Troop I troopers to be recognized with lifesaving awards at Patrol awards ceremony

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Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Eric Olson congratulates the following employees being recognized for their actions in 2020. This year's award ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, via Facebook Live on Facebook.com/motrooper. The video will become available when the event begins. Last year's award ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic. Thus, both the 2019 and 2020 awards will be presented.

"Patrol employees take seriously their mission to serve and protect," Olson said in a news release Wednesday. "I am proud of all our employees and extend my sincerest appreciation to them. To those who went above and beyond and are being recognized, you are a credit to yourselves and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Congratulations."

The MASTERS Public Service Award

Sergeant Andrew J. Bell, Troop A

In both his professional and personal life, Sergeant Andrew J. Bell, Troop A, embodies the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Core Values. Sgt. Bell is keenly aware of the responsibility of being a leader in his community. After a fatal traffic crash involving students from his local school district, Sgt. Bell took an active role and became a positive influence as a member of a coalition between the district and law enforcement called Harrisonville CARES. As a public information and education officer, he coordinates Troop A’s involvement with Walk Like MADD, an event supporting Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He coordinates the Corporal Michael Webster Blood Drive and assists in coordinating the Trooper Michael Newton Toy Drive. In his off-duty time, he serves as an assistant coach for his daughter’s sports teams when called upon. Sgt. Bell responded to the need for a security team for his church, and took the lead in its creation. He is always willing to help others and provides a positive image for the organization, his community, and himself.

Career Milestone

Sergeant Nicholas D. Berry, Troop B

During his career, Sergeant Nicholas D. Berry has made over 1,000 driving while intoxicated arrests. This Career Milestone award is presented to Sgt. Berry to recognize his commitment to highway safety through DWI enforcement.

Superintendent’s Award For Excellence In Public Service

MVI Analyst Brenda J. Davis, Q/DVSD

MVI Analyst Brenda J. Davis' knowledge of budget, law, directives, and the state’s rule-making process is invaluable to the organization. Mrs. Davis is the Driver and Vehicle Safety Division’s program director for the School Bus Inspection Program. She provides oversight, communication, research, and leadership to ensure over 12,000 school buses in our statewide program are properly accounted for and safe for our students. Mrs. Davis serves on the city council for her hometown of Vienna, Missouri. She tutors local students and helps organize an annual scholarship drive in memory of her late father. She also assists her husband, Chuck, with duties of leading their church, where he is the pastor.

Lifesaving Awards

Trooper Gavin C. Leach, Troop I

While on vacation Aug. 15, 2020, in Whittier, California, Trooper Gavin C. Leach was with friends enjoying a meal at a city park. When he heard a young female screaming, Tpr. Leach responded to her location. Seeing that she had suffered a deep stab wound to the left side of her neck, Tpr. Leach immediately removed his T-shirt and applied it to the wound to stop the bleeding. At the same time, he directed a friend to call emergency services and request an ambulance. Tpr. Leach continued applying pressure to the wound and comforting the victim until ambulance personnel arrived.

Trooper Aaron A. Lindley, Troop F

On July 3, 2020, a subject jumped into the Lake of the Ozarks near the Shady Gator’s Bar and began to struggle. Trooper Aaron A. Lindley and Corporal Dennis D. Mathes responded in a Patrol vessel to the location. Cpl. Mathes assisted a second man, who was in the water after attempting to assist the original subject. Tpr. Lindley threw a buoy to the original subject, who failed to grab it and could be heard gurgling. Tpr. Lindley entered the water, rescued the subject, and swam him back to the Patrol vessel. The man was combative, and had to be prevented from jumping back into the water. Tpr. Lindley maintained control of the subject while Cpl. Mathes drove to a nearby dock where an ambulance waited. The subject was found to be intoxicated. When the troopers spoke with him later, he did not recall any details of the event.

Trooper A. Dennis Pogue, Troop C

On Nov. 5, 2020, Trooper A. Dennis Pogue was on patrol on Missouri Highway 32 in St. Francois County. A vehicle approached him traveling 127 mph in a 55 mph zone. Tpr. Pogue turned around, activated his emergency equipment, and attempted to overtake the vehicle. As he accelerated, he saw an explosion through some trees. The vehicle had traveled off the roadway, struck the rock embankment, overturned, and exploded. Tpr. Pogue stopped at the scene, exited his vehicle, and attempted to put out the fire with his fire extinguisher. He then attempted to break the sunroof on the vehicle as the fire became more intense. His efforts roused the driver and passenger back to consciousness, and Tpr. Pogue assisted them from the elevated passenger side door and moved them to safety. Both were transported to the hospital for treatment; they survived the crash.

