AUSTIN – Last month, the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented six Director's Citations, five Lifesaving Awards, one Director's Award, one Medal of Valor, one Purple Heart, a Unit Citation, and recognized recipients of the Robert F. Borkenstein Award and the Trooper of the Year Award at a ceremony in Austin. Additionally, two Troopers (one male and one female) were named as the 2019 Top Troopers.
"We have a unique opportunity at each of the Public Safety Commission meetings to recognize the hard work and lifesaving efforts of DPS' finest public servants who personify what it means to protect and serve their communities," said Director McCraw. "Every day, members of the department work to fulfill our critical mission with selfless dedication, and we're proud to honor them for the exceptional work they do."
Check out this video highlighting the award ceremony.
Trooper Dani Basye, Texas Highway Patrol–Gatesville, and Trooper Aaron Jones, Texas Highway Patrol–New Boston, each received the Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Award. Every year, this award is given to the top female and top male competitor who participate in the annual Top Trooper Competition. Now in its eighth year, the Top Trooper Competition was established in 2012, and this award was named in honor of Trooper Javier Arana Jr. who was killed in the line of duty. This year's competition was held at the Tactical Training Center in Florence, Texas, from Feb. 26 through March 1. Eighty-three Troopers from across the state showcased their driving and firearms skills, physical conditioning and endurance, and job knowledge through nine events, as well as an oral interview. Trooper Arana's family helped present this award to Basye and Jones — who earned the top spots in the competition — at April's PSC meeting.
"We are thankful to Trooper Arana's family for allowing us to continue his legacy here at the Department of Public Safety through this award program," said Director McCraw. "We are extremely proud of this year's Top Troopers, as well as all who competed for this prestigious award."
The following awards also were presented:
- Trooper Kenneth Burman, Texas Highway Patrol-Kountze, received a Purple Heart. On Oct. 4, 2016, Trooper Kenneth Burman was patrolling in Orange Co. when he stopped to assist a driver of a truck pulling a flatbed trailer that had become disabled and was partially within the westbound lane of traffic on IH-10. Burman positioned his unit behind the trailer with the emergency lighting equipment activated and met with the driver. The trailer had two flat tires with the rims touching the pavement; the driver was attempting to lift the trailer to move it off the roadway. Burman returned to his unit, and while in the front seat, his patrol unit was struck in the rear by a Ford pickup truck traveling westbound. The impact from behind caused Burman's unit to strike the back of the flatbed trailer directly in front of him. During the impact, Burman was severely injured and transported to a hospital in Beaumont via Air Rescue. The driver of the pickup truck and a six-year-old passenger were also transported to a hospital via EMS. Due to the crash, Burman sustained serious injuries and subsequently underwent multiple surgeries to treat those injuries.
- Trooper Trent Harben, Texas Highway Patrol-Seguin, received a Medal of Valor; Trooper Daniel Cordes, Texas Highway Patrol-Seguin, received a Lifesaving Award; and Deputy James Maher, Sheriff's Office-Bexar Co., received a Director's Award. On Feb. 18, 2019, Cordes conducted a traffic stop in Guadalupe Co. The driver provided false information and failed to accurately identify himself. As Cordes attempted to take the driver into custody, the driver resisted and fled the scene. Cordes radioed for assistance and pursued a short distance before losing sight of the driver. Harben and DPS Sergeant David Alcantar (of Austin), along with DPS aircrew for support, responded to the area. The aircrew was able to successfully locate the suspect vehicle and provide its whereabouts to Alcantar and Harben. Alcantar was able to get behind the suspect's vehicle as it crossed over IH-10 in Bexar Co. The suspect entered the eastbound exit ramp of the highway and began traveling west in the eastbound lanes. Concerned for those in the suspect's path, Alcantar pulled his patrol unit in front of the suspect's vehicle. Alcantar approached the vehicle and gave commands for the suspect to show his hands. Instead, the suspect took a defensive position behind the open door and fired at Alcantar, striking him in his upper right arm, immediately causing him to collapse on the roadway. Remembering his training, Alcantar rolled into the grassy median to put distance between himself and the shooter. Harben — who had arrived on scene — moved from cover when he saw Alcantar go down and engaged the suspect with his M4 rifle, shooting the suspect. Harben immediately secured the suspect in handcuffs and then responded to Alcantar who was bleeding profusely. Harben assisted Alcantar with applying a tourniquet to his arm. Maher and Cordes arrived on scene shortly after and observed Alcantar's arm was continuing to bleed. Cordes immediately applied a second tourniquet, which was able to stop the bleeding. Maher used his medical training to ensure the tourniquets had been applied correctly and checked Alcantar to ensure he did not have any other gunshot wounds. Maher and Cordes continued to monitor Alcantar and kept him alert until he was transported to University Hospital by DPS aircraft. The suspect died on scene.
