September 17, 2014  

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Staff/Council Awards Ceremony Reunites Tornado Victim, Officer

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University of Alabama student Annelise Moreau returned to the Southern Miss campus on Tuesday, June 4 to take part in an awards ceremony honoring UPD Officer Jared Pierce, who helped Moreau during the Feb. 10 tornado that hit the Hattiesburg campus. (Photo by Danny Rawls)

The last time Annelise Moreau saw University of Southern Mississippi police officer Jared Pierce, he was coming to her aid after the Hattiesburg campus was struck by an F-4 tornado Feb. 10. 

This past Tuesday, under clearer skies, Moreau returned to Hattiesburg to help the university honor Pierce for his service on that fateful day. During the university’s annual Staff Council recognition and awards luncheon, Pierce and fellow officer Jason Powell received the Life Saving Award and Medal of Valor, respectively.

Moreau, a junior at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, was travelling back to the university from New Orleans when she stopped to ride out the storm on the Southern Miss campus, near the heavily damaged Ogletree Alumni House.

Patrolling the campus to inspect the aftermath, Pierce discovered a visibly upset Moreau in her damaged car. He helped her out of her vehicle and took her and two pets traveling with her to safety at Wilber Hall, while also briefing staff there about her situation.  

On Tuesday, Moreau said the feeling of returning to the campus for the first time after the harrowing experience was “intense” as she relived the memories, but was looking forward to reuniting with Pierce again and helping the university honor him.

“Jared’s a great guy and deserves this,” Moreau said. “The people I met here, including him, were a good background to a bad day.”

Pierce, the father of a baby daughter, said the memory of that day is still “surreal” and said he would hope any other police officer would do the same for his own child. “If I had an 18-19 year old daughter in that situation, I would have wanted a police officer to do the same thing,” he said.

On Nov. 28, 2012, Powell responded to a report of a fight on campus involving a firearm. Powell began investigating the area and encountered three suspects coming across Centennial Lawn. Parked near the old Copy Center building, he witnessed one of the suspects reach into a vehicle and pull out a black handgun. The armed individual then appeared to focus in on a group of people walking from Centennial Lawn toward the Cochran Center, at which time Powell made the decision to apprehend him, pinning him to the ground until backup arrived. 

“I did the job any of us would have done. I made the decision without hesitation,” Powell said, adding that “it speaks highly of our administration to recognize us, because so many in our profession go unrecognized.”

In his remarks about the accomplishments of Pierce and Powell, University Police Chief Bob Hopkins said one of the primary things he emphasizes to his staff is that they care about the people they are protecting. In both instances, he said that was evident.

“In times of need, we shine,” Hopkins said.