Corporal Harold E. (Gene) Morris
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Patrolman Larry Prince as the Officer of the Month for August 2004. Patrolman Prince began his career in law enforcement in April of 1996.
Although both his father and grandfather were police officers, Officer Prince admits that his initial draw to the career was inspired by the police television shows he watched as a youngster. As he matured he knew that these programs did not always accurately portray the job of a law enforcement officer, but his determination to work in the field never wavered. Shortly before receiving his Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice, young Larry Prince walked into the Chief's office of a small rural Nebraska town and asked for a job. After a brief conversation, the Chief handed Larry Prince a badge, car keys and a weapon stating, "You start tonight at seven." Two years later, Officer Prince relocated to Wyoming and joined the Riverton Police Department.
On the night of June 6, 2001, Officer Prince was dispatched to a report of a vehicle fire in the driveway of a residence. Upon arriving on the scene, Officer Prince knew that as the fire accelerated it would eventually engulf the garage, before ravaging the home itself. Suspecting that the residents were trapped, Officer Prince attempted to gain entry to the residence through the front door, but was thrown back when something in the burning vehicle exploded. Realizing that his only access to the residence might be through the garage, Officer Prince climbed over the backyard fence, only to find that the door leading into the house from the garage was locked. As he struggled to break down the door, the inside walls and the ceiling of the garage became engulfed in flames, producing scorching temperatures and suffocating smoke. In what must have seemed like an eternity, Officer Prince was finally able to break down the door and enter the home.
Once inside, Officer Prince found two adults sound asleep in a back bedroom. As the fire had spread to the home itself, thick clouds of black smoke blocked both the front and back doors. Officer Prince saw no option but to lead the terrified residents out through the garage. In the short time Officer Prince was in the house, the situation in the backyard had deteriorated. Parts of the fence were aflame and both gates were ablaze, trapping the three in a circle of fire. Unable to climb the fence, the homeowners waited for rescue workers to bring a ladder. At that point a second explosion sent flames shooting out into the yard treacherously close to a propane tank in the far end of the yard. Knowing there was no time to wait; with bare hands, Officer Prince began to tear down wooden planks from the same fence he had only moments ago climbed to reach the residents. An escape route was cleared and all three got out alive. After being treated for smoke inhalation, Officer Prince was released from the hospital. For his courage and clear thinking under enormous pressure, Officer Prince received the Riverton Police Department's Life Saving Medal.
Remarkably, Officer Prince does not consider this event his greatest career achievement. Instead, he refers to a child molestation case, which still makes an impact on his life and career. Modestly, he talks about a young girl who had been sexually molested a year prior to the date it was reported. With no physical evidence or witnesses other than the child, Office Prince, with assistance from seasoned detectives, persevered and was ultimately successful in having the suspect confess to the crime, netting him a lengthy prison sentence.
Unlike the television police heroes of his youth, Officer Prince knows first hand the dangers and rewards that each law enforcement professional experiences during his/her career. He can tell you that when a call comes in there are no re-takes, no stand-ins or stuntmen, just dedicated men and women committed to the service and sacrifice of their communities; the same service and sacrifice his father and grandfather made many years before him.
Officer Prince is a member of the Wyoming Peace Officers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Tactical Officers Association and the National Field Training Officers Association.