- Trooper Michael Blackwell, Texas Highway Patrol-Longview, received a Lifesaving Award. On Oct. 31, 2018, Blackwell received a call about a suicidal subject with a handgun to his head at a residence. As Blackwell arrived on the scene, the subject was located in the loft of an outside storage building — this area was only accessible by a ladder propped up on the building. As Gregg Co. Sheriff's Deputies and Kilgore Police Officers attempted to communicate with the subject, he began screaming profanity and repeatedly threatened to kill himself. While Blackwell had no prior hostage negotiation training, he began a conversation with the subject. Blackwell was able to successfully redirect the subject's anger and anxiety, and keep him focused on their conversation. The subject's parents were also on scene and shared the circumstances that led to the crisis, and with this information, Blackwell began to develop a relationship with the subject based on mutual trust. The subject allowed Blackwell to scale the ladder and converse with him face-to-face. As the weather began to deteriorate, Blackwell remained on the ladder and convinced the subject to take other actions. At the point when Blackwell observed the subject lay the gun down, Blackwell asked and received permission to take the gun. After a few more minutes of conversation, Blackwell convinced the subject to come down from the loft and seek mental health assistance. Approximately two and a half hours after the initial call, the subject allowed himself to be handcuffed and transported to a medical center for evaluation.
- Trooper Aaron Shelton, Texas Highway Patrol–Mathis, and Trooper Roy Clint, Texas Highway Patrol–Sinton, each received a Lifesaving Award. On Jan. 18, 2019, Shelton and Clint were dispatched to assist with a major crash on IH-37, just north of Mathis. As they were approaching stopped traffic, they were redirected to a second crash on the access road near the proximity of the first crash. Upon arrival, the Troopers observed bystanders surrounding two male subjects who were lying unconscious on the ground with major trauma to their bodies. It was later learned the injured men stopped to assist with the first crash, and upon exiting their vehicles, they were struck by a pickup truck. One subject had massive trauma to his legs with femoral arteries in each leg exposed and bleeding profusely. Shelton and Clint acted quickly, immediately applying tourniquets to each leg. As Shelton recovered more trauma medical supplies from his patrol unit, Clint assisted EMS and Fire and Rescue with keeping the subject calm and conscious by asking him questions. As additional EMS arrived, the subjects were turned over to their care and transported to a hospital for further medical treatment. Medical personnel indicated that after initial assessment of the subject and removal of the tourniquets, the extensive bleeding had been completely controlled. Without the timely lifesaving application of the tourniquets to both lower extremities by Shelton and Clint, the subject very likely would not have survived.
- Trooper Charles Loftin, Texas Highway Patrol-Tyler, received a Lifesaving Award. On Aug. 27, 2018, Loftin assisted Whitehouse Police Department with a "shots fired" call at a residence. As Loftin arrived on the scene, the shooter was being taken into custody by Whitehouse Police. Loftin and other responding officers rushed into the residence to address the two known victims who had each sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Loftin took control of the scene by directing other officers to tend to one of the victims, while he assisted with other. Loftin immediately began first aid by applying a tourniquet just below the victim's left shoulder in order to cut off the blood flow to the wound and stop the bleeding. Loftin continued to direct the other officers in performing proper aid to the other victim, as he continued addressing additional injuries on the victim he was tending to. Loftin managed to keep him calm and conscious until EMS arrived. Loftin not only took charge of a chaotic crime scene, he was also professional and knowledgeable with conducting immediate and appropriate medical treatment that stabilized the victims until further medical assistance arrived.
