AUSTIN – The Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented two Medals of Valor, one Director’s Citation and eight Lifesaving Awards to DPS employees at Thursd
ay’s PSC meeting. Additionally, four non-DPS personnel were recognized for their remarkable efforts.
“The caring citizens and exceptional employees honored at this month’s Public Safety Commission meeting truly personify our mission of protecting and serving Texas,” said Director McCraw. “Each of these award recipients has demonstrated courage and selflessness in varying situations, and it is an honor to recognize their extraordinary commitment to helping others.”
The following awards were presented:
- Trooper Aaron Clopton, Texas Highway Patrol–Wichita Falls, and Corporal Joshua Moer, Texas Highway Patrol–Wichita Falls, each received a Medal of Valor — the highest honor and award bestowed by DPS — and a Lifesaving Award. Additionally, Trooper Jason “Bart” Yoder, Texas Highway Patrol–Wichita Falls, received a Lifesaving Award and Aaron Crumbley, Vernon Fire Department Captain, received a Director’s Award related to this same incident. On April 26, 2018, a woman was kidnapped by her estranged boyfriend in Norman, Oklahoma, and transported to Wichita County, Texas. Several law enforcement agencies were involved in the pursuit, which eventually ended in Wilbarger County, just south of Vernon. Cpl. Moer was the lead unit, with Trooper Clopton following close behind. As the suspect vehicle came to a stop, the victim exited the car in an attempt to escape. The suspect went after her, tackling her to the ground and stabbing her repeatedly. Cpl. Moer immediately engaged the suspect and discharged his weapon in an attempt to stop the assault. Trooper Clopton also fired at the suspect with his patrol rifle. The suspect died on the scene. Trooper Clopton then began administering lifesaving first aid to the seriously injured woman. Trooper Yoder and Capt. Crumbley (who was off-duty) arrived on the scene and began applying direct pressure to and bandaging the numerous life-threatening stab wounds suffered by the victim. She was later transported to Oklahoma University Medical Center where she spent several days in intensive care. The victim survived the incident, and she and her family joined DPS at Thursday’s PSC meeting to honor the four men who helped save her life.
- Trooper Stephen Pierce, Texas Highway Patrol–San Antonio, received a Director’s Citation, and bystander Thomas Matusek received a Director’s Award. On April 28, 2018, Trooper Pierce (who was off-duty) was attending a car show in Victoria and noticed a reckless driver in the parking lot. The driver struck and killed a car show volunteer and continued to speed through a parking lot full of pedestrians and vehicles. Trooper Pierce immediately entered his personal vehicle to pursue the reckless driver who, at this time, had crashed into another vehicle and a canopy. As Trooper Pierce approached the driver with his off-duty firearm, he noticed another spectator, Matusek, had approached the vehicle with his personal firearm drawn. Trooper Pierce identified himself as a law enforcement officer and began giving verbal commands to the driver to exit the vehicle. The driver did not comply and attempted to retreat to the backseat. Unsure if the driver was trying to retrieve a weapon, Trooper Pierce took action, pulled the driver out of the vehicle, and with the help of Matusek, took the driver to the ground and secured him until Victoria Police arrived.
- Kenny Elliott, Retired Investigator–Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, received a Director’s Award. On Dec. 1, 1981, real estate agent Virginia “Ginger” Bradford Freeman was murdered behind a vacant residence in Brazos County. After scheduling a showing with a potential buyer, Freeman left her office and stopped by her home to let her children know about the showing and potential sale. Freeman never returned home that day. That night, her husband reported her missing to the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office. Freeman’s body was found behind the residence she had been showing. The murder remained unsolved, and in 1993, Brazos County Investigator Elliott reopened the cold case. Elliott worked alongside three generations of Texas Rangers, pursuing leads, conducting interviews and collecting evidence all over the country. A DNA sample had been collected from underneath Freeman’s fingernails, but no match could be identified. In April 2017, Investigator Elliott obtained a voluntary DNA sample from the biological son of James Earhart — a man who had been executed in 1999 for the murder of a nine-year-old girl from Bryan. Based upon parental lineage, the DNA sample obtained from Earhart’s son resulted in a match to the sample collected from Freeman’s fingernails.
- Trooper Sharadyn Andrews, Texas Highway Patrol–Fredericksburg, received a Lifesaving Award, and Reed Tate, Retired Fire Fighter–Abilene, received a Director’s Award. On June 12, 2018, Trooper Andrews was notified by Fredericksburg dispatch of a major vehicle accident with extensive injuries on Highway 87 in Gillespie County. The vehicle had failed to navigate a curve, impacted the guardrail and rolled over before stopping upside down. A witness, later identified as Tate, was on the phone with 911. Tate tried to use a belt as a tourniquet, but the driver was still bleeding from her severely injured arm. Trooper Andrews found the driver suspended by her seatbelt and began applying a tourniquet to the top portion of the driver’s arm in order to control the bleeding. Firefighters arrived shortly thereafter, removed the driver from the vehicle and transported her to an ambulance. She was later taken by air to the San Antonio Military Medical Center for further treatment. The driver and her family joined DPS for Thursday’s PSC meeting to honor the actions of those who helped save her life.
- Lieutenant Ramiro Garza, Texas Highway Patrol–Harlingen, received a Lifesaving Award. On July 14, 2018, then-Sergeant Ramiro Garza (who was off-duty) and his family were attending a birthday celebration where a four-year-old girl was found unconscious in the backyard pool. As the child was lifted out of the water, her body appeared lifeless; she was blue in the face. The owner of the home immediately grabbed the child and called out for Lt. Garza’s help. Lt. Garza took control of the situation and immediately began performing CPR. After approximately two minutes of lifesaving measures, the child opened her eyes and began spitting out water. She soon began to cry and was fully revived. EMS arrived shortly thereafter and transported her to a local medical center for further examination.
- Trooper Tania Pagan-Ortiz, Texas Highway Patrol–Temple, received a Lifesaving Award. On June 27, 2018, Trooper Pagan-Ortiz heard a dispatch call about a possible suicidal woman in Bell County. Upon her arrival on scene at a residence, Trooper Pagan-Ortiz found a Bell County Sheriff’s Deputy who advised that the distraught female was in one of the bedrooms. The Trooper entered the bedroom where she found the woman with a rifle aimed upward under her chin and her thumb on the trigger. Recognizing the severity and delicate nature of the situation, Trooper Pagan-Ortiz established rapport with the woman. After approximately 20 minutes, Trooper Pagan-Ortiz convinced the woman to put the gun down. Trooper Pagan-Ortiz continued to effectively communicate with the woman and safely deescalated the situation. The woman was safely turned over to Bell County Sheriff’s Office for further evaluation.
- Trooper Richard Northcote, Texas Highway Patrol–Waxahachie, and Trooper Brandon Walmsley, Texas Highway Patrol–Waxahachie, each received a Lifesaving Award. On Jan. 22, 2018, Troopers Walmsley and Northcote were on routine patrol when the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office dispatched all available units to an active shooter incident at Italy High School. Upon arrival at the scene, they observed an Italy Police Officer escorting an individual matching the description of the suspect to the front of the building in handcuffs. The two Troopers moved to the front of the building and came upon a 15-year-old victim with multiple life-threatening gunshot wounds. They immediately began administering emergency medical aid. With the assistance of bystanders, Troopers Northcote and Walmsley worked to keep the victim calm, while applying lifesaving measures until paramedics and fire personnel arrived and took over. The victim and her family attended Thursday’s PSC meeting to help recognize the lifesaving efforts of the two Troopers.