Special to the Mirror
AUSTIN - Governor Rick Perry was recently joined by state lawmakers, first responders and federal law enforcement officials to present 27 Star of Texas Awards to those killed or seriously injured in the line of duty.
Three Midlothian police officers and an Ellis County-based Department of Public Safety trooper were among those honored. The three Midlothian officers - Sgt. Brian Woolery, Dustin Compton and Cody McKinney - were shot in the line of duty in August 2006 while trying to gain entry to an apartment during a criminal mischief complaint. Trooper Rick Smith was shot when he went to the wounded officers’ aid.
Award recipients and families of fallen officers were present to honor Texas first responders’ commitment to protecting the safety of Texans throughout the state.
“We are honored to be in the presence of so many heroes today, those who are here in person and those who live on in the memories of their loving families, their fellow officers, and the lives of a grateful citizenry,” Perry said. “These are not people who think first of their own safety. Instead, these are people who not only swear an oath but live it out in full measure of their integrity, bravery and unassailable character. The recipients of these awards are the finest our state has to offer; they are noble patriots, selfless servants and our brave protectors.”
In 2003, legislation was passed creating the Star of Texas Awards, which honors and commemorates selected first responders who were killed or seriously injured while performing their duties as peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical first responders.
During this past session, Perry signed HB1164 into law, expanding honorees to include federal law enforcement officers or special agents seriously injured or killed in Texas while assisting a state or local law enforcement agency.
The 78th Legislature passed a law designating Sept. 11 as Texas First Responders Day. This observance also coincides with the national recognition of Patriot Day, which remembers those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on our country.
“If anyone had become blind to the everyday valor of our peace officers, firefighters, emergency medical first responders or federal law enforcement agents, the events of six years ago reminded us of their courage in no uncertain terms,” Perry said. “Our nation wept for each of the thousands of innocent people who died that day, including the 479 first responders whose first thought was not for their own safety, but to serve and protect.”
“We are very blessed as an organization to have all three of our officers in service today,” said Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith, who was present for the ceremony in Austin. “I am sure their lives have been forever altered, but the Star of Texas was awarded to several slain officers as well as officers who were so seriously injured that they can no longer carry on their law enforcement career.
“It was a privilege to attend the ceremony,” Smith said.
Star honorees killed in line of duty
The Star of Texas honorees that included peace officers, federal officers or special agents acting in assistance to state or local law enforcement killed in the line of duty were:
Officer Lisa Renee Beaulieu, Beaumont Police Department
On April 27, 2007, Beaulieu was killed while assisting with traffic control at the scene of a motor vehicle accident when an oncoming vehicle struck her. Officer Beaulieu later died from her injuries three hours after the accident.
Officer Dwayne N. Freeto, Fort Worth Police Department, Police District 8
On Dec. 17, 2006, Freeto was killed in a traffic accident while assisting a motorist with a flat tire. His patrol vehicle was struck from behind and caught fire, trapping the officer inside.
Investigator Paul Steven Habelt, Henderson County Sheriff’s Department
On May 17, 2007, Habelt was shot and killed in the line of duty during an exchange of gunfire as back up for a domestic disturbance call. Fellow deputy Tony Ogburn was also killed in the line of duty during this incident.
Trooper Todd Dylan Holmes, Texas Department of Public Safety
On March 14, 2007, Holmes was killed in a traffic accident when an 18-wheeler struck his patrol car. Holmes was starting his pursuit of another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction when he turned his patrol car into the path of the 18-wheeler.
Officer Rodney Joseph Johnson, Houston Police Department
On Sept. 21, 2006, after arresting a suspect during a traffic stop, Johnson was shot in the head multiple times by the suspect and killed. The suspect had been handcuffed and placed into the back of Johnson’s patrol car when he pulled a concealed hand gun and shot Johnson from behind as he was seated in the front seat of the patrol car.