Trooper Brock A. Teague, Troop C

On June 13, 2020, Trooper Brock A. Teague responded to a traffic crash off the ramp from westbound Interstate 255 to northbound Interstate 55. The vehicle involved was engulfed in flames. Tpr. Teague and an officer with the St. Louis County Police Department approached the vehicle with fire extinguishers. Tpr. Teague also scanned the vehicle and called out to determine if anyone was inside. Hearing a cry for help, he broke the vehicle’s rear glass using his ASP baton. Tpr. Teague partially entered the vehicle to pull the occupant to safety. He then moved the man farther away from the intense flames. The occupant refused medical treatment saying he was not injured.

Trooper Dylon M. Wyatt, Troop C

On Nov. 8, 2020, Trooper Dylon M. Wyatt was assisting the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s K-9 officer search a wooded area during a manhunt for a suspect who had stolen a vehicle. The suspect was located and apprehended by the K-9 biting the man’s upper right arm. After the K-9 was ordered off, Tpr. Wyatt observed the suspect bleeding heavily from his wounds and took immediate action to properly apply a tourniquet to the suspect’s arm. The suspect was then transported to a St. Louis hospital.

Corporal Jason A. Ashby, Q/DDCC

On July 25, 2020, Corporal Jason A. Ashby and four other people were on a boat traveling near the 18-mile marker of the Lake of the Ozarks. Another boat struck the boat in which Cpl. Ashby was a passenger causing him to lose consciousness for an unknown period of time. When he regained consciousness, he and the boat’s driver checked the other passengers. Cpl. Ashby called out to a resident instructing them to request ambulances and a helicopter for injured passengers. A female passenger was determined to be deceased, the boat’s operator checked on the male passenger, and Cpl. Ashby assessed the juvenile’s condition. When he could not get a pulse, he began cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Cpl. Ashby asked the boat operator to move them to a nearby dock. He then removed the juvenile from the boat and continued CPR until he got a pulse. When emergency medical services personnel arrived, he and another man carried the juvenile up a steep flight of stairs to their location. The juvenile and a male passenger were life-flighted, treated, and later released. Cpl. Ashby was later transported to a hospital where he was treated for injuries sustained in the crash.

Corporal Bryan S. Silverthorn, Troop I

Corporal Paul V.J. Volkmer, Troop I

On Nov. 22, 2020, Corporal Bryan S. Silverthorn and Corporal Paul V.J. Volkmer responded to a low water crossing along Dent County Road where a truck had washed off the roadway into a flooded branch of Dry Fork Creek. They launched their Patrol vessel and maneuvered it approximately 500 yards downstream to where the driver was sitting on top of the truck. The driver, who was diabetic, advised the troopers he was having trouble feeling his legs. Cpl. Silverthorn and Cpl. Volkmer rescued the driver and placed him into a life jacket before transporting the man to the creek bank where emergency services personnel waited. The man recovered from the incident.

Sergeant Jason L. Decker, Troop C

On April 6, 2020, Sergeant Jason L. Decker and Trooper Kimberly D. House were traveling westbound on Interstate 70 approaching the U.S. Highway 61 interchange. A Chrysler 300 left the southbound lanes of U.S. 61, traveled off the overpass, and landed on westbound Interstate 70 directly in front of their patrol car. The Chrysler then struck the median wall traveling at a high rate of speed, spun around, and came to rest partially on the roadway and partially on the shoulder. Sgt. Decker and Tpr. House stopped at the scene and exited the patrol vehicle. Sgt. Decker retrieved his fire extinguisher and attempted to put out the growing fire beneath the Chrysler. Seeing a man attempting to exit the burning vehicle from the passenger window, Sgt. Decker responded immediately. He and a Troy police officer on the scene pulled the man from the vehicle and moved him to a safe location. The man was transported to the hospital with serious injuries. He survived.

