FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County staff presented long-time employee Chief George Darrel Welborn with the H.E.R.O. Award Tuesday for incredible action during an emergency in June.

According to the public safety department, Chief Welborn jumped into action on June 3, 2022, as a man with a machete attacked a couple visiting the Okaloosa Island boardwalk.

Welborn’s actions distracted the suspect from charging other civilians in the area until Okaloosa County deputies arrived on the scene.

“I got my ballistic gear and I just think about going out there and just focusing on the task at hand,” said Welborn. “You know, make sure that the individuals around me were back and that they were going to be safe and that I could get his attention brought back toward me, so he wasn’t looking at the ones behind him and that he would focus in on me.”

Welborn was at the island office that morning assisting his county crews with busy patrols when the commotion started. The wife of a machete attack victim ran to him for help. The county said Welborn threw on his gear and approached the suspect.

Welborn serves as Chief of Emergency Medical Services with the county.

Cheif Welborn and his staff packed the meeting Tuesday in Crestview for the award presentation. Chief Welborn stayed humble with the award, saying their mission is to protect people and that is all he did that day.

“It means a lot,” said Welborn. “We strive to go out and protect our citizens to the best of our ability and to take care of them in their time of need. And to receive recognition for that is a very great honor and I’m very happy to be standing here today.”

Public Safety Director Patrick Maddox spoke at the meeting to thank Welborn for his actions. Maddox said presenting an award to a chief in the department is rare and outstanding.

“It’s a rare opportunity that we get to recognize the upper-level leadership,” said Maddox. “More often the men and women that are on the front lines that are in the action every day, all day are the ones that encounter this type of situation. It was by a stroke of luck that Darrell happened to be in the position he was in. But it’s very refreshing to know that this is the upper-level leadership that we have here. This isn’t something that you can teach, you know what Darrell had and what Darrell engaged in, that’s not something that I can bring into a classroom and say when you’re put in this situation, I need you to react like this.”

The H.E.R.O. Award stands for Humanitarian Efforts Recognized by Okaloosa County.

The County has established the H.E.R.O. (Humanitarian Efforts Recognized by Okaloosa County) Award to recognize employees who not only go above and beyond the scope of their job description, but who do something that is considered to be of a humanitarian or heroic in nature.

Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners

Read the written award presentation remarks by Patrick Maddox below:

On 613/2022 at about 8:30 AM Chief Welborn was parked at the Boardwalk/Okaloosa Island in his county emergency vehicle to assist in providing some command assistance to his Lieutenants during a very busy morning. He was flagged down by the frantic wife of a victim who had just been struck with a machete by an unidentified subject in a seemingly random, unprovoked act of violence. After initial critical assessment of the patient and obtaining a description of the suspect from the complainant, Welborn observed that the suspect was still present near-by and was a danger to the surrounding public. Welborn summoned law enforcement and donned tactical gear before engaging the armed suspect verbally to draw his attention away from citizens. The subject had already chased an additional person with the machete and Welborn feared for the safety of passers-by. Casting his own safety aside, Welborn engaged the subject in conversation and gave the initial verbal commands to drop the weapon. He maintained the armed suspect’s attention for several minutes until law enforcement arrived and engaged. Ultimately the actions of the armed subject forced the brave OCSO Deputies to neutralize the threat in defense of themselves and others.

Had it not been for the quick, selfless actions of Chief Welborn, acting well-above and beyond the requirements of his role under those conditions, the armed subject would have had no impediments to attacking additional citizens, likely resulting in serious injury or death. Chief Welborn exemplifies the purpose of this award, and it is my honor to recommend his recognition for heroism.