Deputy Rahamy Arden Mitchell, Fannin County Sheriff’s Department
On Jan. 7, 2007, Mitchell was killed in the line of duty while responding to a disturbance call. He lost control of his patrol car on a rain-slicked highway; the vehicle rolled several times ejecting the deputy from the vehicle.
Sr. Cpl. Mark Timothy Nix, Dallas Police Department
On March 23, 2007, Nix was in pursuit of a vehicle that was suspected of being involved in a homicide. When the suspect’s vehicle spun out, Nix tried to apprehend the suspect. The suspect shot the officer, who later died as a result of his injuries.
Deputy Tony Price Ogburn, Henderson County Sheriff’s Department
On May 17, 2007, Ogburn was shot and killed in the line of duty during an exchange of gunfire as backup for a domestic disturbance call. Fellow investigator Paul Habelt was also killed in the line of duty during this incident.
Air interdiction agent Clinton Brady Thrasher, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
On April 25, 2007, Brady was killed when his aircraft went down while providing air-to-ground support while responding to a report of three suspects that may have crossed the border illegally. The cause of the crash is still unknown.
Star honorees injured in line of duty
Peace officers, federal officers or special agents acting in assistance to state or local law enforcement seriously injured in the line of duty
Sr. Cpl. Jeremy C. Borchardt, Dallas Police Department
On Aug. 30, 2006, Borchardt was seriously injured while responding to assist Dallas Fire and Rescue on a disturbance call. On scene, Borchardt heard a male threatening and beating a female and attempted to make entry to the room at which time he was shot in the thigh.
Sgt. James Michael Bozeman, Houston Police Department Homicide Division
On Feb. 14, 2003, Bozeman was investigating a missing person report at a residence. After not getting an answer at the front door to the home, he crawled through a window and was shot in the abdomen by the suspect. The suspect later committed suicide after an exchange of gunfire with police. It was later found the suspect had shot and killed his wife, three daughters and the missing person, and had attempted to burn the bodies in a 55-gallon drum. This nomination was also made with special mention to Dr. Red Duke, who personally cared for Bozeman during his recovery.
Officer Dustin L. Compton, Midlothian Police Department
On Aug. 20, 2006, Compton was seriously injured when he was shot in the leg and abdomen while trying to gain entry to an apartment during a criminal mischief complaint. Working through his injuries, he was able to pull fellow responding officer Sgt. Brian Woolery to safety after he was also shot during the altercation. Trooper Rick Smith and fellow officer Cody McKinney were also seriously injured during the altercation.
Constable Kenneth Garvin, Kaufman County Constable’s Office
On June 14, 2004, Garvin was seriously injured while conducting a traffic stop on a vehicle that had been stolen. He was shot in the face and in the back of the hip through his abdomen, pelvis and intestines before shooting the suspect several times. Garvin is permanently scarred in the face and has suffered permanent nerve damage from the gun shots.
Sr. Cpl. Dale E. Hackbarth, Dallas Police Department
On Feb. 16, 2006, Stone was seriously injured after being shot in the thigh while executing an arrest/search warrant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
State game warden Jonathan “Johnny” Heaton
On Dec. 17, 2005, Heaton was seriously injured while responding to a game violation when his vehicle was struck head on by a driver racing another vehicle. He sustained severe injuries to his feet, legs and torso.
Sr. police officer Lyndon Brian Lueders, Austin Police Department
On Jan. 15, 2005, while working an undercover narcotics buy, Lueders was seriously injured while on foot pursuit of a suspect and fell. He broke both elbows, left wrist and tore tendons in both hands. After two surgeries, Lueders was medically discharged from the Austin Police Department.
Officer Cody McKinney, Midlothian Police Department
On Aug. 20, 2006, McKinney was seriously injured when he was shot in the left elbow, right knee and twice in the left calf while trying to gain entry to an apartment during a criminal mischief complaint. Fellow officer Sgt. Brian Woolery was shot attempting to pull McKinney to safety, with McKinney later retrieved from the line of fire by troopers Rick Smith, Vance Griffin and Bill Werkmeister. Fellow officer Dustin Compton and Smith were also seriously injured during the altercation.
