AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Eleven Arlington Police Officers were honored today at the State Capitol in Austin by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) for a variety of outstanding deeds and excellent police work.
Sergeants Robert Walsh and JaNae Powell-McGee received the TCOLE Achievement Award for Public Service. Corporals William Brewer, Leonard Lake, Heath Cook, David Henze, Ben Baskin and Officers Robert Phillips, Eric Garcia, Jacob Williams, and Brent Mayorga were honored with the TCOLE Award for Valor.
Sergeants Robert Walsh and JaNae Powell-McGee created and implemented the Bridge Kids Program in 2016. The idea behind the Bridge Kids Program began when Sergeant Walsh saw a need to help children at a nearby elementary school get home safely crossing over a pedestrian bridge. Parents and neighbors were concerned about juvenile delinquent behavior and bullying of kids near the bridge. The officers would meet the kids near the bridge and walk them across allowing an opportunity for communication with the kids. The department engaged community support with the apartment complex management near the bridge and organized a summer tutoring program with volunteers from the school. As the program continued to flourish, Sergeant Powell-McGee assisted with organizing a Daddy-Daughter dance around Valentine’s Day, which has now become an annual tradition along with painting a mural on the spillway under the bridge. They also reward the kids at the end of the school with an Ice Cream Social.
The elementary school administration has credited the Bridge Kids program with an increase in academic achievements, positive classroom environments and improved behavior for the students. In 2018, Bridge Kids won the Texas Municipal League Excellence Award in Public Safety. The program continues to thrive as officers walk the student’s home from school each day.
Corporal Leonard Lake and Officers Robert Phillips, Eric Garcia and Jacob Williams were honored for their quick and historic actions after a suspect in a stolen vehicle evaded officers and crashed into a traffic signal pole. Officers initiated a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle with five occupants. All officers took life saving measures by pulling the occupants from the inside of the vehicle and moving them a safe distance away as a fire started in the engine compartment and spread throughout the passenger compartment. The occupants in the car had significant injuries from the crash and four of the five passengers were not able to get out of the vehicle without the help from the officers and would have likely perished as the fire was quickly engulfing the passenger compartment.
Corporals William Brewer, Ben Baskin, Heath Cook, and David Henze were honored for acting selflessly and heroically, and willingly placing themselves in harm’s way. In 2017, SWAT Officers were assisting Narcotics Detectives with the execution of a search warrant in which the suspected drug dealer was identified as having a violent criminal history. As the team made the initial entry into the residence, the suspect began shooting at them through the walls with a semi-automatic rifle. Corporal William Brewer, the first officer to enter the residence, was shot in the ankle and a second round hit his opposite foot. Corporal Ben Baskin immediately grabbed Corporal Brewer’s vest drag strap and pulled him back toward the doorway. As Corporal Baskin was pulling Corporal Brewer to safety, he and Corporal Brewer began returning fire toward the suspect who was advancing on them.
Despite his injuries, Corporal Brewer was able to continue to engage the suspect while Corporal Baskin knowingly placed himself in extreme danger of death or serious bodily injury in order to get Corporal Brewer to safety. Corporals Heath Cook and David Henze, along with Officer Mayorga disregarded their own safety and engaged in the firefight with the suspect as he continued to advance on the team even though there was no cover available. Corporal Cook was struck in the hand but continued to engage in the firefight.
“The heroism, acts of compassion, and commitment to making Arlington better is a testament to all of these officers being recognized today in Austin,” said Police Chief Will Johnson. “I am so proud of these achievements which highlights the dangers our profession faces and the commitment that we make with our community related to youth investments.”