AUSTIN – Last week, the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented one Medal of Valor, two Lifesaving Awards, three Director's Awards, and 64 Director's Citations at an award ceremony in Austin. Many awards were related to Hurricane Harvey response efforts. Additionally, a Texas Ranger and a Driver License employee were recognized for their distinguished DPS careers.
"All of our award recipients have demonstrated the type of commitment to duty and courage that makes Texans feel so fortunate to live in this great state – from life-saving efforts to the bravery and generosity demonstrated during Hurricane Harvey," said Director McCraw. "We are proud of these men and women who exemplify the finest attributes of public service in their everyday duties and in the critical moments when their selflessness and quick action saved lives and protected Texans."
Corporal Hope Hohertz, Texas Highway Patrol–Big Spring, received a Medal of Valor, the highest honor and award bestowed by DPS.On Dec. 26, 2016, Corporal Hohertz overheard a Big Spring Police Department dispatch report of a subject with a gun at a local business, and responded to assist the police department in a traffic stop of the suspect. The non-compliant suspect was armed with a handgun and rifle, and pointed a handgun with a silencer at Corporal Hohertz, who responded by firing at the suspect. As more officers arrived, the subject fled the scene in his vehicle. Hohertz successfully located the suspect just as he exited his vehicle with the semi-automatic rifle. The suspect fired 28 rounds at responding officers, forcing Hohertz and Big Spring Police Officers to take cover. A Big Spring Police Officer was injured. With officers at the scene in imminent danger, Corporal Hohertz took decisive action when the suspect tried to reload his weapon, and she opened fire with her shotgun, wounding the suspect and bringing the standoff to an end. Multiple loaded handgun and semi-automatic rifle magazines were found in the vehicle. The suspect was later convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. (Read more about the criteria for the Medal of Valor at http://www.dps.texas.gov/medalofvalor.htm.)
Trooper Austin Johnston and Trooper Jeronimo Lopez, Region 7–Capitol Patrol, each received a Life Saving Award. On Oct. 29, 2017, Troopers Johnston and Lopez responded to a nearby residence after hearing radio traffic involving an active shooter. Upon arrival, they found multiple victims. Troopers Johnston and Lopez located and provided first aid to two severely injured women; one had been shot in the chest and the other in the leg. The Troopers applied gauze and a chest seal for the victim with the chest wound, and applied tourniquets to the woman with the leg wound, which successfully stopped arterial bleeding. Both victims were stabilized at the scene by responding EMS and transported to the hospital. Both women survived, and the Troopers' initial first aid efforts were credited as vital in the life saving efforts.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Enforcement Division/Aircraft Branch; Texas Task Force One – Urban Search and Rescue; and Lowe Boats (A Brunswick Corporation)e ach received a Director's Award for the selfless action taken to help the people of Texas during Hurricane Harvey. Thanks to the quick action, keen instincts and skilled rescue efforts by these individuals, many lives were saved during the historic disaster. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Task Force One personnel used their respective expertise to provide search and rescue, disaster reconnaissance and logistical support. Lowe Boats generously donated 12 flat-bottom boats that were used to conduct rescues in flood water.
Members of the DPS Aviation Operations Division each received a Director's Citation. The Aircraft Operations Division (AOD) activated search and rescue helicopters and, along with other DPS and state assets, quickly responded to the counties of Aransas, Calhoun, Harris, Jefferson, Brazoria, Liberty and Montgomery during Hurricane Harvey. The AOD crews began hoisting isolated persons and those in need of immediate medical attention from rooftops and vehicles, and were responsible for rescuing 244 people while logging more than 275 hours of flying. During this disaster, these crews also located and identified thousands of stranded people in dire need of rescue. The AOD and Aviation Operations Center were instrumental in planning, establishing, and executing a large command and control network (including the Pilatus aircraft operating as an essential airborne command and control center) that quickly dispatched rescue calls, de-conflicted aircraft movements, and allowed for safe flying conditions in a demanding rescue environment. At one point, more than 125 rescue helicopters from 10 different entities, including state, local and federal assets, were engaged in rescue efforts. The following DPS Aviation personnel received Director's Citations: Major Stacy Holland; Captains Matthew Connery, Rodolfo Escobar and James Rohrman; Lieutenants Cody Klaehn, Jeff Evans and T.J. Wood; Sergeant Steven Tippett; Agent Pilots Brian Barina, Jeff Fisher, Danny Glass, Robert Messenger, Mike Perez, Jorge Rodriguez, Valente Rosas, Shawn Stephenson and Jordan Teel; Tactical Flight Officers Dustin Gardner, Brian Gahagan and Wilfred Blanchard III.
