Deputy receives hero’s welcome
By Greg Bird
McCreary County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Watkins came home Sunday afternoon to a hero’s welcome after his release from the hospital less than six days following his near-fatal shooting in the line of duty.
On his return journey Watkins received a police escort through Tennessee from Knox County officers following his release, and as he crossed into McCreary County he was met by a long procession of law enforcement, emergency services and civilian vehicles. Despite torrential downpours at the time dozens of people lined the way as the honor guard passed, showing their support for the deputy.
On Monday, while recovering at his home, Watkins issued a statement expressing his gratitude for the numerous well wishes and prayers he had received following his ordeal.
“My family and I are very thankful for the overwhelming outpouring of support we have received since the shooting,” he said. “I hope to be able to personally thank each and every one when I am able to do so.”
While at the hospital numerous law enforcement officers from Tennessee and Kentucky visited with the officer and his family, bringing food and other necessities during their stay. Other agencies, such as Supporting Heroes, out of Louisville, offered their help by securing a hotel room for Watkins’ family and providing other support.
Watkins took special care to express his appreciation to all the agencies that helped in his time of need.
“I would especially like to thank and recognize those agencies that helped me and my family during this time: McCreary County 911, McCreary County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police, McCreary County EMS, Whitley City Fire Department and Chief Tony Miller, Constable Cody Stephens, PHI, the University of Tennessee medical staff, Supporting Heroes and all the Knox County and Tennessee officers who came by while I was in the hospital,” he said.
While eagerly hoping to return to active duty, Watkins said his goal now was to take time to recover from his injuries and be with family.
“At this time I am just focusing on resting, recovering and spending time with my family,” he said.
Watkins was shot last week as he was responding to a call for a welfare check on Lick Creek Road. As he arrived at the residence he spotted a subject, Mark Dungan, sitting in a vehicle in the driveway. As the deputy approached and asked the subject to exit the vehicle, Dungan drew a pistol on the officer and fired.
Watkins was struck twice, once in the protective vest, but a second shot hit him in the lower abdomen. Despite his injury Watkins was able to retreat behind his vehicle and fired his own weapon at Dungan as he fled the scene.
Constable Cody Stephens, who was responding to assist Watkins, met the suspect on Lick Creek Road as he was attempting to escape. Stephens collided with the suspect’s car, disabling the cruiser. The Constable managed to extricate himself from the damaged vehicle and proceeded to the scene where Deputy Watkins was lying. The Constable administered first aid on the fallen officer until paramedics arrived.
Watkins was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center where he underwent two surgeries.
Dungan was captured a short while later at the Carter Cemetery and was taken in to custody.
Dungan had his first appearance in Court last week, where he was arraigned on charges of attempted murder of a police officer, fleeing and evading, tampering with physical evidence, resisting arrest, wanton endangerment and other charges. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf and a public defender appointed. He is scheduled to appear again Thursday morning for a preliminary hearing. It is expected the case will be waived to the Grand Jury for an indictment.