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September 2003

Patrol Officer Jeffrey Postell

Murphy (NC) Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Patrol Officer Jeffrey Scott Postell, of the Murphy (NC) Police Department, as its Officer of the Month for September 2003. Officer Postell has served with the department since July 2002.

Many young people anxiously await their 21st birthday. On that magic day adulthood begins and many dreams are realized. Jeff Postell longed for his 21st birthday so that he might realize his dream of becoming an officer with the Murphy Police Department. As a teenager, he joined the Explorers and volunteered with the local fire department. Never loosing sight of his goal, after high school he enrolled in basic law enforcement training courses at Southwestern Community College and helped organize a community watch program in his neighborhood. To further prepare himself for a career in law enforcement, he took a job as a security guard in anticipation of when he would officially be sworn in as a police officer.

Veteran law enforcement officers will tell you that in their world life can change in the blink of an eye and no one can attest to that more than Officer Postell, who with less than one year on the job became the most famous cop in the country. Few rookies are launched into the spotlight by capturing one of the FBI's Most Wanted, fewer still would have handled it as well as this young man.

Nearing the end of his shift Officer Postell noticed a suspicious person lurking behind a local market. As the officer approached, the vagrant attempted to hide behind a pile of milk crates. Although at first it appeared that he had a weapon, Officer Postell soon realized that it was a flashlight, and ordered the suspect to come out into full view. The suspect, who identified himself as Jerry Wilson, cooperated and allowed Postell to take him into custody. So far, all in all, a pretty routine arrest.

The first officer to respond to the call for backup was Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Matthews whose reaction at first confused Officer Postell. Deputy Matthews stared down at the handcuffed man, who he immediately recognized as a fugitive the FBI had hunted for five years. Lying there was the notorious Eric Robert Rudolph who had terrorized the citizens of Atlanta and Birmingham.

While the entire nation sighed with relief as the news of Rudolph's capture broke, the families of two of his victims saw his arrest as the end of a terrible chapter in their lives. Although more than 100 people were injured, Alice Hawthone, the forty-four year old mother of two, died as a direct result from the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Officer Sande Sanderson, a 9 year veteran of the Birmingham Police Department, became that department's fortieth officer killed in the line of duty when Rudolph bombed a woman's health facility in that city on January 29, 1998. Officer Sanderson's name appears on Pane 2E; Line 21 of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC.

In his short time with the police department, Officer Postell has impressed many of Murphy's citizens. He organized a community policing initiative working to improve public safety in the town's low-income housing developments, and continues to work with local neighborhood watch programs.

His modest attitude about what will most likely become the highlight of his career speaks volumes about him, not only as a law enforcement officer, but as a human being. When asked how it felt to apprehend one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted, Officer Postell replied, "I don't really deserve any credit ... just doing the job which I was hired to do."