Area business leaders hosted a breakfast on Sept. 20 in downtown Raleigh to honor the men and women who are the first to arrive at crime scenes, fires, traffic accidents, natural disasters and medical emergencies.
Along with a hearty breakfast and special discounts and deals from select businesses, event organizers also honored Raleigh police officer M.M. Harmon, who was wounded late last year when he encountered an armed murder suspect in Northwest Raleigh.
Harmon’s peers from local police departments, the sheriff’s office, fire departments, emergency medical services and 911 Centers across Wake County selected him as “Hero of the Year,” said Abbie Mahoney, an events manager with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, co-sponsor of the event. The chamber also gave outstanding service awards to someone in each department with first responders, Mahoney said.
The chamber of commerce first sponsored the annual event in 2009.
“It was after 9/11,” Mahoney said. “A lot of local government officials and members of the business community wanted to give back to the first responders in Raleigh and Wake County. They put their lives on the line for us every day. It’s just a big ‘thank you’ that we like to do.”
Harmon’s selection as “Hero of the Year” provides a glimpse into what first responders may encounter at work in Wake County.
It was just before 8:25 p.m. on Nov. 23 when someone called the Raleigh emergency communications center to report “something suspicious” near a trash bin behind the Creedmoor Crossing shopping center on Creedmoor Road.
Police had spent the afternoon and early evening searching for a man who gunned down a 53-year-old man in a parking lot about 5 miles away.
Harmon and another officer, D.B. Moreland, responded to the 911 call. When they arrived, they saw a Cadillac that matched the description of a car that reportedly sped away from the earlier shooting. They also heard a gunshot and saw a muzzle flash from a stand of woods behind the trash bin.
The officers called for backup when they saw a man emerge from the woods carrying a shotgun. Harmon grabbed his patrol rifle and took cover with Moreland behind their patrol car. The officers ordered the man to lay his weapon down multiple times, but police say he ignored the commands, stepped toward the officers and fired at them. Harmon was struck in the right arm. The officers returned the gunfire and struck the man in the torso.
Emergency workers transported both Harmon and the suspect to WakeMed.
Police charged the man, Matthew Durwood Calton, with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm. He remains in the Wake County jail without benefit of bail while he awaits trial.
Harmon has been a member of the Raleigh Police Department since January 2005. He is a patrol officer with the department’s field operations division.
“We’re very proud of Officer Harmon’s bravery and dedication to duty, and we’re extremely grateful for his recovery, which has allowed him to return to duty,” the department’s Deputy Chief Joseph Perry said. “Officer Harmon’s service is an inspiration to all of us.”