CLINTON, N.C. (WNCN)–Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton couldn’t hold back his emotions Monday afternoon while recalling the moment he learned that one of his deputies had been shot and rushed to the hospital.

Thornton said Deputy Caitlin Emanuel has remained in the hospital for more than a week now since the morning she responded to a stolen car report on July 23.

While responding to the call, he said Deputy Emanuel had gotten into a struggle with the suspect Michael Walthall of Pennsylvania. At one point during the confrontation, he said the deputy’s gun fired and hit her in the leg.

The sheriff said Deputy Emanuel was able to call for help and had been transported to a nearby hospital with another deputy’s help. After a search, the sheriff’s office located and arrested Walthall who is facing multiple charges and is in jail on a $2 million bond.

“You don’t think about this stuff until it happens. It even gives me a better appreciation,” said Sheriff Thornton during an interview Monday afternoon. Thornton added, “These officers that we’re entrusting to put that gun on and protect us, we take for granted too much.”

Thornton said that he’s continued to check on Deputy Emanuel nearly every day. Through physical therapy and with her husband by her side, Thornton said she has made progress. He said, “You couldn’t ask for anyone to have had a better attitude than she did and certainly one that wants to get back as quick as she can.” The sheriff said Deputy Emanuel’s femur bone had been shattered and said she still has a long road ahead of her.

Since the incident, Thornton said the outpouring of support from the Sampson County community has been overwhelming. He said, “Without question, it’s been overwhelming and certainly she’s most appreciative of that. She’s had a ton of visitors, not only from this office but family and friends… everyone.” In just a week, Sheriff Thornton said a GoFundMe for the deputy and her family collected more than $15,000. He said businesses also collected donations and many people continued to send prayers.

“Never in her wildest imagination did she think she would be shot- but it happened. And every day it seems like an occurrence,” Thornton said. During his 20 years with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, Thornton said he never had a deputy shot while on duty, but it’s something he sees happening too often in today’s world. He added, “We got to do what we can to help our people.”