AUSTIN – On Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC), along with Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw, presented several prestigious awards to DPS personnel, including five Director’s Citations, one Lifesaving Award and a Unit Citation. The Awards were presented at the PSC meeting at DPS Headquarters in Austin. Four Director’s Awards were also given to people outside the department.
“These awards are a reminder of the tremendous work that takes place throughout this department every day,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “We are grateful for the men and women who put others’ wellbeing before their own – many times in order to save lives, and it’s wonderful to be able to personally thank them.”
The following individuals were recognized:
Lieutenant Kevin King, Texas Highway Patrol Division – Carrizo Springs, Captain Steven Tellez, Texas Highway Patrol Division – San Antonio, were each awarded a Director’s Citation for their significant and professional efforts in building a strong relationship with members of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District.
On May 24, 2022, the community of Uvalde experienced a horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Governor Greg Abbott then directed DPS to begin a school safety initiative to rebuild the community’s trust in law enforcement agencies that bear the responsibility of creating a safe environment for students and staff at the eight campuses within the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District. Captain Steven Tellez and Lieutenant Kevin King volunteered to serve as ambassadors and lead the school safety initiative during the 2022-2023 school year. Through their leadership, professionalism and forward thinking, Captain Tellez and Lieutenant King built a positive and safe environment for students, faculty and the entire Uvalde community. They prioritized visibility and accessibility for the entire school community, and spent time in classrooms and cafeterias, at sporting events and after school activities, getting to know the students and listening to their concerns. They adopted a more holistic approach to school safety, focusing on de-escalating conflicts and taking a proactive approach through education to address issues such as the reporting of “Threat to Life” events and the proper application of laws in an educational environment. Captain Tellez’ and Lieutenant King’s efforts have undoubtedly had a positive impact on the student disciplinary issues over the past school year. Students, parents, teachers, and the community have expressed great appreciation for their efforts and credit their presence in helping make Uvalde schools feel safer and more welcoming for all.
In recognition of these efforts, they are hereby awarded a Director’s Citation.
Trooper Michael Abay, Texas Highway Patrol Division – Corsicana, Trooper Damian Conner, Texas Highway Patrol Division – Corsicana, and Trooper Joseph Sherman, Texas Highway Patrol Division – Corsicana, are hereby awarded the Director’s Citation. Volunteer Fire Chief Jay Tidwell, Firefighter Joshua Lascano, Michael Bustamante and Lance Lewis are hereby awarded the Director’s Award.
On January 31, 2023, Trooper Curtis Putz was crushed between a concrete barrier and his patrol unit while investigating a traffic crash in icy conditions in the North Texas Region. Troopers Michael Abay, Damian Conner and Joseph Sherman were on the scene, investigating other traffic crashes due to the icy road. Trooper Abay ran toward the patrol unit and realized Trooper Putz was pinned underneath. Trooper Sherman was close by and notified communications of a Trooper down, requesting two ambulances to come to the scene. The driver who struck Trooper Putz was in and out of consciousness and Trooper Abay broke the driver’s side window to access them. Trooper Conner was informed that Trooper Putz was having trouble breathing and the patrol unit needed to be lifted off of him to allow him to breathe. Conner retrieved his floor jack and wheel chocks, then verified the patrol unit was in park and that the emergency brake was set. Trooper Sherman continued to communicate with Trooper Putz while Trooper Abay and Richland Volunteer Fire Chief Jay Tidwell began to lift and stabilize the patrol unit. During this time, Michael Bustamante, a tow truck operator, arrived on the scene and worked quickly to lift the patrol vehicle off Trooper Putz. Lance Lewis, another tow truck operator, assisted Mr. Bustamante with moving the patrol vehicle while protecting Trooper Putz from further injury. Off-duty Glen Heights Firefighter Joshua Lascano observed the crash and immediately provided an assessment of Trooper Putz’ injuries. As Mr. Bustamante lifted the patrol unit, Troopers Sherman and Abay, along with Firefighter Lascano, pulled Trooper Putz out from under the patrol car so they could assess his injuries and provide care until EMS arrived. Trooper Putz was taken to the hospital and is alive today thanks to the heroic actions of these individuals.
Trooper Jacob Morrow, Texas Highway Patrol Division – Cross Plains, was awarded a Lifesaving Award for his actions while deployed to Operation Lone Star. On Aug. 14, 2023, Trooper Morrow observed a female and two juvenile subjects approach the Rio Grande River, in Mexico. Trooper Morrow encouraged the subjects to walk to the nearest point of entry to seek legal access to the U.S., but the subjects began to cross the river in an area that is known to be quite deep. Trooper Morrow began to hear screams for help as he observed the subjects go under water multiple times. Trooper Morrow directed a National Guardsman to lower the concertina wire while he retrieved his throw bag. As Trooper Morrow approached the river and began to crawl over the wire, he could only see the juveniles above water. He deployed his throw bag into the river and instructed the juvenile subjects to grab the rope as he began pulling them to the riverbank. As Trooper Morrow began pulling, the mother surfaced, blue in the face and gasping for air. Trooper Morrow was able to pull all three subjects to shore. A National Guard medic advised the female would not have survived much longer in the water without assistance. Once EMS personnel arrived on the scene, all three subjects were transported to a local medical center for further treatment.
One Unit Citation was also given during the ceremony. The following unit was recognized:
The North Texas Region Aircrew is part of the Aircraft Operations Division (AOD) and operates out of the North Texas Region. On Thursday, March 30, 2023, the North Texas Region Aircrew, consisting of Lieutenant Pilot Jordan Teel and Staff Sergeant Tactical Flight Officer (TFO) Frank Gunnels, was dispatched to assist the Kaufman County Sheriff’s Office with the pursuit of a stolen vehicle. Within minutes, the aircrew intercepted the fleeing vehicle, which was traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour and using all lanes of the road to avoid numerous attempts by officers to spike the vehicle’s tires. After the suspect’s vehicle struck a civilian vehicle and spun out of control, the suspect exited with a firearm and began engaging officers with gunfire. Even as the aircrew was receiving gunfire, they continued to maintain overwatch of the suspect and guide officers to areas of safety and tactical advantage. The suspect fled into a neighborhood, and then into a wooded area, ultimately hiding in a creek, out of view of officers and the aircrew.
During this time, Lieutenant Clay Lacey, who had just completed his shift and was at his residence, messaged the entire duty station and advised AOD personnel of the situation. Captain Saben Emery, who was off duty and out of state, began monitoring the incident via digital downlink and began notifying additional personnel and arranging for additional assets. An additional aircrew from Austin, consisting of Lieutenant Pilot Justin Foyt and Staff Sergeant Chris Gates, was requested to relieve the aircrew currently on station. Staff Sergeant TFO Justin Kaiser was sent to the scene to assist with his DPS issued drone. Lieutenant Jason Roland responded immediately to coordinate with the command post, and Lieutenant Kris Edgmon was placed on standby as a relief pilot. Staff Sergeant TFO Robert Maeker and Garland PD TFO Robin Mondragon, who were in Houston for training, drove through the night to assist with the ongoing incident. Approximately 16 hours later, the suspect surrendered after hiding his firearm. AOD personnel assisted with the search and recovery of the firearm, which was vital in the investigation. The actions of these AOD personnel were fundamental in protecting the lives of officers on the ground and the citizens in the area.
The employees commended for their hard work and dedication include Captain Pilot Saben Emery, Training Captain Pilot Jason Roland, Lieutenant Pilots Jordan Teel, Clay Lacey, Kris Edgmon and Justin Foyt, Staff Sergeant Tactical Flight Officers Frank Gunnels, Justin Kaiser, Robert Maeker, and Chris Gates and Garland Police Department Tactical Flight Officer Robin Mondragon.
Please join us in congratulating all of the award recipients for their work in making Texas a safer place. Additional photos can be found on the DPS Facebook page.
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