AUSTIN –The Texas Public Safety Commission and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented four Director’s Citations to DPS employees for their exemplary service. In addition, two Highway Patrol Troopers received Top Trooper awards for 2016.

“The DPS mission has always been focused on protecting and serving others; and these outstanding employees exemplify what it means to be public servants. Their dedication to service is truly commendable,” said Director McCraw. “The department is proud to have these employees among our ranks, and the state is grateful for their continued devotion to their communities and all of Texas.”

Trooper Valerie Lopez,Highway Patrol in Odessa, and Trooper Andrew Tegtmeyer,Highway Patrolin Refugio,each received the Javier Arana Jr. Top Trooper Award, given every year to the top male and female competitors. Lopez and Tegtmeyer competed against other DPS Highway Patrol troopers during the Top Trooper Competition.

The Top Trooper Competition was established in 2012 to recognize outstanding Troopers and to test participants on their physical conditioning, shooting proficiency, driving skills and job knowledge. The award was named in honor of Trooper Javier Arana Jr. who was killed in the line of duty in 2012. Trooper Arana’s family was present today for the announcement of this year’s awards.

The following awards were also presented:

Trooper B.J. Hill, Highway Patrol in Stephenville, received a Director’s Citation for his assistance during a dangerous situation. On Sept. 4, 2015, Hill, along with the Erath County Sheriff’s Department, responded to a call involving a suicidal individual, who was armed with a firearm. When the officers arrived on the scene, the suspect fired twice at the officers, who were able to take cover. A civilian at the scene was able to contact the suspect on the phone, and Hill talked to the suspect, eventually convincing him to surrender without further incident. Agent Pilot Kris Edgmon and Tactical Flight Officer Saben Emery, Aircraft Operations in Garland, both received Director’s Citations. On Dec. 5, 2015, Edgmon and Emery responded to a call for assistance from the Irving Police Department, whose officers were searching for three burglary suspects who fled after holding a family at gunpoint. The aircrew searched the neighborhood from above, locating one suspect and guiding officers to make the arrest. The aircrew then located the other two suspects hiding behind a residence. When the officers on the ground arrived at the location, one of the suspects opened fire on the officers. The officers returned fire, killing one suspect; and the other suspect was taken into custody.   Trooper Barry Caldwell, Highway Patrol in Austin, received a Director’s Citation for his attempt to save a life. On July 21, 2015, Caldwell observed three vehicles that appeared to be racing on State Highway 29, west of Georgetown. When Caldwell attempted to stop one of the vehicles, the suspect evaded law enforcement at a high rate of speed. Caldwell followed but lost sight of the vehicle. He then noticed a fire in a wooded area and realized the vehicle had crashed. Caldwell made several attempts to rescue the driver from the vehicle before it became completely engulfed in flames. The driver did not survive, and it was later determined that the vehicle was equipped with a nitrous oxide system.