A large number of law enforcement officers, elected officials and members of the public turned out Friday for the dedication of the Deputy C. Paul West Sr. Bridge in Downtown Smithfield.
Family members of Deputy West had been trying for years to have a bridge renamed in his honor. Earlier this year the NC Department of Transportation, with the support of Johnston County Commissioners and the Smithfield Town Council, agreed to rename the 3 year-old bridge over the Neuse River on US70 (Market Street) in his memory.
Gus Tulloss a member of the NC Board of Transportation was the emcee for the event. Retired Sheriff’s Captain Danny Allen opened the event with a moving prayer saying Deputy West had rededicated his own life to Christ just weeks before he was slain. Allen said it caused him to rededicate his life a short time later. Allen said he believed Deputy West was in Heaven and looking down on the ceremonies.
Chief Deputy Bengie Gaddis, Retired Jail Captain Bonnie Strickland and Retired Captain Chris Mitchell led the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore welcomed the West Family and others in attendance. Mayor Moore said he hoped the West family would find comfort in remembering Paul with the dedication and sign reminding generations who pass over the bridge he has not been forgotten.
County Commissioner Chairman Tony Braswell said the dedication was long overdue. Braswell said he had spoken at hundreds of events but Friday’s ceremony would go down as one of the most rewarding. Braswell, a veteran, reminded the audience that Deputy West was a former Marine who was always faithful and loyal to his family, friends and country.
“All gave some. Some gave all. Paul West gave all,” Sheriff Steve Bizzell said in remarks. “He gave his life protecting the citizens of Johnston County… He gave his life as a public servant.”
Some of the most emotional remarks were made by retired Sheriff Freddy Narron who hired West as a detention officer and then promoted him to a deputy sheriff. Narron called the 20 plus year journey to have the bridge dedicated a long struggle for the West family but added “The good Lord has a way of making things work out.”
Narron called West “a fine young man” who was a hard worker, responsible, and mature beyond his age. He reflected on his positive attitude, willingness to help victims of crimes, and his smile.
Narron said Deputy West received compliments for his handling of domestic situations, break-ins, even a missing child. “He was there to assure them whatever could be done would be done and he would make sure of it.”
West graduated from Smithfield Selma High School with Sheriff’s Narron’s oldest daughter Angie. After she learned her father had hired Paul as a deputy, she told her father “He is going to make a good good officer.” He added, “She was right.”
While West was not on patrol, Sheriff Narron said West volunteered coaching t-ball, basketball and baseball in Wilson’s Mills, Smithfield, Pine Level and Princeton. “He truly wanted to teach children how to have good clean fun, to teach self esteem and respect.”
Friday’s dedication came 7,592 days after West was shot and killed in the line of duty on September 11, 1995 at the young age of 27.
“Our brother Paul West is gone but never forgotten,” his sister Angie West said. The ceremony ended with the unveiling of the new bridge sign. JoCoReport.com Photos