Patrolman Carlos Ramos, Harlingen Police Department
On Oct. 4, 2004, Ramos was seriously injured while responding to a domestic disturbance call. Upon entering the complainant’s home, the assailant threw a lit can of gasoline at Ramos, igniting and burning his face, neck, arms and legs, representing 37.5 percent of his body. Narrowly escaping with his life, Ramos managed to locate the only window without burglar bars and crawled out of the home after it caught fire. He has since returned to full duty after numerous skin grafts and operations.
Trooper John Richard “Rick” Smith, Texas Department of Public Safety
On Aug. 20, 2006, Smith responded to an officer down call broadcast by the Midlothian Police Department. Upon arrival, he left cover with fellow troopers Vance Griffin and Bill Werkmeister to pull Midlothian police officer Cody McKinney to safety. After rescuing McKinney, Smith was shot in the face by the shooter. Midlothian police officers Dustin Compton and Sgt. Brian Woolery were also seriously injured during the altercation.
Lt. Rickey Turner, Henderson Police Department
On Aug. 29, 2006, Turner was seriously injured while on routine patrol when his car was struck and rolled four times by a vehicle that failed to yield the right of way. Turner sustained irreversible injuries to his spinal cord as a result of the accident.
Sgt. James Phillip Waller, Polk County Sheriffs Office
On March 3, 2007, Waller was seriously injured while in pursuit of a vehicle traveling the wrong direction on a highway. After stopping his vehicle to deploy stop spikes, the assailant sideswiped two other patrol cars before colliding head on with Waller’s vehicle. His injuries required multiple operations that have left Waller unable to return to duty status.
Deputy Billy Dan Wilson, Denton County Sheriff’s Office
On Nov. 25, 2005, Wilson was seriously injured while on routine patrol when his patrol car was struck from behind while stopped at a traffic light. The vehicle spun and caught fire, which caused second- and third-degree burns to Wilson’s hands, arms and face.
Sgt. Brian Daniel Woolery, Midlothian Police Department
On Aug. 20, 2006, Woolery was seriously injured when he was shot in the foot while trying to gain entry to an apartment during a criminal mischief complaint. He sustained an additional gunshot, which temporarily paralyzed him, to the shoulder - penetrating his chest - while trying to pull fellow responding officer Cody McKinney to safety. Trooper Rick Smith and fellow officer Dustin Compton were also seriously injured during the altercation.
Firefighter honorees killed in line of duty
Firefighters killed in the line of duty
Firefighter Philip Wayne Townsend, Denison Fire Department
On Dec. 30, 2006, firefighter Townsend was killed while participating in defensive fire maneuvers outside of a burning business building when an awning collapsed on top of him.
Firefighter honorees injured in line of duty
Firefighters seriously injured in the line of duty
Lt. Michael David Otto, Dallas Fire Rescue
On Dec. 13, 2006, Otto received second- and third-degree burns in the line of duty after exposure to extreme temperatures in a fire that caused burns to his back, hands and face while searching for two elderly victims trapped in a one-story residential home (this was later determined to be a false report). His thermal imager failed but he still continued the search until he became disoriented from the burns and escaped out a bedroom window.
EMS honorees killed in line of duty
Emergency medical first responder killed in the line of duty
Paramedic Eric Hanson, Marble Falls EMS
On March 21, 2004, Hanson was killed in a head-on collision while returning his ambulance to service from an EMS run to an Austin hospital. He was killed instantly in the accident.
EMS honorees injured in line of duty
Emergency medical first responder injured in the line of duty
Paramedic Selena Dell Schmidt, MedStar EMS, Fort Worth
On April 10, 2005, Schmidt was assisting with extricating a patient from a motor vehicle accident when she was struck by a vehicle traveling at high speeds on a rain soaked highway. She sustained a broken back, head injury and severe internal injuries.