Knox County Sheriff’s deputies Wayne Doster and Jordan Hurst were patrolling South Knox County when the call came in around 5 p.m. on an early October 2018 day. The call was about a woman in her front yard who needed help. There’s a lot more to this story.
Doster arrived first; Hurst a few minutes later. There was a history of reports of disturbances and domestic issues in the past two years from this address. But on this day the woman simply wanted and needed help.
Doster found the woman, in her 50s, in her front yard along with her autistic son, who could not talk or walk. “She had no money in her purse at all, all of the utilities had been turned off and when I went into the home there was no food anywhere,” he said. “And no phone. They had nothing but a few clothes.”
What the woman told them next was not surprising. She has another, older son in his late 30s, and she told the deputies that he has been stealing all of their money for two years – disability payments, welfare checks and any other money that showed up in their mailbox. They were left with nothing.
“This is a crime we run into all of the time these days – relatives stealing from their families,” said Doster, 26.
The son she accused of stealing their money was nowhere to be found. But for the moment, he was not the priority. She and her disabled son were. This is where the initiative of deputies Doster and Hurst kicked in.
“We could not let them stay there, so we got them into the car and knew we had to find a place for them to stay that evening and get them something to eat. They were in bad shape. They had not eaten in a few days,” Hurst said. “It was getting chilly, and they needed help.”
Their first stop was Knox Area Rescue Ministries. At first they were told the mother and son could stay there for the night. “As we were about to leave, a woman came running out and said they could not accommodate them after all, that the autistic son could not stay with his mother so it would not work,” Doster said. “And we got that. No problem.”
Back in their cars, they got on their phones and checked the other shelters in town; all were full. They called the KCSO Family Crisis Unit for help, and the closest shelters available were in Chattanooga and Memphis. They made a few more calls and then decided to find them a motel room for the night.
“I helped them unload what they had – some clothes and things – and get settled into the room, and Jordan left to get them some food,” Doster said. The sheriff’s office has gift cards on hand for situations like this, and that came in handy on this Tuesday evening.
These two deputies, who first met when they were young teens serving in the sheriff’s office Explorer Unit, stayed with the mother and her son until sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. to make sure they were OK for the evening. Today, they are doing fine, and the other son was eventually found and arrested. His case is working its way through the courts.
Both deputies are Knoxville natives. Doster graduated from Powell High School and Hurst, 28, from Carter High School. Hurst has been on patrol for five years and Doster for two years.
And they love what they do. “I knew when I was very young this is what I wanted to do,” Hurst said. “It’s my calling.”
Doster smiled and nodded in agreement.
(Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on KnoxTNToday.com and if you have suggestions about someone we should feature, email Tom King.)