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ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — When an Anderson County Sheriff’s Office patrol car rolled up on teenager Ricky Holmes and his best friend, Isaiah Cherry, they thought they were in trouble.

The two were playing basketball in the street on a Sunday evening in Anderson County, and Holmes’ mom, Christie Whitfield, had already told them not to drag the hoop into the road — but they did anyway, she said.

The deputy, 25-year-old Jordan Nubern, got out of his vehicle and approached them. Nubern said he remembers how scared they looked, anxious to hear what he would say to them.

“I was like, ‘Hey, what are y’all doing?’ And they had a concerned look on their face as if they were in trouble,” Nubern said. “And I was like, ‘Just go ahead and pass me the ball, man!'”

Nubern, who has been with the Sheriff’s Office for the last four years and a deputy for the past two, said he stayed and played with Ricky, 13, and Isaiah, 14, for nearly an hour on Sept. 10.

Before Nubern left, he promised to bring Ricky and Isaiah a new ball. Theirs was old and worn, the deputy said.

Three days later, true to his word, Nubern was knocking on Whitfield’s door with a brand new ball in hand.

Whitfield said Nubern startled them — he came by late in the evening, and they honestly didn’t believe any deputy would have made the time to carry out a promise like that.

“He did tell the boys, ‘Hey, I’m gonna get y’all a ball.’ But they didn’t really believe it was going to happen,” Whitfield said. “So when he came, he knocked on the door and Ricky’s face — he was kind of in shock, like, ‘Oh, my god, you came back!'”

Nubern’s actions solidified a growing, positive relationship with law enforcement for Ricky and Isaiah, Whitfield said. Nubern built a strong rapport with her son and his best friend simply by spending time with them and talking to them, she said.

“Living in the neighborhood we do, when those boys see law enforcement come through that’s their first thought — somebody’s in trouble,” Whitfield said. “For any of those kids in high-crime areas, if more things like that happened, I think it would make such a big difference because it shows that an officer isn’t all about taking people to jail.”

Sgt. Brian Harbin, Nubern’s supervisor, knows some people might think Nubern was slacking off by spending an hour playing basketball with a couple of teenagers. But the reality is quite the opposite, Harbin said.

“To me, his job is to be out there serving the community,” he said. “It’s the fact that he’s there — he’s not out of service, and he’s being seen and he’s in the community. He’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and our command staff and sheriff and everybody is going to support that.”

It’s crucial to foster a healthy relationship between Anderson County citizens and law enforcement officers, Harbin said.

“It’s good to see people his age doing this. Especially in the era that we’re in, people lose face-to-face communication skills,” Harbin said. “An officer at least has to learn those skills and maintain those skills — some officers take it above and beyond, like Jordan has.”

Nubern, who grew up in Starr, went to school for nursing, but chose to join the Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher when an opportunity arose. Two years later, he was able to start working as a deputy.

The job is demanding, he said, and sometimes it seems as if there aren’t many chances to do something good for the community without arresting someone. Nubern, who was working on his birthday when he played basketball with Ricky and Isaiah, said he didn’t spend the time or the money for any sort of recognition.

“They just showed me there’s so much more to this job,” Nubern said. “Dealing with the situations that we have to deal with, I think this was put in place in my life to encourage me to continue doing this job because it is very rewarding.”

Even though opportunities to spend time with kids like Ricky and Isaiah don’t arise often, Nubern is hopeful that he’ll have a chance to shoot hoops with the teenagers again.

“I hope I’m able to encounter them again and get out there and play ball,” Nubern said. “I think if I went back out there today and they were playing ball, I wouldn’t have to ask them to pass it to me.”


Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail,