RALEIGH, N.C. – Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today awarded the First Responders Award to John Guard of Greenville for his advocacy on behalf of crime victims. Mr. Guard was among 13 individuals and teams from across the country who were honored for their work. The award recipients were recognized virtually during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony.
“Every day, we bear witness to stirring acts of heroism on the part of compassionate and courageous advocates – and crime victims themselves,” said Attorney General Garland. “One of our responsibilities is to ensure that victims are informed, have a voice, and are supported in the healing process. To the exceptional men and women we honor today – thank you for your service to crime victims, for your commitment to the safety of your communities, and for working to make America a more just and more compassionate place.”
John Guard is a Chief Deputy with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office in Greenville, North Carolina, with over 28 years of experience, including line level response, investigative response, first and second level supervision, and agency management. For almost two and a half decades, he has specialized in investigating domestic violence cases. He has been instrumental in developing policies and procedures related to domestic violence response in Pitt County and the State of North Carolina. Legislators and victim advocates have consulted Chief Guard on the creation of state legislation for domestic violence response, including House Bill 1354, which granted powers of arrest to law enforcement for violation of pretrial release, mandated law enforcement training, and elevated strangulation to a felony crime; and Senate Bill 919, which provides stronger firearm removal provisions for offenders who are subject to a domestic violence protection order.
Chief Guard serves as the chair of the Pitt Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team and was instrumental in its creation. He is a past member and Chair of the Law Enforcement Policy Committee of the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission, and a past member and Executive Board President of the North Carolina Victim’s Assistance Network. He has participated is several local, state, and federal focus groups that have examined the impact of domestic violence on society. Chief Guard has received numerous awards for his efforts related to domestic violence prevention, including awards from the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, and the Sunshine Lady Foundation.
“John Guard spent his career tirelessly working and advocating for the rights of Domestic Violence victims,” stated Acting United States Attorney G. Norman Acker, III. “He not only investigated hundreds of cases of Domestic Violence, he also willing shared his expertise by training thousands of officers and domestic violence advocates during conferences sponsored by my Office.”
Mr. Guard and the other award recipients were selected from public nominations in 10 categories, including federal service, special courage, public policy and victim services. The Office for Victims of Crime, a component of the Department’s Office of Justice Programs, leads communities across the country in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW). Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first Victims’ Rights Week in 1981, putting crime victims’ rights, needs and concerns in a prominent spot on the American agenda. He also established the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, which laid the groundwork for a national network of services and legal safeguards for crime victims. The 40th observance of NCVRW takes place this year, April 18-24, and features the theme, “Support Victims. Build Trust. Engage Communities.”
“We come together each year during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to show that we are united in our commitment to making sure all crime victims feel heard, respected and remembered,” said Office of Justice Programs Acting Assistant Attorney General Maureen A. Henneberg. “We honor these outstanding public safety professionals and advocates who work so hard to support crime victims as they walk the path from trauma to healing.”
According to the Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1.2 million Americans age 12 and older were victims of violent crime, excluding simple assault, in 2019, down from 1.4 million in 2018. An estimated 12.8 million U.S. households experienced one or more property victimizations. OVC supports more than 7,000 local victim assistance programs and victim compensation programs in every state and U.S. territory. Funds for these programs come from the Crime Victims Fund, which is made up of federal criminal fines, penalties and bond forfeitures.
Following is a list of the all award recipients:
- The Allied Professional Award recognizes individuals working outside the victim assistance field for their service to victims.
Recipient: Pfawnn Eskee, Montezuma Creek, Utah
- The Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services recognizes a program, organization or individual who expands the reach of victims’ rights and services.
Recipient: JoNell Efantis Potter, PhD, Miami, Florida
- The Federal Service Award recognizes federal agency personnel for service to victims of federal, tribal or military crimes.
Recipient: Acquanette Lindsay, Dayton, Ohio.
- The First Responders Award recognizes an individual from the law enforcement, emergency services, firefighters and rescue professions for extraordinary acts of valor toward crime victims.
Recipients: John Guard, Greenville, North Carolina; and Robin Taylor, Chardon, Ohio
- The National Crime Victim Service Award honors extraordinary efforts to provide direct services to crime victims.
Recipient: The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, Las Vegas, Nevada; and Jennifer Dunn, Waukesha, Wisconsin
- The Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award honors leadership, innovation and vision that lead to noteworthy changes in public policy on behalf of crime victims.
Recipient: Jeannette M. Adkins, Bellbrook, Ohio
- The Special Courage Award honors extraordinary bravery in the aftermath of a crime or courageous act on behalf of a victim or potential victim.
Recipients: Jennifer Elmore, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Jennifer Luther, Tallahassee, Florida
- The Tomorrow’s Leaders Award recognizes youth up to 24 years old for efforts to support crime victims.
Recipient: Sachiri Henderson, Shreveport, Louisiana
- The Victims Rights Legend Award recognizes an individual whose work over an extended period of time has resulted in positive and substantial change in the field of victim advocacy and/or victims’ rights.
Recipient: Victor I. Vieth, Lewiston, Minnesota
- The Volunteer for Victims Award recognizes individuals who serve without compensation.
Recipient: Tricia L. Everest, Nichols Hills, Oklahoma
“It is important for us as a country to set aside time during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to honor victims and to recognize those who advocate for resources and policies designed to meet the many serious challenges victims face,” said Office for Victims of Crime Acting Director Katherine Darke Schmitt. “Few people expect to be a victim, and no one deserves the pain and injustice that burden every crime survivor. We should take it upon ourselves this week, and every week, to show our unity with and compassion for those who have experienced the pain of victimization.”
During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, victim advocacy organizations, community groups and state, local and tribal agencies traditionally host rallies, candlelight vigils and other events to raise awareness of victims’ rights and services. This year, many communities are organizing virtual gatherings and online public awareness campaigns.
To see the complete list of awardees and learn more about past NCVRW recipients, visit www.ovc.gov/gallery.