COVINGTON, Ga. - Georgia State Patrol Trooper First Class Cal Barton received the GSP’s Valor Award, its highest honor, earlier this month for a harrowing experience almost seven years ago.
The incident which earned Barton the award was fairly straight-forward, and it was the kind of event every law enforcement officer dreads. The events that led to the long delay in him receiving the award are less clear, but a new commander at Monroe’s Post 46 made sure Barton received the long overdue recognition.
Barton, on May 18, 2011, was on routine patrol in Newton County when he spotted a motorist not wearing the seat belt and speeding. He flipped on his blue lights, expecting it to be a normal traffic stop like officers make on a daily basis.
Only this driver didn’t stop. A vehicle pursuit ended with the driver taking off on foot. The foot chase ended when the suspect turned on Barton, threatened to kill him with a gun and ran towards the Trooper with his hands in his pockets.
Barton, taking the man at his word, drew his weapon and fired.
“I shot and killed him," Barton said. “We never want to do that.”
James Buchanan, now a Sergeant First Class in the GSP and the commander of the Monroe post, then was a training corporal and the GSP’s assistant use-of-force coordinator. He was one of the investigators who worked Barton’s shooting.
Late last year, Buchanan was moved into his current job and noticed Barton did not wear an award ribbon on his uniform for his response years ago. When Buchanan asked why, he learned Barton never was honored for his heroism.
Between the shooting and receiving the award, Barton was detached from the local post to Atlanta because the suspect’s family had threatened revenge and the GSP wanted to defuse the situation. The suspect was found to have no gun but did have a knife, and he was wanted in several counties.
All of that made Buchanan determined to get Barton recognition.
“I researched it and got the case filed,” Buchanan said. “He should have been honored for it long ago.”
Now, the entire staff at Post 46 has something new to take pride in.
“I was proud of him before he got this” Buchanan said. “He is the only one at (Post) 46 to have this.”
Barton learned of his honor last month and received it March 3.
“I guess I got excited about it,” he said of his reaction upon learning of the award. “(Shooting someone) is not something you ever want to do just to get an award. It was nice for somebody else to notice you went above and beyond.”
Barton said that incident remains the only time in his GSP career he has fired his weapon in the field.
Sometimes, he thinks of that day when he was forced to take a suspect’s life to protect his own.
“I am still dealing with it,” Barton said. “I have it under control.”