Johnston County

Bridge dedicated to fallen deputy

A crowd gathered on the Neuse River bridge in downtown Smithfield for the dedication of the bridge, now named for fallen sheriff’s deputy Paul West.t
A crowd gathered on the Neuse River bridge in downtown Smithfield for the dedication of the bridge, now named for fallen sheriff’s deputy Paul West.t

Paul West was a sheriff’s deputy in Johnston County.

He was also a brother, son, husband and father. He coached T-ball, baseball and basketball. He loved to hunt and fish.

On Sept. 11, 1995, at age 27, West was shot and killed in the line of duty.

On June 24, state and local officials joined family, friends and first responders on the Neuse River bridge leading into downtown Smithfield to dedicate the bridge to West.

Three fire engines suspended a U.S. flag over the bridge in his honor. His sons, Clendon Paul West Jr. and Derek West, pulled a cover off of one of the signs for the Deputy C. Paul West Bridge.

“All gave some; some gave all,” said Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell. “Paul West gave all, folks. He gave his life protecting the citizens of our great Johnston County.”

West was born in Smithfield and graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School. Before becoming a deputy, he was a U.S. marine.

He was a fine young man, said former sheriff Freddy Narron, who first hired West as a detention officer before promoting him to deputy. “I want to thank him ... for his willingness to always go beyond the call of duty,” Narron said. “I want to thank him for his smile.”

“He payed the ultimate sacrifice,” said Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore.

To West’s sons, Moore said: “I hope you will find a bit of comfort knowing that the man that you called your father will be memorialized and that the people will know of his life and his service to this town and this great county for generations to come.”

Johnston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tony Braswell said that during his years on the board he had spoken at many events But he said dedicating the bridge to West would “go down as the most honorable and certainly the most rewarding opportunity.”

“All will never forget Deputy West,” Braswell said.

Narron said West attended SSS with his oldest daughter, Angie. When Angie found out Narron had hired West, she told him “Dad, he’s going to make a good, good officer,” Narron recalled.

“She was right,” he said, his voice breaking. “He became an officer we will always remember.”

Narron said he received countless compliments about West and his willingness to help and serve his community. “Whatever could be done would be done, and he would make sure of it,” Narron said.

West was shot and killed when he and Lt. Ronald Medlin went to a mobile home park seeking a man wanted on several charges. Medlin also was shot and wounded. The shooter, Angel Guevara, was later apprehended at a rail station in New York City. He received the death penalty for killing West.

West’s family had been trying for years to have the bridge named for him.

“They never gave up their tireless effort,” Braswell said of West’s sisters, Wendy Lupo and Angie West. “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to properly honor this act of bravery.”

“This is a testament that Johnston County, this community, this town supports law enforcement, even in death,” Bizzell said.

“The courthouse where Paul West worked, you can see it from here,” Narron said.

West’s sisters handed out small re-creations of the the bridge sign and thanked those who helped them achieve their goal.

“As we drive over the bridge, remember Paul,” Angie West said. “Say a little prayer. Just smile. This is a good place for us to come, and we’re happy. Now we know for sure our brother Paul West is gone but never forgotten.”

Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett