DPS Names Top Troopers, Honors Exceptional Employees

April 26, 2017

AUSTIN – The Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented one Purple Heart, five Lifesaving Awards and a Unit Citation to DPS employees for their exemplary service. In addition, two Highway Patrol Troopers received Top Trooper awards for 2017.

"Carrying out the department's mission of protecting and serving Texans requires a cadre of outstanding employees who are devoted to safeguarding and helping their communities – and in many cases stepping in to save a life," said Director McCraw. "Today we honor several of these exemplary men and women. We are grateful for their continued service and dedication to the public and the entire state."

Trooper Jamie Liles, Highway Patrol in Conroe, and Trooper Roggan Stanzel, Highway Patrol in Wallisville, each received the Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Award, given every year to the top female and male competitors. Liles and Stanzel competed against other DPS Highway Patrol Troopers during the Top Trooper Competition.

The Top Trooper Competition was established in 2012 to recognize outstanding Troopers and to test participants on their physical conditioning, shooting proficiency, driving skills and job knowledge. The award was named in honor of Trooper Javier Arana Jr., who was killed in the line of duty in 2012. Trooper Arana's family was present today for the announcement of this year's awards.

The following awards also were presented today:

  • Trooper Chad Blackburn, Highway Patrol in Webster, received a Purple Heart. While working patrol on Sept. 5, 2016, Blackburn returned to his vehicle after stopping a motorist. While seated in his car, Blackburn's patrol unit was struck by another car operated by an intoxicated driver. As a result, Blackburn sustained life-threatening injuries and continues to recover today.
  • Staff Sgt. Earl "Dub" Gillum, Texas Highway Patrol in Granbury, received a Lifesaving Award. On Oct. 5, 2016, Gillum was returning to his duty station when he noticed a stranded motorist with a flat tire. Upon contact with the driver, Gillum noticed he looked unwell and advised him to remain in the vehicle while Gillum changed the tire. After a short time, the driver called out in pain and collapsed in convulsions. Gillum called for EMS and began first aid on the man, who was ultimately transported to a medical center for treatment.
  • Major Bryan Rippee, Texas Highway Patrol in Lubbock, received a Lifesaving Award. On Dec. 5, 2016, while off duty having dinner with fellow DPS employees, Rippee realized that a coworker was choking on food. In response, Rippee applied the Heimlich maneuver to the choking victim until the food became dislodged and the man was able to breathe again.
  • Tactical Flight Officer Saben Emery and Agent Pilot Kristopher Edgmon, Aircraft Operations in Mesquite, each received a Lifesaving Award. On Dec. 24, 2016, Emery and Edgmon responded to assist the Kaufman County Sheriff's Office in searching for a missing 92-year-old male near Kemp. While searching the area in a DPS helicopter, the aircrew used high-definition thermal imaging to locate the man, who appeared to be stuck in barbed wire fence. Edgmon and Emery landed nearby, helped remove the man from the fence and administered first aid until an ambulance arrived.
  • Trooper Joe Salas, Highway Patrol in Anson, received a Lifesaving Award. On Sept. 20, 2016, Salas was on duty when he heard radio reports of a crash on I-20 in Merkel. When Salas arrived at the scene, he found a SUV on its side on the access road and an unresponsive female inside the vehicle. Salas subsequently cut through the seatbelt, which was restricting the woman's breathing. He also fashioned a tourniquet to stop the bleeding on the victim's injured arm.
  • Crime Lab – Controlled Substance Section, in Austin received a Unit Citation for its efforts to reduce a backlog of drug cases using current resources. By the end of 2016, the Controlled Substance Section had reduced the number of pending cases by 73 percent. The following were all recognized as part of the citation.
    • Drew Fout
    • Hank Amen
    • Amy Arellano
    • Cassie Bilyeu
    • Katie Suttle
    • Jeff Keverline
    • Jose Martinez
    • Scott Ruplinger
    • Diana Salas

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