Hero officer says he's doing God’s work

When off-duty Aberdeen Police Lt. Jesse James Smith is on his way home from work nowadays, he is extremely aware of his surroundings. Because he recently saved two men’s lives and in 2019, a flock of exotic birds, and he says it’s God’s work.

On March 5, Smith was asked to pick up breakfast for his pregnant wife and was running late when a silver flash caught the corner of his eye. It was around 7 a.m. near N.C. State Equine Health Center in Vass on Highway 1.

“I don’t know if you are a believer, but this was Him. No doubt,” Smith said, about turning around his patrol car. “God said you need to go back.”

The wooden fence was broken like something went through, and when Smith got close, he saw a wreck and called dispatch but could not tell if the wreck was new or old. He walked up, and he said it took a while to go through the pine trees.

Hero officer says he is doing God’s work

The March 5 wreck/Sandhills Sentinel.

The air bags had deployed, and Smith bent over to look inside the window. He asked if the driver was OK, twice, before he heard a middle-aged man say, “I’m hurt bad. I think I broke my back.”

“It looked possible,” Smith said. “There was a post through the windshield, and, at first, I thought it went through him. But it didn’t.”

“The car was cold. Not smoking. He said he was the only one in the car,” Smith said.

“I’m not gonna leave you,” Smith told the man as he hurried to move his patrol car and turn on his blue lights for emergency responders.

“I can’t explain how I saw it,” Smith said. “I guess the car had been there half the night.”

Hundreds of cars and big trucks drive by there at night.

“God wanted me to be there,” Smith said.

On March 10, Smith was on his way home from work around 7 a.m., and his pregnant wife wanted Dunkin’ Donuts, but workers had not shown up, so Smith was running late again.

Smith saw an SUV on fire in the road across from the Dollar General in Vass on U.S. Highway 1.

Officer says he's doing God’s work

The March 10 vehicle fire/Photo courtesy of Cypress Pointe Fire Department.

“Smoke was bellowing. Black smoke,” Smith said. “The tent guy who sells boats came running up. He was running the best he could do and came to the car. He was there first.”

The tent guy was hero Michael Stamets.

Stamets and Smith desperately tried to pull the unconscious driver from the SUV. Its front end was engulfed in raging flames and creeping onto the dashboard.

Video from Lt. Jesse James Smith’s patrol car on March 10, 2022, is provided by the Aberdeen Police Department.

“Blood was all over the place. It was all over me,” Smith said.

A third person came up, and the three men pulled the man in desperation as the passenger’s compartment was consumed by flames.

“If it wasn’t for the third person, we would have been severely burned. We had smoke inhalation,” Smith said.

In September 2019, Smith was on his way home from work at 6:30 a.m. when he noticed smoke across the U.S. Highway 1 area near Dunrovin Country Store.

Smith said he knew the fire was not pine straw or something natural when the smoke turned black. He turned his patrol car around, saw the building behind the store on fire, and called dispatch.

Officer says he is doing God’s work

The September 2019 house fire/Photo Frank Staples-Sandhills Sentinel.

“The man who lived in the house had been cooking French fries, and the grease caught fire. He tried to save his dog, but it was dead,” Smith said.

The fire was spreading across the grass and past the fence where the exotic birds lived behind the store. Smith could not find a hose, and no one knew where to find one. He finally found an old four-foot piece of hose and stuck it on the spigot and put out the grass fire.

“I think I saved the birds,” Smith said. “People thought I saved the man, but he was already out.”

Smith received accommodation of honor, a valor pin, and an award at Christmas for his 2019 heroic off-duty deed. He will receive more accommodations of honor at a town council meeting for doing what he loves — helping people.

“Last time I tried to check up on how somebody was doing, they told me I couldn’t because of HIPPA laws,” Smith said. “I would love to hear from both of the people.”

Click on the blue links in the article to read the other stories on Lt. Jesse James Smith and Michael Stamets.

Feature photo: Aberdeen Police Officer Lt. Jesse James Smith presents his accommodation March 18, 2022, in the Aberdeen Police Station.

~Article and feature photo by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].

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