AUSTIN – The Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw today presented one Director's Citation, five Lifesaving Awards andone Unit Citation to DPS employees. Additionally, several other DPS employees were recognized for their outstanding work during the meeting.
"The individuals we honored today represent the true definition of public servants who are dedicated to saving lives, protecting the public and their communities, and making Texas a safer place to call home," said Director McCraw. "I am honored to work alongside these members of the DPS family who exemplify our mission every day. It is truly a privilege to recognize their selfless service."
The following awards were presented:
Trooper Calvin Starkie, Texas Highway Patrol–Newton, received a Director's Citation. On Feb. 5, 2018, Trooper Starkie was dispatched to a one-vehicle crash on SH-87 in Newton County. Upon arrival, Trooper Starkie observed an SUV that was resting on its side in a deep creek. The terrain was steep and treacherous. After assessing the situation, Trooper Starkie relayed critical information to dispatch and first responders, while also providing first aid to a Newton Police sergeant who had been injured trying to help the driver. Upon arrival of the Burkeville Fire Department, Trooper Starkie and a firefighter secured the vehicle's position. Trooper Starkie then climbed on the hood, cut out the windshield and used the "Jaws of Life" to access the driver. As an experienced paramedic, Trooper Starkie evaluated the driver's injuries, placed a backboard under the driver and assisted in lifting him from the vehicle. The driver was transported to a medical center where he spent weeks in recovery.
Special Agent Jason Ernst, Criminal Investigations Division–Austin, received a Lifesaving Award. On Nov. 29, 2017, Agent Ernst was traveling in Williamson County when he received a report about an adult male slumped over the steering wheel of a vehicle parked on the shoulder of the road. Agent Ernst responded to the scene where he found the male driver barely breathing and unconscious. Agent Ernst assessed the driver's vitals and checked for any obstructions around his neck. Agent Ernst was approached by an off-duty paramedic, Peter Wagner with the Round Rock Fire Department, who also began assisting. The driver no longer had a pulse, and together, the pair extracted the driver from the vehicle and began administering CPR. Williamson County EMS arrived on scene where they continued life-saving measures and transported the driver to the hospital for further treatment.
Trooper Natalie Wilson, Texas Highway Patrol–Cleburne, received a Lifesaving Award. On Jan. 14, 2018, Trooper Wilson was on routine patrol when she observed a vehicle traveling above the posted speed limit. Trooper Wilson turned on the vehicle and activated her emergency overhead lights. The driver failed to stop and attempted to evade at an unsafe speed, losing control of the vehicle and subsequently rolling over. Trooper Wilson approached the crashed vehicle that had begun smoking. The driver was unable to exit the vehicle on their own. Trooper Wilson, realizing the urgency of the situation due to the engine compartment catching fire, began kicking in the front windshield. As the fire became more intense, the subject crawled to the rear of the vehicle, where Trooper Wilson successfully shattered the back windshield. Immediately after Trooper Wilson pulled the driver out of the burning vehicle, it became fully engulfed by the fire and was destroyed.
Trooper Homer Villarreal, Texas Highway Patrol–Eagle Pass, received a Lifesaving Award. On June 15, 2018, Trooper Villarreal arrived at his residence and observed a crowd of people gathered by the pool area. After a bystander called for help, Trooper Villarreal saw a small child lying motionless near the pool; the child's lips and skin were blue-toned. Immediately, he began performing CPR and observed that with each compression the child expelled water through his mouth and nose. As the Trooper continued to administer first aid to the child, EMS arrived on scene. The child was transported to a medical center, where he was placed in intensive care and is now progressing in his recovery. After reviewing video surveillance, it was determined that the child had been underwater for approximately four minutes before being pulled out of the water.
