Dream comes true for young boy who witnessed tragedy and now wants to serve and protect


Hunter Busby is sworn in as a deputy for a day at the Jones County Circuit Clerk's office. 

A fifth-grade boy who has dealt with plenty of heartache in his young life still has a heart to serve. And on Wednesday, he got to do just that, capturing plenty of other hearts along the way.

Hunter Busby, 12, of Sandersville was sworn in as a deputy for a day with the Jones County Sheriff’s Department, but he hopes to make it a career when he gets old enough.

“I want to accomplish something,” the smiling youngster said after being outfitted with a uniform and badge. “I want to prove my dad wrong and show that I can do something with my life and that good things can happen. I want to protect other kids.”

It was seven years ago this week that his father Robert Mikel Busby was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing his mother-in-law — Hunter’s grandmother — Cassie Daniels Irwin, 44, at her home in Florence in October 2015. His father then turned the gun on Hunter, his siblings and mother as they fled in a car. When police caught up to him, he fired at them and they returned fire, wounding him in the arm and leg before finally taking him into custody, according to reports. 

Irwin had served as a sergeant at the Jones County Adult Detention Center from 2009 to 2011. And just like his grandmother had years before, Hunter went 10-8 — on duty — at 0920 hours with Deputy Jason Mills just after being sworn in at the circuit clerk’s office.

“Arresting people,” he said with a big grin when asked what he was looking forward to as he sat in the passenger’s seat preparing for his shift on Wednesday. He was also looking forward to telling his classmates at East Jones Elementary School about his adventures of the day.

His great-grandmother Jean Chick, great-great-Aunt Lisa Byrd and mother Nicki Irwin were all snapping photos, wiping their eyes and thanking Sheriff Joe Berlin and the rest of the department for making his dream come true.

“This means a lot to us, especially since mom worked for the S.O,” Irwin said. “He’s seen a lot, so this really means a lot to us.”

Hunter hasn’t had a stable family life, Chick said, so having the encouragement of the JCSD may make a difference in his future.

“To have witnessed what he did at that age ... He took it in and suppressed it,” she said. “It’s been very difficult, but he’s very special.”

They are particularly proud that his plan is to use the bad things that he’s seen to try to make things better — for others and himself.

“He watched his daddy kill his grandmother and decided that when he grew up, he wanted to be a deputy so he could protect other kids from having to go through what he did,” Byrd said, choking back tears. “I’m so grateful to Joe for making his wish come true.”

Byrd contacted Berlin’s wife Jolynn about Hunter’s wish, and Byrd contacted the Leader-Call to tell what the JCSD was doing for him. The special day during spring break had been in the works for a couple of months. Family members told him they were going to the zoo — but instead, they pulled up at the JCSD for a day of dealing with a different kind of wild life.

Berlin gave Deputy Busby a shirt that was monogrammed with his name, complete with department-issued pants, boots and even a badge. 

“I just felt it on my heart to make him an honorary deputy,” Berlin said. “The look on his face was amazing. I’m just glad we could make his dream come true.”

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