ICYMI: DPS Honors Bravery, Exceptional Efforts of Employees and Texans Alike
AUSTIN – Last month, the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented 12 Lifesaving Awards and four Director’s Awards at the PSC meeting in Austin. Additionally, a Texas Ranger and a Driver License employee were recognized for their distinguished DPS careers with the William P. Clements Excellence Award.
“To have the opportunity to recognize the hard work and bravery of our commissioned officers, DPS staff members and the Texans who call this state home is a privilege, and we are proud of these men and women for their public service and their selflessness,” said Director McCraw. “Every day, these individuals make a difference in their communities and exemplify what it means to be great Texans.”
The William P. Clements Excellence Award is named in honor of the former governor and his commitment to excellence in government. Texas Ranger James B. Holland, Company B-Decatur, and Customer Service Representative Mary Ann Araiza, Driver License Division-Weslaco, each received a 2018William P. Clements Excellence Award. The award honors a commissioned and non-commissioned employee for their exceptional performance of duties throughout the course of their DPS careers.
Holland has been employed with the department for 23 years and has served the past 10 years as a Texas Ranger. He has been assigned to the Unsolved Crimes Program since 2015. In 2016, Holland provided assistance on eight cold case homicides. His efforts resulted in six of those cold cases being solved, the arrest of three confessed killers and the recovery of the remains of two young women who had been missing for nearly 20 years. In December 2017, the Florida Division on Law Enforcement requested that Holland interview a convicted murderer who was also suspected of committing a murder in Florida. The suspect was a career criminal suspected in multiple homicides who had never confessed to law enforcement officers. In May 2018, within hours of interviewing the suspect, Holland was able to elicit 26 murder confessions. Over the course of several months, he interviewed the suspect and obtained an additional 64 murder confessions for crimes that occurred in 19 states. As a result of these interviews, agencies across the country have been able to match cold case murders to this suspect’s confessions.
Araiza began her career in November 1991 as a Driver License Technician; in November 2012, she reclassified to a Customer Service Representative (CSR). Over the course of 26 years, she has volunteered for numerous additional duties and special projects. In 2015, after completing a two-week facilitator training class, she participated in a mass New Hire Training, where she creatively helped modify the 12-week curriculum, which included instrumental changes to make the learning process more engaging. She was selected by regional administration for the Employee Engagement Program, where she served as liaison from 2015-2016. As the liaison, she traveled throughout the South Texas Region to interview and talk with fellow CSRs about their work environment and career growth opportunities. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Regional Commander’s Award for exemplifying the highest levels of responsibility, creativity, determination, diligence, initiative and loyalty, while providing a positive influence on others.
The following awards were also presented:
Captain Shawn Stephenson and Lieutenant Jeff Evans, Aircraft Operations Division-San Antonio, and Sergeant Steven Tippett, Texas Highway Patrol-New Braunfels, eachreceived a Lifesaving Award, and Cody Buckaloo, Game Warden, Texas Parks and Wildlife, received a Director’s Award.On Oct. 8, 2018, Stephenson, Evans and Tippett were called to assist with water rescues along the Llano River near Junction in the Texas Hill Country. Flood waters had completely consumed a nearby RV Park. The aircrew began searching near the RV Park and quickly located a victim stranded in a group of trees. Utilizing a rescue collar, the victim was successfully pulled from the trees and transferred to safety. The team then received information about two additional victims, and they called upon Buckaloo to assist. The team conducted two extractions with Buckaloo acting as rescue swimmer, and they were able to rescue two individuals and a pet dog. As the aircrew returned to refuel, Tippett arrived and took over the duties as rescue swimmer. The team received word of another victim being swept away in the river. Travis County Star Flight was attempting this rescue. Stephenson, Evans and Tippett began to support Star Flight in their efforts; however, due to communication problems, Star Flight was unable to perform the rescue. Trooper Whitney Gardner saw the victim being swept passed an area known as Yates Crossing and assisted in directing the aircrew to the location where the victim was struggling to stay above water. The aircrew made two rescue attempts by lowering Tippett into the water; however, due to debris and the victim’s exhaustion, she was unable to hold on long enough to be extracted. Stephenson repositioned the helicopter further down the river to get ahead of the victim, while Evans lowered Tippett into the water. Just as Tippett entered the water, the victim approached his location and went under. Tippett reached under, pulled her out and successfully attached the rescue device. It was determined the victim spent approximately five hours in the river and traveled 23 miles before being rescued.
Sergeant James Arnwine, Texas Highway Patrol-Sweetwater, received a Lifesaving Award. On July 30, 2018, Arnwine was at the Scurry County Law Enforcement Center following up on an investigation when he was made aware of a medical emergency in the lobby area. An individual — who was at the Law Enforcement Center conducting business — suddenly fell back, struck his head on the floor and started having a seizure. Snyder Police Officer Joshua Reeves responded to the lobby area, where he found the subject unresponsive and no longer breathing. Reeves immediately called for an ambulance and began to render aid. Arnwine responded to the emergency call, where he found the subject bleeding from his head and without a pulse. The officers began CPR while alternating chest compressions until he became responsive. They continued to render aid until EMS arrived and transported the subject to a local hospital where he made a full recovery.
