On Saturday, members of the Ku Klux Klan gathered in Columbia, South Carolina, the state’s capital, to protest the recent decision to take down the Confederate flag that had flown over the State House.

COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 18:  Ku Klux Klan members take part in a Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. The KKK protested the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds and hurled racial slurs at minorities as law enforcement tried to prevent violence between the opposing groups.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

South Carolina Public Safety estimated that, between Klan members and counter-protesters, almost 2,000 people were at the demonstration.

With hot tempers and hotter temperatures, violence broke out.

But amid the tensions, a single act of selflessness — a black officer helping a white supremacist suffering from heat exhaustion — got noticed.

The officer was identified as South Carolina Director of Public Safety Leroy Smith, a 22-year law enforcement veteran who joined the SCDPS as Director in 2011.

People on social media lauded Smith’s ability to do his job in difficult circumstances.

Monday morning, Smith released a statement, saying he was surprised the photo had gone viral, and that as the agency’s director, his job is to “preserve and protect,” just like every other officer.

“Our men and women in uniform are on the front lines every day helping people—regardless of the person’s skin color, nationality, or beliefs,” Smith continued in the statement.

“I am proud to serve this great State, and I hope this photo will be a catalyst for people to work to overcome some of the hatred and violence we have seen in our country in recent weeks.”

leroy smith officer

(Photos via Getty, AP, SCDPS Facebook)