Valdosta fireman saves woman from domestic violence

Lt. Justin Ply

VALDOSTA — When Lt. Justin Ply with the Valdosta Fire Department saw a man beating up a woman on the side of the road, he took action.

His efforts to aid a stranger in distress earned him Valdosta’s Employee of the Month award for June.

The scene unfolded in April, when Ply was in Gainesville, Fla., doing some work with the fire department there. He was stopped at a red light off of Interstate 75 when he saw a couple fighting on the roadside a few cars ahead of him.

The couple appeared to be homeless, Ply said. They had signs asking for help and money.

The couple’s argument turned physical when the man threw the woman to the ground, Ply said.

“He was reared back, he had his fists balled up like he was fixing to hit her in the face. I could hear him cussing at her and telling her he was going to kill her,” Ply, 37, said.

When the man slapped the woman upside the head with an open palm, Ply pulled over and took action.

He called the police and told the man not to touch the woman again.

“I didn’t touch him. I told him if he hit her again that I was going to hit him,” Ply said.

He never had to physically restrain the man, though. After a heated exchange, the man left on a moped.

Ply learned the moped is what sparked the abuse. The woman had scratched up the vehicle in a wreck, and the man lost his temper over the damage.

About the time the man left, a police helicopter started circling the scene. The man was caught a few blocks away, Ply said.

Ply stayed with the woman, who was skittish and didn’t say much, until police were there to watch over her, Ply said.

Ply said the road was full of traffic when the fight took place. While many 911 calls were made about the incident, Ply was the only one who stopped to help the woman, the city said.

“Lt. Ply’s daring and possible dangerous intervention prevented any further abuse and possibly saved the lady’s life,” the City of Valdosta said in a statement.

Ply was honored for his actions at the June 22 City Council meeting.

But Ply said he doesn’t want the recognition. The only reason he even told his superiors was because he had to write a statement on the incident since it happened on city time, he said.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal to me,” Ply said. “I just didn't feel that it was right that a man was beating on a woman. If that was my wife or my daughter … I would expect somebody to do the same thing for me.”

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