SEMINOLE — A year ago, Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats was on stage shaking hands during the annual sheriff's award ceremony when a frantic deputy came up to whisper in his ear:
An armed man had just tried to shoot his way into the St. Petersburg courthouse.
Two bailiffs stopped him. The deputies returned fire and killed the intruder. No one else was hurt.
On Wednesday, Coats was shaking the hands of Marvin Glover and B.J. Lyons, who were both named deputies of the year for their actions during the May 7 shootout. The men also received the combat cross for exceptional heroism against an armed adversary.
The deputies who stood and clapped may have had another reason to do so. Lyons spent many of his 27 years with the Sheriff's Office as a firearms trainer, teaching them how to react to the combat situation he found himself in.
"He trained me," Coats said. "I've always said he was the right person to be there that day."
Authorities don't know what drove Glen Powell, a 30-year-old Brandon man undergoing a divorce, to arm himself and try to breach the courthouse entrance.
He pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and opened fire. Seconds later the bailiffs on duty, Glover and Lyons, shot him dead — averting a potential massacre. Authorities found 79 rounds of ammunition, a gas mask and a large knife on Powell.
"No one feels good about having to take a life," said Glover, 58, who spent 27 years with the St. Petersburg Police Department before leaving to work for the sheriff eight years ago. "But when you're put in a position where you have to choose, it's all about survival and protecting the citizens."
Lyons, 59, also received the purple heart for being slightly injured in the shootout. A bullet glanced off the microphone on his shoulder. He retired in February as a deputy, but not as a teacher.
More than 300 people attended the ceremony Wednesday, where dozens of deputies and sheriff's staffers were honored for everything from arresting dangerous suspects to saving the lives of jail inmates to saving the agency time and money.
Ralph Lutz and David Harvey were honored as detention deputies of the year for taking a loaded shotgun away from a man who showed up at a social gathering looking for his girlfriend.
The forensic science specialist of the year was Traci Erwin, and the child protection investigation data specialist of the year was Christine Bush.
For all Lyons' years of service, this was the first ceremony he had ever attended. He always seemed to be on duty when awards were handed out.
But he finally figured out how to make it to one.
"You have to be retired," he said, smiling.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.