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When an older man ran out of gas on Highway 111 South two weeks ago, Grady County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jeff Riggins answered the call for assistance.
“He could tell us his name and address, but everything else (he said) didn’t make sense,” Sgt. Riggins says of the man who was in his 80’s.
Grady E.M.S. checked over the man and said his thought process wasn’t such that they could force him to go to a hospital, but they were concerned that in his mental and physical state he might not make it home without assistance.
A little investigating revealed the man had been on the road trying to get home for several days. He was able to relay that he was from Cottonwood, Alabama, so Riggins contacted police there.
Soon, Riggins discovered the man’s family had last heard from him three days earlier through a law enforcement officer in South Carolina. That officer had tried to help point him in the right direction home.
Later, Riggins discovered the man had wrecked in Florida sometime after he was in South Carolina, and officers there helped him rent a car to get home.
By Friday, June 18, when he made his way into south Grady County, the man was hungry and disoriented.
Riggins says he could not send the man home without extra assistance.
“Everybody else had tried sending him towards his house, and he kept missing the mark. I wanted to make sure he got home,” Sgt. Riggins says.
So, he called the wrecker service on rotation that afternoon, which was Royce’s Towing and Recovery, to see how much it would cost to tow the man and his car to Cottonwood.
Riggins says he was going to pay the $375 towing tab, but Royce’s owner, Larry Plank, wouldn’t hear of it.
“We all know deputy’s aren’t paid enough. I wasn’t going to let him pay for that,” says Plank.
At the time, Plank was hosting a company fish fry and offered to pay a willing driver a bonus to leave the festivities and tow the man and his car home. Plank says driver Daniel Harden answered the call and they even gave the Alabama man a plate of fried fish to enjoy.
“The way I look at it, when you do something right, it will come back to you,” Plank says.
Riggins says the police chief in Cottonwood said he would make sure either he or one of his officers met the man at his home to get him settled in until his relatives could arrive from Florida.
For both Riggins and Plank, this gentleman’s situation was familiar to them since they both had experience with older relatives and others close to them who had suffered from Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“A lot of people looked out for the man,” says Riggins. “The thing I liked is everybody worked together to make sure the man got home.”
Cottonwood Police Chief Tony Money agrees with Riggins on this thought. Chief Money wrote a letter to Grady County Sheriff Harry praising the teamwork to help this stranger in our community. Chief Money shared a copy of that letter with The Messenger, and it appears on Page A5 of this issue.
Riggins, a 40-year-old Jacksonville, Florida native, says he has worked in law enforcement for approximately 20 years, the last 15 with the Grady County Sheriff’s Office.