- Major Brian Baxter, Education, Training and Research–Austin, and Jason Dush, Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM)-Austin, each received a Director's Citation. In 2014, Baxter was a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Captain and part of a group that recognized agents needed more than basic first aid training to treat potentially life-threatening injuries that can occur during rapidly unfolding events. Baxter attended a Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) Train-the-Trainer course and then began leading this training in the West Texas Region and other locations throughout the state. He instructed agents on how to properly address the three treatable categories of injuries that most often lead to preventable death: massive extremity bleeding, airway compromise and tension pneumothorax. In 2015, Baxter partnered with Dush — the TDEM Emergency Medical Services Manager — to further develop and expand the curriculum to the current 16-hour format. Dush's expertise was vital in the development of this curriculum, and the first presentation included force-on-force and other reality-based training tools. Since its development, this program has trained approximately 100 TECC instructors who have taught these courses to more than 3,000 personnel. It has led to medical interventions in 130 real-world incidents, including active shooter response, officer-involved gunfights, hostage rescues, officer ambushes, as well as hurricane responses, crash scenes and off-duty injuries. Of these lifesaving treatments, three were applied to separate incidents involving a Highway Patrol Sergeant and two Troopers who sustained critical gunshot wounds in the line of duty. In fiscal year 2017 and 2018, DPS presented 40 Lifesaving Awards, of which 16 were presented to DPS personnel who used the TECC training and/or tourniquets to save a life.
- Trooper Brian Fratus, Texas Highway Patrol-The Woodlands-East, received a Director's Citation. On Oct. 28, 2018, Fratus heard a broadcasted call from the Montgomery Co. Sheriff's Office advising of a shooting that occurred in a parking lot in the city of Shenandoah. Fratus responded to the scene and found an adult male with a gunshot wound to the chest and two citizens attempting to control the bleeding by applying pressure on the wound with towels. Fratus quickly assessed the situation and retrieved his medical kit from his patrol unit. After assessing the victim's wound, he applied pressure to the bullet entrance wound and instructed a Shenandoah PD officer on the scene to remove the chest seal from its packaging and apply it to the entrance wound. Fratus then rolled the victim onto his side and checked for an exit wound. With assistance from civilian bystanders, the victim was relocated to a flat surface for continued treatment. After both chest seals were in place, Fratus immediately changed his focus and began speaking to the victim about the shooting, subsequently obtaining the name of the shooter from him. He then spoke with an adult female and her daughter who were on scene, and was able to determine that they were the ex-wife and daughter of the named shooter. Fratus passed the suspect information onto fellow law enforcement, while he attended to the suspect's daughter who was very upset and traumatized. He used a calming approach to comfort the child and recommended to the local PD to contact a victim services counselor for the young girl. Tragically, the victim did later succumb to his wounds.
- Trooper Francisco Hernandez, Trooper JohnHenry Bradshaw and Trooper Abiel Obregon, Texas Highway Patrol-Laredo, each received a Director's Citation. On Sept. 16, 2018, Hernandez was on patrol on the north side of Laredo. While refueling his patrol unit, he observed a hysterical female subject running in his direction. She did not have on a blouse, and Hernandez recognized she needed immediate assistance. After making contact, he assured her she was safe and was able to ascertain pertinent information about what had happened to her. Hernandez contacted local authorities with expertise in handling kidnapping victims to respond to their location. As he waited for assistance and continued speaking with the victim, she provided information and clues Hernandez believed tied her assailant to two possible homicides in the Webb Co. area earlier that same month. Hernandez utilized his experience with fraud cases and began accessing available resources to input information he gathered from the victim — information that turned out to play a crucial role in quickly obtaining the suspect's name, residence, vehicle description and driver license photograph. A BOLO was immediately sent out. Responding to the BOLO, Bradshaw located the suspect's vehicle at a local gas station and called for assistance. Obregon arrived on the scene to assist, and as the suspect exited the store, the two Troopers engaged him. Upon being asked if the vehicle was his, to which he responded yes, both Troopers immediately pointed their rifles at him and ordered him to the ground. The suspect failed to follow commands and fled on foot. Bradshaw and Obregon chased the suspect for several blocks but lost sight of him near the entrance to a parking garage. They made the determination to end the foot pursuit and put together a manhunt operation with assistance from the Laredo Police Department to establish a perimeter. Both Troopers were fairly new in their positions and had no specialized tactical training; however, upon recognizing the Webb Co. SWAT Team did not have enough manpower to conduct a proper tactical sweep, they volunteered to join the team and assisted in the high-risk search for the suspect. The team moved quickly and methodically through the parking garage where the suspect was last seen and successfully located him hiding in the bed of a pickup truck. As the Troopers and SWAT Team approached, the suspect used his cellular phone in a manner consistent with pointing a weapon. The suspect intended to trigger the officers' reaction. However, law enforcement was able to take the suspect into custody alive.
