NASH COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- A crowd of community members and officers filled the streets to welcome home a Nash County deputy who is out of the hospital after being shot multiple times.
The Nash County Sheriff's Office said Deputy William Toney was released from Vidant Medical Center around 3 p.m. and taken home with a blue light escort.
"It's emotional for us," Toney said. "As you guys know back in December we lost Jared here in our department. It's very hard today, very mixed emotions with him in the same thing. Him not coming back right and me coming back right."
Toney's impact on the community was seen in a line of cars and cheers, he was welcomed home by Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone.
"It means a whole lot to bring our officer home," Stone told ABC11. "What true heroes are up and down these roads working and the support of the public that these officers saw coming back is what gives them the energy out here to make the difference."
The shooting happened between 9 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday near Exit 145 just north of Rocky Mount.
Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said at a news conference that a female deputy stopped a vehicle with Florida tags for a "speed offense" and became suspicious of "criminal activity afoot" in the car. The deputy, identified as Shelby Smith, ordered the driver, identified as Jarred Javon Ford, 33, of St. Petersburg, Florida, to step out of the 2008 Mercedes Benz.
Stone said that after the second deputy, William Toney, arrived at the scene, "Mr. Ford brandished a firearm, pulled it from his body" and began to fire at Toney, striking him multiple times.
Smith returned fire and Ford ran away into a ditch, where he lost his weapon. Smith kept him controlled at gunpoint until other law officers arrived, Stone said. The sheriff said Ford was a convicted felon and possessed a semi-automatic weapon.
Both Toney and Ford were taken to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Stone said both had to undergo surgery.
Stone said the deputies survived "because they were in God's hands." He said that, coupled with the "good training" these officers had, was what allowed them to survive the harrowing close-range encounter.
"This man had all intentions of killing one of the people that protect you every day," Stone said.
The sheriff added that Ford has an extensive criminal record -- "seven pages of criminal activity" -- and was driving with a revoked license.
"The real concern here to me is, Mr. Ford, and I will share this with you, the lengthy criminal record ranging from strangulation, to habitual driving without drivers license, to drug trafficking, to possession of firearms, just to name a few, to aggravated assault with a firearm," Stone said. "It is alarming to me that these type of individuals are out roaming the streets. It's concerning."
Toney, a K-9 handler, was wearing a protective vest, Stone said. His police dog had remained in the vehicle and was unharmed. Toney has been with the sheriff's office for a little more than six years, Stone said.
WATCH: Earlier report from the scene
Stone said he had spoken to Toney and that he was in "high spirits."
The sheriff said earlier reports that both deputies were injured were not accurate. He clarified that Smith "was injured but not to the extent to be admitted into the hospital." Smith has been with the sheriff's office for two years and eight months, Stone said.
He did say that a state trooper who responded to the scene had gone to the hospital with "some type of injury or illness."
The State Bureau of Investigations is investigating as is standard when an officer is involved in a shooting. Stone said Smith fired about a dozen rounds. The Nash County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also investigating, Stone said.