Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich honored the men and women of law enforcement in an awards ceremony held Jan. 8 at the sheriff’s office in Charlotte. He also recognized citizens and volunteers who stepped up to help the community.

“I take these awards very seriously,” Reich said. “We need to recognize the people in uniform, as they do a job no one else wants to do.”

With so many outstanding deputies to choose from, Reich said the decision to select the 2019 Deputy of the Year was very tough.

Deputy Jacob Larson, of the Delta Township road patrol, and Corrections Deputy John Rademacher, corrections division road crew supervisor, shared the award. Both contributed immensely to the success of the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, Reich said. In recognition of their outstanding work, Auto-Owners Insurance gave each officer $1,000 gift cards, department officials said.

Larson also received a Citation for Professional Excellence for his part in an Eaton Rapids traffic stop which resulted in the removal of a large amount of drugs from the streets. He shared a second Citation for Professional Excellence with Deputy Joshua Turner for a drug bust in Sunfield Township.

Sue Carpenter, receptionist and jail visitation coordinator, was selected as the 2019 Employee of the Year. Carpenter plays a vital role in receiving visitors to the jail, which requires much diplomacy and patience in dealing with visitors who sometimes are angry, Reich pointed out.

Randy Gilbert was selected as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year. Gilbert is a uniformed special deputy who assists the sheriff’s office with extra security, traffic control and crowd control at events. Reich credited Gilbert’s calmness and quick thinking in several emergency situations which allowed them to safely deal with the problem at hand.

Numerous citations for bravery, meritorious service and professional excellence were also given out. Deputy Christopher Burton was recognized for his actions in Nov. 2019 when he rescued a driver from a burning vehicle. Sgt. Jody Mann, Deputy Johnny Lopez and Deputy John Davidson safely resolved a crisis in late 2018 involving a baby and a domestic violence offender on the expressway. Capt. Robert Block was recognized for an incident where he was able to de-escalate a volatile situation involving an out-of-control, suicidal man with a knife in April 2019.

Deputy Charles Harris was recognized for his actions with an inmate attempting to commit suicide in a holding cell. Deputy Robert Gillentine was commended for his successful search for and recovery of guns and drugs while checking on a parolee. Gillentine was also acknowledged, along with Deputy Michael Ruedisueli, for actions in dealing with a drug transaction at a hotel in Delta Township.

Sgt. Christopher Kuhlman, Deputy Shelby Studley, Deputy Turner and Deputy Daniel Towe were recognized for their chase and capture of armed robbery suspects in Grand Ledge.

Sgt. Christopher Kuhlman, Deputy Justin Barber, Deputy Joshua Popa, Officer Justin Bahm of the Charlotte Police Department (CPD) and Officer Darrell Slaughter of CPD received commendations for their work in apprehending a stalker threatening to murder people.

Not everyone honored was in uniform. Reich recognized several “Distinguished Citizens” who stepped up to make a difference.

Michael Busby and Michael Green were cited for their actions in preventing a suicide on I-69 in July 2019. Michael Chadwick and Ronald Droste apprehended a purse thief/ shoplifter/ car thief at the Lansing Mall in December. Sara Trembley aided and comforted the young daughter of an accident victim in a fatal car crash on St. Joe Highway and Nixon Road last October. Jason Hendrickson helped apprehend a hit and run driver in Windsor Township in September 2019.

Receiving promotions were Captain Robert Block, Sgt. Jody Mann and Sgt. Michael Smith.

Undersheriff Jeffrey Cook commented, “This is a much better event to attend than some of the things we do.”


Photos by Deb Malewski

Top photo: Those receiving Citations for Professional Excellence included (l. to r.) Sgt. Christopher Kuhlman; Deputy Daniel Towe; (Sheriff Tom Reich); Deputy Justin Barber, Officer Darrell Slaughter, CPD; and Officer Justin Bahm, CPD.

Second photo: Deputies Jacob Larson (left) and John Rademacher (right) were honored as the 2019 Eaton County Sheriff’s Office Deputies of the Year. They are shown here with Sheriff Tom Reich.