Four Texas Department of Public Safety highway patrolmen were among a group who received honors for exemplary service from the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw. Sergeants Chad Matlock and Michael Thomas, both of Odessa, each received a Purple Heart and Director’s Citation. Corporals Jon Shock and Oscar Villarreal, also of Odessa, each received a Director’s Citation.
According to a DPS press release, on Aug. 11, 2015, highway patrol personnel were called to assist Texas Rangers with the location and apprehension of an armed fugitive. The fugitive was located hidden in the bathroom of a convenience store.
Matlock, Thomas, Shock and Villarreal approached the bathroom where the fugitive was hiding, identified themselves and attempted to make entry into the bathroom. The suspect came out of the bathroom and began firing at the troopers. Matlock and Thomas were wounded during the exchange. Matlock, Shock and Villarreal were able to return fire, fatally wounding the suspect.
Both Matlock and Thomas were transported to a hospital for treatment.
Other awards include:
The William P. Clements Excellence Award, named in honor of the former governor and his commitment to excellence in government, which recognizes employees who display exceptional performance throughout their DPS career. The commissioned recipient was Ranger Joe Haralson, Texas Ranger Division in Texas City, and the non-commissioned recipient was Shantel Kaster, Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) Analyst in Austin.
Trooper Kevin McKellar, highway patrol in Coldspring, received a Director’s Citation. While on duty May 12, 2015, McKellar responded to a crash in San Jacinto County where a vehicle was swept off the road by floodwaters. McKellar observed the driver holding onto a tree surrounded by fast-moving water. He subsequently donned a life jacket and harness to enter the water and to pull the woman to safety. The driver was then treated for hypothermia and transported to a hospital.
Cpl. Gary Stiles, highway patrol in Gatesville, received the Lifesaving Award. While on patrol in Hamilton County on May 12, 2015, Stiles was notified that the Lometa Police Department was attempting to apprehend a known felon who was evading law enforcement in a vehicle and considered to be armed and dangerous. Stiles then assisted with a roadblock to stop the fleeing suspect. Once stopped, the suspect attempted to commit suicide, and Stiles, Lometa Police Chief Bob Montgomery and Mills County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnny Brown administered first aid until EMS arrived and the suspect was airlifted to a hospital for continued care. Lometa Police Department Chief Bob Montgomery and Mills County Deputy Sheriff Johnny Brown were each awarded the Director’s Award.
Trooper Mario Ayala, highway patrol – commercial vehicle enforcement in George West, and Trooper David Patch, highway patrol in Jourdanton, each received a Lifesaving Award. While assigned to border operations on Aug. 20, 2015, Ayala responded to a shooting in Starr County near La Grulla. When Ayala arrived at the scene, he found a male with a gunshot wound to his shoulder and began to administer first aid. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Evenson Demas and Trooper Patch also arrived on the scene and assisted with first aid efforts. The victim was eventually airlifted to an area hospital for further treatment. U.S. Border Patrol Agent Evenson Demas also received a Director’s Award.
Sgt. Virgil Verduzco, highway patrol in San Marcos, received a Lifesaving Award. While assigned to border operations on Oct. 31, 2015, Verduzco entered a restaurant in Rio Grande City and was approached by a man seeking aid for a child who appeared to be choking. Verduzco ran to the child and began maneuvers to clear the child’s airways. The child subsequently began to breathe on its own and was transported to the hospital for further observation.
BreAunna Glover, Frank Pritchett and Utanah Hoermann, all drivers license division in Garland, were each awarded a Director’s Citation. On Nov. 15, 2015, customer service representative Glover ran a warrant check on a customer and discovered that the individual was wanted for murder in Washington, D.C. Glover notified her supervisor, Hoermann, who notified a trooper of the situation. Glover stalled completion of the customer’s transaction until a trooper arrived. When the trooper arrived, customer service representative Pritchett and a civilian, Juan Espinoza, helped the trooper subdue the suspect and ensure his apprehension. Juan Espinoza received a Director’s Award for his actions during the incident.