Lafayette Police Chief Jerry Dallas was awarded the Silver Star for Bravery, the highest award obtained by a living police officer by the American Police Hall of Fame, during a ceremony held at the Lafayette Police Department on Thursday, June 26.
Unbeknownst to him, Lafayette Police Lieutenant Ray Amalfitano and Administrative Director Deneshia Hesson nominated Dallas for the award by writing letters explaining why they believed the Lafayette Chief of Police deserved the prestigious honor.
“The chief deserves this award for his leadership and bravery,” Amalfitano said. “He put himself in harms way to make sure we were all safe during the tornados. He led the searches, aided people and ensured everyone’s safety. We look at him like a father and he looks at us like we’re his kids.”
The American Police Hall of Fame council voted on Chief Dallas’ nomination and unanimously agreed to award him the medal.
Once notified of the council’s decision, a ceremony was planned to present Dallas with the award.
“He was very surprised,” Alalfitano said. “He feels like everyone who helped out in the city and the county should have received the same award. He was humbled that he received it but he wished he had a truck load of them to pass out to everyone else.”
Below are the letters written by Hesson and Amalfitano to the American Police Hall of Fame:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing this letter on behalf of Chief Jerry Dallas of the Lafayette Police Dept. in Lafayette, Macon County, TN. I would like to recommend Chief Dallas as a recipient of the Silver Star of Bravery Award.
I have worked side by side with Chief Dallas for 19 years, and I have always known him to be a man of wisdom and courage. But on the night of February 5, 2008, when a devastating tornado ripped through the City of Lafayette and Macon County, Chief Dallas demonstrated so much more. He basically risk his own life and wellbeing to aide the citizens of Lafayette. I know as a Police Officer, your life is put on the line everyday by fighting bad guys with guns, mediating in domestic disputes, serving warrants and just working the normal highway traffic and etc. Police Officers are trained to handle these type situations, however when you are trying to handle Mother Nature, you are up against the odds.
On this terrible night, our community received massive destruction and suffered many fatalities. From the television and radio news coverage, Chief Dallas knew a tornado was possibly headed toward Lafayette and that it had already touched down in several other cities causing death and destruction. He knew if the tornado continued the path it was on, that Lafayette was sure to take a direct hit. At approx. 10:20 pm, the Lafayette Police Dept. received a 911 call saying that a tornado had hit the NiSource Natural Gas Plant located in southern Macon County and it had exploded. The entire sky surrounding Lafayette was lit up in red from the gas explosion. As bad as this was, it was truly a blessing in disguise because in the light from the explosion, there it was… a huge tornado that appeared to be coming directly toward the City of Lafayette. There was no running from it, there was no hiding, and there was no time. All we could do was pray that our citizens, officers and community be protected.
At this time, one of our patrol officers radioed in and stated that he was caught up in the tornado. The officer’s voice was chilling. His patrol car was actually taken aflight by the tornado and he couldn’t escape it. Moments seemed like an eternity until the officer was finally able to say he was okay.
As the 911 calls continued to ring in, the reality of devastation and death caused by the tornado was unimaginable. But even more unimaginable, was the possibility that it was going to happen again within a few hours. According to the news coverage, there was a second tornado even bigger than the one that had just hit and it was headed directly for Lafayette also. Believing that another tornado was headed our way, Chief Dallas immediately began rescue efforts. He knew that any attempt to rescue the injured must be done quickly. Chief Dallas organized a search and rescue team and we immediately headed out to the Brattontown Circle area, one of the hardest hit areas. The devastation was beyond belief. Without regard to his own life or safety, Chief Dallas waded out among the destruction, desperately searching for persons who might be trapped in the rubble, injured and in need of medical attention, or perhaps deceased. Chief Dallas and his men searched the area and rescued several persons before having to take cover for the second tornado. We were spared from the second tornado, as it jumped right over Lafayette and hit an adjoining county just to our north.
With darkness still prevailing around us, Chief Dallas gathered his men and resumed search, this time on the Akersville Rd. where total devastation had occurred. In a neighborhood along Akersville Rd., was the residence of Chief Dallas’ only son, Jeff. To travel these roads was impossible, as there were downed power lines everywhere and absolutely no way to get through in a vehicle. Chief Dallas knew the only way to rescue people was to travel by foot. Chief Dallas assigned his men to search house to house for victims, watching out for downed power lines and taking all precautions for their own life and safety. But again, Chief Dallas waded into the destruction without regard to his own safety. His mission was to rescue the injured, free the victims who were trapped, ensure the safety of the officers who were assisting him and to find his son. All along the way, Chief Dallas stopped to help and render aide to anyone he could.
When daylight came, the devastation was even more horrible than one could have imagined. Chief Dallas worked for weeks on end with little sleep or food. During the rescue and recovery efforts, Chief Dallas demonstrated so much bravery and honor that I couldn’t begin to list each action. And, although there are no photos or newspapers articles to substantiate his bravery, I assure you that Chief Dallas is very deserving of this prestigious award.
Within a week after the tornado, President George Bush visited Lafayette and commended the efforts of law enforcement, fire, EMS, rescue and recovery. Among those honored were Chief Jerry Dallas (see photo and letter enclosed). In May 2008, Senator Bob Corker visited Lafayette and recognized the brave men and women of the Lafayette Police Dept. for our service and sacrifice to our community. I feel that I speak for every member of this department when I say that I truly feel honored for having Chief Jerry Dallas as a leader, as a brave and courageous officer of this City, and as a friend.
On February 5, 2008, Lafayette and Macon County, TN lost 18 friends and neighbors due to the tornado. A total of 250 homes and businesses were completely destroyed.
Lafayette Police Dept.
To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Lt. Ray Amalfitano of the Lafayette Police Department in Lafayette, TN. On February 5, 2008, Lafayette was hit by a tornado and received a massive amount of destruction and fatalities.
During this time, Chief Jerry Dallas lead this department with a great amount of bravery and courage. One of our patrol officers radioed in to Dispatch and said that the tornado had him and he was trying to get away from it. Other officers were pinned down from the tornado, and Chief Dallas’ only son was in the path of destruction from the tornado.
When the winds died down, Chief Dallas went into action trying to look for his officers and trying to find his son. A call came in that there was a second tornado on the way and for everyone to take cover, but Chief Dallas had to find his officers and his son. On his way, he stopped to help anyone he could and he made sure that all of his officers were safe and that they took cover as he continued searching for victims.
There was so much devastation and death on this horrible night. There were no news or photography crews out to capture Chief Dallas’ actions on camera or film. Only the victims, officers and volunteers who were working with him actually saw his brave and courageous actions.
I, along with other members of the Lafayette Police Dept., would like to recognize Chief Dallas with a Silver Star of Bravery Award for his actions and leadership. Not only throughout this particular time, but also for the many other times that he has lead us through difficult situations. Chief Dallas never walks beside or behind us, he always leads us and he does so with bravery and courage. We feel that Chief Jerry Dallas is very deserving of this prestigious award.
t. Ray Amalfitano