Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

Heart on the line

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Derek Thornhill

He doesn't quite get the big deal. The media response. The coverage. In fact, he thinks the big deal is something weird. But it's not. With coverage of a mass shooting in Orlando the same time, good news is great. It's what we crave.

"It's just what a person would do," said Mt. Juliet Police Officer Derek Thornhill. "I can't let a man walk to Knoxville in two right shoes.

With the Mt. Juliet Police Department since September, Thornhill did a good deed.

"I responded to a call of a suspicious person," he said.

That person was behind Belk at Providence. The guy was in his 50s and obviously on the move.

"I noticed he was wearing two right shoes," Thornhill recalled.

The young officer was told by this man he had walked from North Carolina and was simply taking a break in Mt. Juliet. Taking a breath. Garnering strength.

"He has family in Knoxville," Thornhill said.

"I could not let him do it," he said. "How could I let him walk in two right shoes."

So he convinced the man to get in his trooper car and go to Good Feet (shoe store) around the corner. Out of his own pocket, Thornhill bought the stranger a new pair of shoes, black New Balances.

"It's no big deal," he said. "All of us officers do things for people. Not for the glory. Just because."

MJPD Chief James Hambrick said he was proud of his young officer.

"Each of these incidences is new in itself," he said. "It was a great thing Derek did. He followed his heart."

Hambrick said it's not about the publicity. So many times officers put not only their life on the line, but their heart.

Officers fix tires, buy gas, pay for hotels rooms... all on their own.

"It's part of our culture of helping," Hambrick said. "But, in kind, the community continues to help us."

Thornhill said he'd rather drive the stranger to Knoxville, but he was on duty.

"He seemed really grateful," he said. "He said thank you, and told me to have a blessed day."

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