published Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Officer praised for aiding injured child foils theft


by Jacqueline Koch

For Chattanooga police Officer Josh Wright, being in the right place at the right time is one part luck, one part job description and one part character.

"We're trained to go into situations that most people don't want to be involved in," Officer Wright said.

Officer Wright received praise last year not only for responding first to a child struck by a vehicle, but for helping the boy and his mom by providing items they needed, visiting him in the hospital and letting him sit in his patrol car.

On Dec. 27, Officer Wright was off duty and at Walmart with his wife buying a gift for that child -- Jaquez McKinze -- when he grew tired of the busy holiday scene and headed to his car while his wife finished picking up items.

As he was leaving the store on Gunbarrel Road, Officer Wright noticed a man leaving with large plasma TVs in his cart. The Walmart greeter attempted to stop the man, who ignored him, so Officer Wright stepped in, identified himself as an officer and asked the man to show his receipts.

The man replied that the badge was fake and shoved Officer Wright, who got him to the ground and contained him until other officers arrived.

"When it started escalating most people walked away, and I don't blame them," the officer said. "But especially with it being a felony, we're mandated to step in."

The man -- Joseph Anthony Hill -- was arrested and booked on charges of theft over $1,000 and assaulting a police officer.

His wife, who faked having a heart attack and claimed she didn't know Mr. Hill, was stabbed after she followed a witness to the parking lot, threw her to the ground and started hitting her, said police spokeswoman Lt. Kim Noorbergen.

Mrs. Hill was treated at a local hospital and released.

"The witness who stabbed Mrs. Hill did not want to prosecute, and the surveillance video from Walmart confirmed the witness statements," Lt. Noorbergen said.

Officer Wright, who was seconds from Jaquez when the boy was struck in June, said it seems as though he's in the right place at the right time.

"Trust me, this (Walmart incident) wasn't one I was looking for," he said. "I was hoping to go back to a nice warm couch."

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