Trooper Ethan McAdoo, Texas Highway Patrol–New Caney, received a Lifesaving Award. On Nov. 23, 2017, Trooper McAdoo responded to a shots fired call at a residence in Montgomery County. As he arrived at the home to assist the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, Trooper McAdoo observed a male gunshot victim lying on the floor of the garage. Trooper McAdoo immediately applied pressure to stop the profuse bleeding. He then applied a tourniquet to the victim's upper leg to successfully control the bleeding. When EMS and fire personnel arrived, they noted that Trooper McAdoo's quick actions increased the victim's chance of survival. The victim was transported to a hospital in critical condition, and after undergoing surgery, was listed in stable condition.
Trooper Briar Cordova, Texas Highway Patrol–Amarillo, received a Lifesaving Award. On April 17, 2018, Trooper Cordova was en route to his home when he heard a radio broadcast advising that someone was about to jump from an overpass crossing on I-40. He responded to the scene and found a woman sitting on the edge of the overpass with both of her legs hanging over. Trooper Cordova was approached by two good Samaritans, Amy Brown and Jeffery Graham, who were already on-scene and speaking to the woman. Trooper Cordova was advised that the woman was upset and had reportedly gone off her medication. After the Trooper formulated a plan, Brown distracted the woman and Graham worked with Trooper Cordova to simultaneously grab the woman and pull her to safety.
The Victim and Employee Support Services (VESS) received a Unit Citation. VESS is a workgroup of 18 licensed mental health professionals and two administrative assistants. Since August 2017, VESS has responded to five major incidents with widespread impact, including: Hurricane Harvey, the Sutherland Springs shooting, the line-of-duty deaths of Trooper Damon Allen and Trooper Thomas Nipper, and the Santa Fe High School shooting. As part of their response efforts, VESS coordinated information and support group meetings; conducted outreach calls; deployed counselors; assisted victims, family members and DPS employees through critical incident response resources; extended emotional support to those impacted; and more. The employees commended for their hard work and dedication included: Melissa Atwood, Tom Cooper, Marty Elkins, Roberta Farley, Patty Galvan, Jesica Grimes, Celesta Harris, Kristin Ipes, Dave Knight, Alicia Kovac, Roxanne Mata, Alisa McDonald, Brigette O'Reilly, Kathy Smith, Glenda Sosby, Ray Tarpley, Belinda Taylor, Bunny Terrell, Sumer Wassef and Melanie Webb.
The following were also recognized at the PSC meeting:
Trooper Jeremy Usener, Texas Highway Patrol–Colorado City, and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) Inspector Jose Najera, Texas Highway Patrol–El Paso, were both recognized for their efforts in recent competitions. In July, 20 DPS Troopers and Inspectors participated in the 2018 Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Texas Challenge. Every year, CVE Troopers and Inspectors participate in several events throughout the Challenge to showcase their commercial vehicle inspection expertise. Trooper Usener was named Grand Champion and Inspector Najera was named runner-up in the Texas competition. Additionally, in August, Trooper Usener competed in the nternational competition and won the Jimmy K. Ammons Grand Champion Award for placing first overall in the 2018 North American Inspector Championship.
On July 17, 2018, five officers from the DPS Criminal Investigations Division were recognized by the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, El Paso Division, for their contributions in assisting the FBI Midland Office during an investigation. The investigation involved a violent crimes against children case, in which two children were ultimately rescued. Those honored included Lt. Daniel Sarabiaand Special Agents Cody Allen, David Stewart, Oscar Valles and Michelle Wilson of Midland.
The DPS Foundation announced $5,000 scholarships for each of the 10 recipients of the 2018-2019 Academic Scholarship program. The recipients were selected from more than 100 applicants. The Foundation provides scholarships to DPS employees, retirees and family members to continue their education.
Director McCraw and members of the PSC announced the creation of the Robert J. Bodisch Leadership Award, on Deputy Director Bodisch's last day before his retirement from the department. Bodisch was instrumental in expanding the DPS leadership curriculum. The award will recognize one graduate, selected by their peers, from each DPS Command College.