martin continues to serve the community where he, his wife, and three children reside.

Reflecting on the incident, Deputy Jennifer Fulford said, "When you go through something like that, mindset is important. I was not going to die in that garage." Amazingly, Deputy Fulford returned to active duty four months later and was married in September 2004. One bullet was unable to be removed and she still suffers from some nerve damage in her right arm. For her extraordinary act of valor, Deputy Fulford was awarded the Presidential Public Safety Officer's Medal of Valor as well as a myriad of other awards including the National Sheriff's Officer of the Year and Purple Heart Awards, Parade Magazine/ IACP Officer of the Year Award, and the Fraternal Order of Police Officer of the Year Award. Deputy Fulford continues to serve and protect her community with the Orange County Sheriff's Office and is a member of the Child Abuse Unit.