Texas DPS Personnel Recognized for Heroic Actions and Dedication

Texas DPS Personnel Recognized for Heroic Actions and Dedication
Trooper Justin Craig

The Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC), in conjunction with Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw, bestowed numerous prestigious awards to DPS personnel in a moving ceremony held at the DPS Headquarters in Austin on Thursday, October 26, 2023. Among the awards presented were a Medal of Valor, two Purple Hearts, five Director’s Citations, nine Lifesaving Awards, and two Unit Citations.

DPS Director Steven McCraw, addressing the attendees, emphasized the significance of the awards, stating, “These awards are a testament to the courageous acts that take place every day by the men and women who serve Texas. To hear their stories and know the actions they’ve taken in order to save a life and put others first is truly remarkable. It is an honor to be able to recognize them here today.”

Here are the individuals and units recognized for their remarkable contributions:

Medal of Valor Recipient – Texas Ranger Thomas Arnold: Texas Ranger Thomas Arnold was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor in recognition of his extraordinary bravery during a violent and life-threatening situation that unfolded on October 13, 1971. Ranger Arnold displayed unmatched courage during a standoff in Bedford, Texas, saving the lives of a hostage family. His widow, Martha, and his son, Tom Jr., were present to accept the award.

On the night of October 13, 1971, a man wanted for assault with intent to commit murder, attempted to murder a Euless Police (EPD) Officer during a traffic stop. He fled the scene and went into a home in Bedford, taking the family inside hostage. A teenager inside was able to escape and alert authorities, leading to a standoff the following day.

Ranger Arnold was involved with the all-night manhunt for the suspect, and when he got information about the standoff in Bedford, headed toward the scene. Prior to the Ranger’s arrival, the suspect forced the family into their vehicle at gunpoint and ordered the mother to drive. Still on his way, Ranger Arnold became involved in the pursuit of the vehicle, which eventually ended when an EPD officer blocked the road. Ranger Arnold disregarded his own safety and parked his DPS vehicle directly behind the hostage vehicle in order to communicate with the suspect. The mother, a 5-year-old child and the father were all in the vehicle, with the suspect holding a sawed-off shotgun to the back of the father’s head.

Officers tried but failed to negotiate the safe release of the hostages. Ranger Arnold realized the suspect had no intention of surrendering, so he positioned himself in the right spot in order to minimize the risk to the hostages if he was indeed forced to take a shot on the suspect. As the situation deteriorated, the suspect became distracted and momentarily moved the shotgun from the father’s head. Ranger Arnold seized the opportunity and fired one round through the rear windshield, striking the suspect. Ranger Arnold left cover and moved toward the vehicle while drawing his sidearm and placing himself between the suspect and fleeing hostages. Ranger Arnold instinctively, and with steadfast resolve, fired three shots into the suspect, ending the terrifying incident and allowing the family to escape unharmed.

Purple Heart Recipients – Senior Trooper Kenneth Pittman and Trooper Curtis Putz: Senior Trooper Kenneth Pittman was awarded a Purple Heart for his tremendous sacrifice and professional performance after sustaining a serious injury during a vehicle pursuit in Midland County on January 11, 1987. Trooper Curtis Putz of Corsicana received a Purple Heart for his serious injuries sustained while on duty due to icy road conditions in the North Texas Region on January 31, 2023.

Director’s Citation Recipients – John Burris, Tierra Caradine, Steven Hill, John Lockhart (Dallas South), and Frank Pritchett (Rockwall): Five dedicated DPS employees from the Driver License Division – Dallas South and Driver License Division – Rockwall received Director’s Citations for their prompt response during a life-threatening situation on May 9, 2023, when assisting a Texas Highway Patrol Trooper in apprehending a subject with an active warrant.

On May 9, 2023, License and Permit Specialist Shireda Lewis was processing a customer for an identification renewal when external checks indicated the customer had a warrant for assault with a deadly weapon. The team informed Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Stephen Lister of the active warrant, and as he attempted to make the arrest, the subject tried to escape. As Trooper Lister pursued the subject, both fell to the floor and Trooper Lister suffered a broken kneecap, rendering him incapacitated. Driver License employees Frank Pritchett, Tierra Caradine, John Lockhart, John Burris and Steven Hill immediately came to his aid and assisted in apprehending the subject. The employees detained the subject, who made two more attempts to flee before other law enforcement officers arrived at the office to take the subject into custody. 

Lifesaving Award Recipients – Trooper Brandon Aquino, Trooper Cole Duvall, Deputy Elizabeth Aguirre, Trooper Crystal Hall, Officer Ashley Doran, Doctor Richard Debehnke, and Tristan Monks: A total of seven DPS personnel received Lifesaving Awards for their swift and professional response to various life-threatening situations, saving lives by providing critical medical assistance and intervention.

Unit Citation Recipients – Sergeant Area 5A11 and Criminal Investigations Area 1C4: Two Unit Citations were awarded to recognize the exceptional contributions of these units. Sergeant Area 5A11, stationed throughout the Northwest Texas Region, was lauded for their significant impact on intercepting narcotics and contraband smugglers across 71 counties. In the Criminal Investigations Area 1C4, a dedicated team collaborated to solve a heinous crime involving the murder of a pregnant woman and the abduction of her baby, leading to the successful conviction of the suspect.