Adams County deputy honored with state award
Published 12:07 am Sunday, April 13, 2014
EDITOR’S NOTE: The story originally incorrectly identified the year in which Karren Ewing was shot in the head. Ewing was shot in 1995. We regret the error and are happy to set the record state.
NATCHEZ — When it comes to victimhood, you can let what has happened own you, or you can own it.
For Karren Ewing, taking ownership of circumstances that can cripple a person and turning them into an opportunity for compassion and advocacy has been her professional drive for the last four years as the victim’s assistance coordinator at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.
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Ewing’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, and last week the Mississippi State Attorney General’s Office awarded Ewing with the Amy Clayton Victim Services Award.
Named for a 1986 homicide victim whose mother, Carolyn Clayton, played an instrumental role in lobbying for victims’ rights legislation in Mississippi, the award honors those who have gone above and beyond to assist the victims of crime.
Part of what has made Ewing’s work as a victim’s assistant at the sheriff’s office — she is the ACSO’s first — effective is her own understanding of what it means to be the victim of a crime.
In 1976, Ewing’s brother was murdered in New Orleans during a dispute with his father-in-law.
In 1995, a botched robbery as she was walking on Broadway Street with her husband ended with Ewing shot in the head. The assailant was never captured.
In 2003, her son, Christopher Bourdin, was killed when another man, Jimmy Pruitt, shot him in an altercation in which Pruitt was reportedly pointing a gun at himself and others. Bourdin was the only one injured, and Pruitt was sentenced to 15 years in prison for manslaughter.
Ewing is also the surviving daughter of a suicide, her father’s.
Even though she didn’t have background in law enforcement, Sheriff Chuck Mayfield asked Ewing to be the victim’s assistance coordinator even before he was elected. When Mayfield made the suggestion, Ewing didn’t hesitate to take the offer.
“I saw that often the victims were just set out there because the system was focused on who did a crime and catching them,” Ewing said.
“There was a victim’s assistance coordinator at the district attorney’s office, but you don’t get to that until an arrest is made and something happens — most people don’t even know where to start.”
Mayfield said the ACSO is fortunate to have Ewing working for the people of the county.
“She is dedicated and passionate about her work,” Mayfield said. “She is available to victims 24-7, and she follows through and goes beyond the call of duty.”
Ewing’s own experiences with loss and assault have helped Ewing respond appropriately to victims as she has taken on the role of notifying families of fatalities or telling the battered about their next step, she said.
“When my son was killed, I could relate to my daughter, because I had been there as a sister who had lost a brother,” she said. “It is one of those things that you have to know that you can relate — and that you hate knowing — but it gives you a different perspective from those have not.
“It keeps me from saying stupid things like, ‘It gets better,’ because it doesn’t. It gets different.”
In fact, death notification is not actually part of her job description, but it’s something Ewing has taken on because she knows most people haven’t been in the situation of having a law enforcement representative knock on the door and tell them a loved one has died, perhaps violently.
“I felt there was a right way to tell it, because I had never been told the right way,” she said.
Ewing’s days start with checking deputies’ reports from the night before to see if there are any cases she needs to follow up on. She does that and makes sure all of the county’s sex offenders are correctly registered.
She then makes contacts on active cases, and — if a matter has made its way to court — attends with the victims.
“I know with those cases, as a victim, you have go in and buckle your knuckles, and I have been there and done that,” she said.
“To me, it doesn’t feel like my job is a job, and I hate being off — 99 percent of the time I don’t go to lunch.”