Members of the DPS Tactical Marine Unit (Texas Highway Patrol) each received ag>Director's Citation. In the days leading up to Hurricane Harvey's landfall, the Tactical Marine Unit (TMU) staff coordinated and moved state assets to safe locations. The TMU conducted search and rescue operations in the Rockport area and also conducted security patrols on the Intracoastal Waterway. TMU members also assisted in search and rescue operations in Harris, Jefferson and Orange counties. In total, the TMU worked more than 3,400 man hours, and rescued 209 people and 10 animals. In one of the incidents, a civilian boat carrying seven people swept into downed power lines, electrocuting all seven on board. The TMU responded and rescued three of the occupants (two other occupants survived, and tragically, two others died). In another incident, the TMU rescued a woman who had fallen out of her wheelchair and had been stranded at a residence for two days while flood waters continued to rise. The following TMU personnel received Director's Citations: Captain Rafael Gonzalez; Lieutenants T. J. Wood, Ivan Tijerina, Ed Mayfield, Jeff Grobe, Brandon Curlee and Joseph Schuler; Sergeants John Alexander, Ruben Alvarado Jr., Clark Adams, Bobby Bazan, Costancio Cruz, Edward Herebia, Juan Lopez Jr., James Purcell, Jaclyn Romero, LeRoy Romero, Benjamin Silva, Wesley Cooper, Juan DeLeon, Kenneth Haralson, Donny Kindred, John Messer, Trent Price, David Reynolds, Edward Valdez, Brian Williams, Eric Jimenez, Stephen Lojo, Leland Ashcraft, Cole Dunaway, Aaron Frazier, Joshua Kelly, Mark Matlock, Jack McCrea, Matthew Skorupka, Jeremiah Collins, Mario Gonzalez, Eric Herrera, Jason Bazan, Israel Martinez, Robert Pullin, Blake Sanchez, Abel Toscano III, Juan Villarreal Jr., and Steven Tippett.
Texas Ranger Troy Wilson, Company F–San Antonio, and Management Analyst Ron Coleman, Driver License Division–Austin, each received the 2018 William P. Clements Excellence Award. The award honors a commissioned and non-commissioned employee for exceptional performance of duties throughout the course of their DPS careers. Ranger Wilson, who began his career with the department in January 1993, has served as a Texas Ranger the last 14 years of his DPS career. In 2010, he played a leading role in the investigations of sexual assaults by a serial rapist known as the "Twilight Rapist." Ranger Wilson also used his expertise in crime scene investigations and crime scene forensics for the following incidents: the 2014 shooting scene at Ft. Hood U.S. Army Base; the 2015 shooting at the "Twin Peaks" restaurant in Waco; the 2016 murder of five police officers, and injury of nine officers and two civilians; and the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting. Coleman, who began his career with the department in September 1991 as a mail clerk in the Driver License Division, worked his way up to his current position within the Division's Policy Analyst Team. Coleman has been instrumental in Texas' Commercial Driver License (CDL) program by previously serving as the Texas CDL Coordinator, ensuring Texas' continued compliance with federal regulations. He has served on various federal working groups, and most recently coordinated the installation of an automated driver license testing system in more than 200 offices statewide and queuing solutions in 60 of the largest driver license offices.
Also at the ceremony, the DPS Marksmanship Team was recognized for their success at the 2017 National Rifle Association Tactical Police Competition. The competition includes a variety of shooting skill challenges. Out of a total of 99 competitors, Trooper Dylan Slovacek, Texas Highway Patrol–Victoria, won first place in the Tactical Division-State Law Enforcement category. Trooper Travis Rhea and Sergeant Donald Delukie,both with the DPS Education, Training and Research Division–Florence,won first place in the Patrol Division Team category.