Lauderdale County Deputy Sam Upchurch honored for saving judge’s life

Published 3:45 pm Thursday, May 21, 2020

(AP) — Lauderdale County Deputy Sheriff Sam Upchurch was in the right place at the right time.
“I was at the very beginning of my shift – I had just walked into my office,” Upchurch said, describing the morning of March 16.
“Lt. Willie Graham put a call out over the radio about shots fired at the courthouse. I ran to my patrol car, retrieved my medical bag and went to his location.”
There, behind the Lauderdale County Courthouse, Upchurch found Chancery Court Judge Charles Smith lying on the concrete, bleeding from a gunshot wound.
Upchurch, a registered nurse and former paramedic, went to work, stabilizing the judge until paramedics could arrive.
“I didn’t think too much about it at the time,” Upchurch said. “I was just trying to help the judge.”
More than two months after the shooting, Upchurch and Smith were reunited at the courthouse on Thursday as the deputy was honored for his bravery.
“I told Deputy Upchurch that we all enter this profession to hopefully be in the right spot that one time for somebody,” Sheriff Billy Sollie told the audience. “I know he’s going to say he didn’t do any more than the other deputies who showed up. But because of his specialized training, he was able to step out on a limb and do what was needed for that particular moment.”
Smith returned to the bench on Wednesday after a long recovery.
With nerve damage in his leg and a broken hip, he has endured multiple surgeries and requires the use of a wheelchair, crutches or a walker.
“I’m just proud to be here,” Smith said. “I look back at it…I’m sorry that it happened. It certainly has had an effect on my life. But I look back and hear what happened that day – not just with Sam and what he did – but the EMTS and the staff at the emergency room. When I look at it, I know that I’m truly blessed to be here. Some people call that a miracle.”
More information
The East Mississippi Crimestoppers program is offering up to $32,000 in rewards to anyone with information that would lead to an arrest in the shooting, authorities said. Submissions can be made anonymously.
The funds include $5,000 from the Clarke County Board of Supervisors, $15,000 from the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors and funds from a group of private citizens. The Meridian Police Department said it plans to offer a $15,000 reward in the case.
Anyone with information can call the Crimestoppers tip line at 855-485-8477 or visit the East Mississippi Crimestoppers Facebook page or website at

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