- The Criminal Investigation Division (CID), DPS North Texas Region, received a Unit Citation. In March 2015, CID Special Agents, along with Homeland Security Investigations, received information about a Dallas-area business called the Doll House. Agents learned the operators of the Doll House were conducting a variety of illegal activities, including harboring illegal aliens, interstate and foreign travel/transportation in aid of racketeering enterprise, money laundering, visa fraud and human trafficking. With assistance from Intelligence & Counterterrorism analysts, agents were able to establish that a criminal organization was not only operating the Doll House but also several other related businesses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and across the nation. Agents identified eight Korean nationals engaged in organized crime with other brothels in Alaska, California, Ohio and Georgia. After receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the identification of Allen Nash was established. Nash was a convicted felon and confirmed Gangster Disciple gang member with a history of violence and had previously been arrested for human trafficking of a child victim. With the assistance of the Texas Highway Patrol, Dallas Police Department and Harris Co. Constable's Office, agents were able to identify members of the organization and uncovered numerous financial accounts related to the Doll House and associated suspects. The accounts were being used to launder the proceeds from the brothels. With the assistance of Dallas PD undercover officers, 14 undercover operations were conducted at the Doll House and other area spas/brothels. These operations provided critical evidence that confirmed the businesses were engaged in human trafficking. In August 2016, CID Agent Wayne Watson testified before a federal grand jury and secured indictments for violations of sex trafficking of children; transportation of minor to engage in commercial sex acts; felon in possession of ammunition; sex trafficking through force, fraud or coercion; conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; and use of a facility of interstate commerce in aid of racketeering enterprise. This investigation took approximately 18 months to complete; agents are still locating and seizing currency and bank accounts. Agents seized more than $4 million, executed 12 search warrants and arrested 18 defendants. To date, special agents and victim services counselors have contacted and are offering services to 39 victims of human trafficking. In October 2018, Nash was sentenced to life in prison. The employees commended for their hard work and dedication include: Lieutenant Mark Negri, Special Agents Wayne Watson, Colby Langford, Robert Mendez and Nisha Thompson, Criminal Investigation Division-Garland, and Analyst Gina Jones, Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division-McKinney.
- Randall Beaty, Law Enforcement Support-Austin, received the Robert F. Borkenstein Award. Named for Breathalyzer® inventor Robert F. Borkenstein, the Borkenstein Award recognizes individuals who — through a lifetime of service — have made outstanding contributions to the field of alcohol and drug-related traffic safety. On Feb. 17, 2019, Beaty was selected by the National Safety Council Alcohol, Drugs and Impairment Division as the 2019 award recipient.
- Corporal Joshua Moer, Texas Highway Patrol-Wichita Falls, received the IACP/Motorola Solutions Trooper of the Year Award. The IACP/Motorola Solutions Trooper of the Year Award recognizes four state troopers and provincial officers from the U.S. and Canada who have demonstrated bravery, courage, leadership and professionalism in the previous year. The men and women of state and provincial agencies perform remarkable work to keep the citizens of their jurisdictions safe. IACP and Motorola Solutions partner together each year to highlight the incredible actions of law enforcement's finest front line officers. On March 22, 2019, IACP and Motorola Solutions named Moer as the IACP/Motorola Solutions 2018 Trooper of the Year.
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