Letter to the Editor: A tribute to a hero

Captain Mark W. Joost, is a good friend of mine.  He will be retiring from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office in March after a twenty seven year career in law enforcement that included serving as a Police Officer for the Madison Police Department and as a Deputy Sheriff for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.  Captain Joost, was first hired by Sheriff Joe Peavy and served under Sheriff Pete Booker and current Sheriff Ben Stewart.

When I first moved to Madison County in 2009, having been employed by The Office of the State Attorney of the Third Judicial Circuit, I was in need of a place to park my 29 foot Camper to get my feet on the ground in my new home.  It was Mark W. Joost who saw a need and “stepped up to the plate” to help.   Over the years, we have become very good friends.   I found in Mark something very unique to the times that we live in, a desire to always give back and help others.  To coin a phrase from Mark himself, when I have asked him how he is doing, “Just trying to do the next right thing!”  Respected by all, Mark W. Joost set the standard of what a Law Enforcement officer should be!

Doing the next right thing is a maxim that Mark Joost has followed all his life.  As a young man he joined the U.S. Army and was recruited into the Ranger battalion.  To anyone that knows anything about what that means, a Ranger is the premier light-infantry of the U.S. Army, a combination of special operations and elite airborne light infantry.  The regiment is a flexible, highly trained and rapid light infantry unit specialized to be employed against any special operation targets. A U.S. Army Ranger is a “lethal, agile and flexible force, capable of conducting many complex, joint special operations missions”.    

Mark was with the airborne division and routinely leaped out of planes at 1200 feet which is low enough for your chute to open but if it doesn’t there is little time for a backup chute to open. A hand grenade injury, that could have killed him, but by the Grace of God did not, forced his leave from the U.S. Army and launched a new career in Law Enforcement.  Mark Joost has been a Guardian Angel to the citizens of Madison County ever since never fearing to pursue the “Bad Guys” even when guns were blaring!   

On December 23, 2006, Mark W. Joost, overheard a B.O.L.O. being broadcast concerning an armed robbery at the Holiday Market in Clyattville, Ga.  The three black males wearing masks and armed with handguns had fled in a white four-door vehicle and headed towards Madison County on Hwy 145, (oblivious to the fact that Mark Joost was on the lookout), they headed right into him.  The vehicle initially stopped and Mark approached with his sidearm drawn and by his side. He pointed it at the driver and told him to turn the vehicle off or he would shoot him, the robber driver said “please don’t shoot me” and sped off.  Thereafter, Mark caught up to the vehicle as it was traveling approximately 100 mph.   During the pursuit, the occupants fired at Mark Joost, multiple times through the sunroof and from a right passenger side window.  At Range Ave and Livingston, one handgun fired at Mark through the driver’s side window, a second handgun fired at him from a passenger side window and a third handgun fired at him from the sunroof.   

The pursuit continued on to I-10 where the subjects continued to fire at Mark Joost even while passing pedestrians outside a disabled vehicle on I-10.  Mark continued to pursue, never wavering even when his patrol vehicle was knocking and steaming heavily from rounds that had penetrated his radiator.  Rounds grazed his doorpost approximately six to eight inches to the right of Mark. At one point during the pursuit, the suspects abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot into thick brush. Mark scanned the wooded area and hearing movement issued commands to stop, the suspects continued to flee and Mark fired buck shot at them from a distance of about 50 yards.  Two of the suspects where hit and dropped to the ground and were captured by Mark.  A third suspect was located and arrested a short distance later.

Mark Joost was quoted about the experience, “If they want to play cops and robbers in Madison County, they had better tighten up on their training and bring their A game. Not all law enforcement officers are doughnut eaters!   Matthew 11:12 states, ‘And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force’ Some of us are willing to stand the gap!”

Mark W. Joost is a hero to the citizens of Madison County and he has been standing the gap for more than twenty seven years.   As a homicide investigator with keen instincts, he was relentless in his pursuit of justice and taking down the murderer.  Countless homicide cases have been solved and the killers have been sent away for life because Mark just never gave up!  While he was relentless in his investigation, he also cared enough to share his faith with the very ones he pursued.  Mark is always, “Just trying to do the next right thing!”

For me personally, Mark was there to help when I needed help.   He cared! He has been a faithful friend over all these years, never wavering!   When my 24 year old son Matthew, wanted to pursue a law enforcement career, Mark was there to counsel and advise him.  He mentored him through the police academy and took time at the range to show him how to shoot properly.  Then in April of 2015, Matthew’s life was taken in an automobile accident in Tallahassee, Florida. Late for work, he was driving too fast and lost control of his vehicle and hit a concrete pole.  Once again, Mark was there, constantly calling and coming by to visit. He was there for me.   It brings to my remembrance the scripture from Matthew 25: 36-39:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat:  I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me:  I was sick and ye visited me:  I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirst, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?  or naked, and clothed thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

That’s Mark Joost!   Just trying to do the next right thing!

Dean Morphonios

Madison, Florida

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