Is it just me, or has the tambourine-pounding, so-called Vietnam veteran (who, by many accounts, wasn’t in Vietnam) just about used up his 15 minutes of fame?

The liberal Washington, D.C. media have been beating their own drums on this non-story for most of this week. Some of us are smart enough to realize that you folks are struggling to find something to report. We get it. We realize the government shutdown has most of you wound tighter than a snare drum (or at least a tom-tom).

But enough, already.

Let this one slip off into the fading sunset with the softest of brushstrokes on the high hat cymbal. It’s not a story.

At least it wasn’t one, until you made it one. This was a high school field trip involving teenagers; most, presumably, unfamiliar with the daily political protests and the incessant do-anything-to-get-on-TV shenanigans in our nation’s capital city.

The media would do a more noble and worthwhile service by devoting some energy into the background of the geriatric drum major and his ilk. Media, leave them kids alone, as Pink Floyd might suggest.

* * *

• In other news of interest, a suspected gunman was in custody today after five people reportedly were shot and killed at a bank in Sebring, Fla.

According to an NBC News report by Doha Madani, the Highlands County (not to be confused with Highland County) Sheriff's Office said a SWAT team stormed the bank after negotiations failed, and the suspect eventually surrendered.

You can’t win ’em all, I suppose.

The story brought to mind a conversation I believe I had with former Highland County (not to be confused with Highlands County) Sheriff Ron Ward about a dozen years ago. Ron is free to correct me if I have misremembered this. Nonetheless, I’m certainly not quoting Ron from memory. This is from my own recollection, not his.

As I recall – and there are online reports to back this up – sometime around 2005 or 2006, a Florida sheriff named Grady Judd of Polk County was called upon to explain why his deputies fired 110 rounds – with 68 hits – at a suspect and fugitive who reportedly killed a police officer and his dog and shot another officer.

Sheriff Judd was quoted (accurately or not) as saying: “I suspect the only reason 110 rounds were all that were fired was that’s all the ammunition they had.”

That quote alone takes some … er, intestinal fortitude.

"You have to understand, he had already shot and killed a deputy, he had already shot and killed a K-9 and he shot and injured another deputy," Judd told The Associated Press. "Quite frankly, we weren't taking any chances."

As far as I know, Judd is still the Polk County, Fla. sheriff.
According to several sources, a few of his quotes include:

• “You know, I’m kind of like President Harry Truman. People accused of him of giving people hell, and he said, ‘I don’t give people hell, I tell ’em the truth, and they think it’s hell.’”

• “You don’t want to go to jail, just behave. You don’t want to be a part of the crime problem, behave. If you want to come to our county jail, that’s OK, but we don’t feed peanut butter and jelly.”

• “You can't fix stupid, but you can arrest stupid.”

• “If you are foolish enough to break into someone’s home, you can expect to be shot in Polk County.”

• “It’s more important to have a gun in your hand than a cop on the phone.”

• “It’s not usually a good idea to taunt the Sheriff’s Office on Facebook.”

• “The armed assailant doesn’t plan on you fighting back. He plans on having a gun, doing all the shooting, and you’re just the sitting duck. Well, the ducks need to shoot back.”


Sheriff Grady Judd, I suspect, probably serves Polk County well, and the good people in the south-central Florida county probably appreciate his service and the service of his officers. I hope so.

Judd was born and raised in Lakeland in 1954. He started working for the Polk County Sheriff's Office in 1972, and as the first deputy under 21, he had to get his father to buy his ammunition. He was elected as sheriff of Polk County in 2004. He was then re-elected in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

"I think it's important to communicate with the people I love and that's the people in this community," Judd told ABC Action News (
"And I communicate so they understand how I feel. It's easy for me to see the humor or the reality, or sometimes the sadness of an event, and I try to communicate that clearly and effectively."

From what I’ve read, it looks like the good sheriff is a rare breed of political officeholder, that is, one being equally clear and effective.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.