Recruiter assists officer in trouble
By SSgt. Gregory S. Gilliam
| | May 14, 2002
6TH MARINE CORPS DISTRICT, PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
A local Marine Recruiter put his own safety aside to assist another man in uniform April 4, 2002.
It was just like any other night for 24-year-old Marine recruiter SSgt. Matthew C. Hughes. The Ashland City, Tenn. native, was on his way home from work at 7:15 p.m., when he spotted Tullahoma Police Officer Sgt. Ray Higginbotham, 37, trying to restrain a suspect in front of Harton Hospital in the rural Tennessee town that is home to approximately 20,000 residents.
Hughes, a recruiter at Permanent Contact Station Tullahoma, Recruiting Substation Murfreesboro, jumped from his truck and asked if he could help Higginbotham.
"I saw the guy walking down the road with nurses all around him and I thought he had escaped the hospital," said Hughes. "He (Higginbotham) was getting out of his car and the guy rushed at him."
"He (suspect) ran at me and I was able to get out of my car and push him to the side," said Higginbotham, who has spent 18 years in the Army and National Guard. "Hughes came running up and said 'I am a Marine, can I help?"
Higginbotham was trying everything to subdue the suspect from using his expandable baton to chemical spray. With his back turned to Hughes, the suspect kept swinging and kicking at the officer. Hughes arrived and helped to restrain the suspect by putting the 44-year-old subject in a "choke hold." The move turned out to be effective as Higginbotham was able to apply handcuffs and regain control of the situation.
"I really didn't think, it just seemed like the right thing to do," said Hughes. "I was pretty scared, but it happened so fast and I knew he needed help. I just couldn't stand back and watch."
According to Higginbotham, the Tullahoma Police Department evening shift supervisor, the suspect had been admitted to the hospital to undergo treatment for an undiagnosed mental condition when he became violent with the staff and left the hospital. He began moving down North Jackson Street in Tullahoma as hospital workers tried unsuccessfully to talk him back into the building. Higginbotham showed up on the scene and the situation took the turn for the worse until Hughes arrived to offer assistance.
"He helped me tremendously," said Higginbotham. "My backup had not arrived yet and the hospital staff was not trained to handle anything like that. I was relieved. The whole thing only lasted about a minute and five seconds."
"Staff Sergeant Hughes would do it again if the situation happened again," said SSgt. Craig S. Stout, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of RSS Murfreesboro. "He saw someone in trouble and reacted to the situation."
"Most people would have stood back and watched, but he was willing to take action," Higginbotham said. "I am not surprised that a Marine or any other service member would help. I knew he had been trained and he knew what he was doing."
Hughes, a diesel mechanic by trade, has been recruiting in Tullahoma since he joined RS Nashville in July 2000. He was also promoted meritoriously to staff sergeant in January of this year.
"He is a hard worker and goes the extra mile to get things done," said Stout, who was not surprised that Hughes got involved in the situation. "He pushes himself to succeed and he has a very good work ethic. He did something that most Marines would do."