CUMMING — About 10 a.m. on June 6, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Deputies Bobby Francis and Brian Chatham were at Magistrate Court prior to an administrative suspension hearing.
A call came through their radio that shots had been fired at the main courthouse in downtown Cumming, about a mile away.
“We had been told via radio communications the suspect was heavily armed, and as we arrived there was still a lot of gunfire going on, and it escalated about the time of our arrival,” Francis said.
“We saw some billowing smoke that was possibly released by the suspect. We noticed other deputies and court personnel as well on scene, and at that time we observed Deputy Rush was down.”
Francis and Chatham, both nine-year sheriff’s office veterans who met in high school, received a life-saving award Saturday from the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Macon.
Deputy Daniel Rush, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 25 years, was on patrol outside of the courthouse that June morning when 48-year-old Dennis Ronald Marx drove onto the lawn in an attempt to shoot his way into the building.
Rush and Marx exchanged gunfire before the county’s SWAT team and deputies from the jail and courthouse arrived. Forsyth Sheriff Duane Piper has credited Rush with saving many lives by preventing Marx’s advance. But once Rush helped save those inside the building, he needed help of his own.
“We rushed over to him, and I observed he had been shot in the leg,” said Francis, who has served on uniform patrol and a crime suppression unit before working in DUI and traffic enforcement.
The duo applied a makeshift tourniquet to his leg by using Chatham’s belt. Once the bleeding staunched, they examined him for other injuries before deciding to move him from the area upon hearing there may be explosives in the suspect’s vehicle.
“We moved him around the side to the northern corner, where there’s a little better cover from the side if there was going to be an explosion,” Francis said.
Although the events unfolded quickly, he was able to prepare en route to the scene.
“That’s the big part in law enforcement is being able to plan because you never know what you’re going to get into,” he said.
Throughout the entire process, both deputies said they were focused on the task and would never think of doing anything differently.
“Your training kicks in and you just do what you have to do and what was put in front of you,” said Chatham, who served on uniform patrol and the crime suppression unit with Francis before working with the K9 unit for the past eight years. “Anything we did that day, I don’t think we did anything special. We just did what we were trained to do.
“You could kind of see the relief on [Rush’s] face, that he knew we were there and we were going to take care of him no matter what,” Chatham said. “Once we got the tourniquet applied, you could actually see the bleeding stopped, so we knew it was successful.”
He said he knew in the moment they were helping Rush, but he remained humbly set on the fact that any of his fellow deputies could have been the hero.
“It was just our time to be there so we handled it, but there’s not a doubt in my mind the other deputies in this sheriff’s office would have done exactly the same thing we would have done. We were just there,” Chatham said.
“We’re here to protect people, and sometimes that even means protecting our own. So that’s exactly what we did.”