Trooper Robert McGrath, Texas Highway Patrol-Eastland, received a Lifesaving Award. On Aug. 1, 2018, McGrath along with Deputy Bryan Butler responded to a welfare call at a residence in Eastland County. McGrath and Butler arrived at the subject’s residence and observed a vehicle was running. As McGrath pulled in and exited his unit, he noticed a water hose extending from the exhaust into the cab of the truck through the closed back sliding glass window. He immediately pulled the hose from the tailpipe to eliminate carbon monoxide from continuing to enter the truck. The pair attempted to gain entry into the vehicle, but the doors were locked. As McGrath approached the passenger side window, he noticed the subject slumped over the center console. The windows were up, and the subject was not responding. McGrath utilized his asp baton to break the passenger side window and unlocked the doors, which allowed Butler to open the driver’s door and retrieve the subject from the truck. Upon moving the subject away from the vehicle, he began taking in breaths of fresh air and appeared somewhat coherent. McGrath continued checking on the condition of the subject, encouraging him to talk and take deep breaths. Medics arrived on the scene and transported the subject to a local hospital where he made a full recovery.
Trooper Laura Pearman, Texas Highway Patrol-George West, received aLifesaving Award. On July 6, 2018, Pearman was dispatched to a crash on IH-37 in Live Oak County where a subject was seriously injured after being struck by an SUV. It was determined that two separate crashes had occurred within seconds of one another. The injured subject was a driver in the first crash, and upon his quick exit from his vehicle, he was struck by another vehicle as the driver of that vehicle swerved to avoid the first crash. Pearman arrived to find the injured subject lying in the fetal position; he was barely breathing, bleeding from multiple injuries and in-and-out of consciousness. As Pearman assessed the subject’s condition, she observed a bone protruding from his shin and blood flowing out. Pearman carefully turned the subject on to his back and applied a tourniquet to the upper area of his leg to stop the bleeding. The subject was stabilized and flown by Halo to a Corpus Christi Hospital where he recovered from multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Trooper Jesse Perez and Trooper Matt Ruiz, Texas Highway Patrol-San Antonio, each received a Lifesaving Award. On Nov. 6, 2018, Perez and Ruiz were advised by the San Antonio Police Department radio of a stabbing at a Shell gas station. As the first unit to arrive on the scene, Perez and Ruiz observed a male subject with multiple stab wounds to his body. The subject was bleeding heavily from a gash to his right arm. Despite holding a towel over the gash, the subject continued to bleed excessively at the wound site. Perez instructed the subject to lay down on the ground, and upon doing so, Perez was able to successfully deploy his tourniquet into the proper area of the arm to stop the bleeding. Ruiz took notice of a second substantial stab wound in the subject’s abdomen area and applied pressure to address the additional bleeding. Local police, fire and EMS arrived at the scene and transported the subject to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Christopher Martin, Lynn Burttschell and Jason Dush, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM)-Headquarters Austin, along with Jack Doebbler, TDEM-Austin, each received a Lifesaving Award. On May 15, 2018, Texas DPS TDEM staff members — Martin, Doebbler, Burttschell and Dush — were attending a Texas Emergency Management Conference in San Antonio. While Martin was speaking to a conference attendee, the attendee suddenly collapsed. Burttschell, a certified paramedic, was nearby and began to assist Martin, also a certified paramedic, with the medical emergency while someone was directed to call 911. Dush and Doebbler received the emergency call, grabbed medical gear and responded to the scene. The subject was in cardiac arrest, and Burttschell began chest compressions, while Dush prepared the subject for the defibrillator and subsequently administered a shock to the heart. Doebbler prepared an IV and managed the equipment throughout the incident. Burttschell continued to coordinate chest compressions, ensuring the rotation of individuals every two minutes for maximum effectiveness. Martin continued assisting with airway management, while Dush administered medication through the IV to stabilize the heart. By the time the San Antonio Fire Department arrived on the scene, the subject had gone from having no pulse to a steady rhythm and was breathing on his own. He was transported to a hospital for further medical treatment and was later released.
Thomas Haire, Donovan Haire and Justin Tobey each received a Director’s Award.On Oct. 21, 2018, DPS Trooper Zachary Akers was dispatched to a single vehicle crash involving a possible intoxicated driver. As Akers arrived on the scene and met with witnesses, he observed a subject fleeing into a wooded area. After a pursuit on foot, the subject refused to comply with Aker’s commands and actively resisted. During the altercation, Akers felt a pop in his right knee, which caused him to fall to the ground; he was unable to get back up. Akers called out to witnesses who were still at the scene for help. Thomas and Donovan Haire ran over to help and immediately took action to help Akers. The two men gained control of the subject — Thomas was able to place handcuffs on him, while Donovan held him down. Once the subject was secured in handcuffs, Justin Tobey — another civilian at the scene — helped Donovan keep the subject secure, while Thomas assisted Akers back to his patrol unit. Justin, Thomas and Donovan kept control of the subject until backup arrived. Akers was treated for his injuries, which were not life threatening.