CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – A federal agent who was shot multiple times outside an Oakleaf Publix in late September was reunited Wednesday with the man who helped saved his life.
Drew Stokes, an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations in Jacksonville, had just grabbed lunch inside the Publix and was walking back to his truck when, investigators said, 18-year-old Thomas Jacob Lewis IV shot Stokes before turning the gun on himself.
At a ceremony on Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security honored Clay County sheriff's Deputy Jacob Hawkins, who was one of two deputies who responded first to the shooting.
Stokes' quick recovery has already given him the name "Christmas Miracle." The agent is now happy and full of energy, but he will never forget the day he and others fought to save his life.
Stokes was ambushed and shot in the parking lot on Sept. 26. As he lay on the ground in his own blood, he was still giving orders.
"Call 911. Officer down,'" Stokes said. "The other part was to call my office and to find my wife."
As the 911 call went on, Hawkins was one of the first to respond. He said he remembers the shooting vividly.
"It was almost surreal," Hawkins said. "It was like tunnel vision."
Just weeks ago, Hawkins had a refresher course in emergency care -- the same care that helped save Stokes' life.
At the hospital, for a moment, doctors thought Stokes would not make it. Hawkins was there to support Stokes' family.
"I just felt compelled to go be with the family," he said, letting out a huge sigh. "I put myself in his shoes. I put my brothers, my friends, in his shoes."
And Stokes continued to fight.
"I would say, 'Wiggle your toes. Wiggle those toes,' and I felt my toes wiggle," Stokes said. "And I knew I wasn't paralyzed but I said, 'OK, I can make it through this.'"
Nearly four months later, Stokes had the opportunity to thank one of the many heroes who helped save his life after the ambush.
"It feels amazing," Stokes said. "All the right people were in the right place on that day."
Hawkins was honored by the Department of Homeland Security, and he and Deputy Richard Miller will be honored by the Clay County Sheriff's Office on Thursday.
"It's not just me," Hawkins said. "But I'm glad I had a portion, a part of it, to at least give him a fighting chance."