Sergeant Douglas P. Little, Troop H

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, Sergeant Douglas Little was watching television with his son at their residence. He heard a loud pop from the second floor, and his son saw that a fire had started in the doorframe of his younger sister's bedroom. Sgt. Little immediately ran upstairs. After seeing that his daughter's doorway was surrounded by flames, he instructed both of his sons to leave the home and call 911. He then ran through the flames, picked up his daughter, and shielded her as went back through the fire then outside to safety. Both Sgt. Little and his daughter were treated for burns; he for second and third degree burns and she for first degree burns. Both have recovered from the incident.

Sergeant Joseph D. Oughton, Q/DDCC

On April 21, 2020, near the end of his shift in Jefferson County, Sergeant Joseph D. Oughton received a call from his wife informing him their neighbor's sister had collapsed in the backyard and an ambulance had been called. Sgt. Oughton responded to the location and assessed the situation. He relayed his observations about the woman's condition to the 911 operator. Sgt. Oughton then administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the woman, rolling the woman to her side to maintain an open airway when it appeared she responded. Ambulance personnel arrived and transported the woman to the hospital. She survived the incident.

Sergeant Joseph A. Veasman, Troop F

On Dec. 1, 2020, Sergeant Joseph A. Veasman was traveling on U.S. Highway 63 in Osage County. As he approached the intersection of Missouri Route E, he came upon a traffic crash. A Ford van had just driven into the rear of an unloaded log truck/trailer combination. Sgt. Veasman saw that the van was on fire and used his fire extinguisher in an attempt to put it out, but the blaze was too large. Sgt. Veasman then forced the van's front door open and helped the driver escape. Shortly thereafter, the van was engulfed in flames.

Matilda "Tillie" Sonnen Civilian Of The Year

Temporary Building & Grounds Maintenance Linda S. Benyo, Troop G

Temporary Building and Grounds Maintenance Linda S. Benyo began working at Troop G Headquarters on March 1, 2011. She is responsible for the maintenance of Troop G Headquarters, Troop G Crime Laboratory, the Van Buren Zone Office, and the Troop G grounds, which includes the maintenance of three tower sites. What truly sets her apart from other employees is the actions she took as the state of Missouri was facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Benyo devised a work schedule allowing her to sanitize the headquarters to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace. She altered her schedule and other commitments and worked seven days a week for the next 34 days straight, constantly cleaning and sanitizing the essential areas of the troop. Not one Troop G employee contracted the COVID-19 virus during the height of the pandemic, nor was any other sickness spread within the troop headquarters. Ms. Benyo’s efforts did not end after the initial shutdown. During the entire year, she constantly strived to maintain a sanitary workplace. She routinely arrives at work one to two hours prior to other office personnel, cleaning and sanitizing each area to ensure the workplace is as safe as possible.

Benjamin Oliver Booth Officer Of The Year

Sergeant Jeremy L. Weadon, Q/DDCC

Sergeant Jeremy L. Weadon is currently assigned to the Digital Forensics Investigative Unit. He serves as the primary contact, advisor, mentor, and leader for five active and inquisitive part-time DFIU officers. Under his leadership in 2020, the DFIU began 135 investigations, which led to 30 arrests and the identification of several children who were victims of sex trafficking. One of those cases was initiated in February 2020, after the online company Snapchat made a report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Snapchat representatives indicated a user uploaded what looked like pornography of a girl who was about 14 years old. Sgt. Weadon investigated and determined his suspect was an active duty police officer assigned as a school resource officer at a local elementary school. He rallied a team of fellow DDCC officers and a number of FBI agents to coordinate an effective warrant search, all the while, ensuring things remained calm, so the suspect would keep talking to fellow officers. When the warrant was served, Sgt. Weadon and his team located the pornography mentioned in the original report by Snapchat. They determined the suspect officer had a girlfriend who had an 11-year-old niece. The girlfriend had been taking sexually explicit pictures of the 11-year old and sending them to the officer who in turn would share and trade them online. The girlfriend also allowed the officer to have sexual contact with the child. Both suspects were arrested and pled guilty to child sex trafficking charges. The girlfriend was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison; the former officer was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.

Valor Award

Trooper Matthew R. Cook, Troop D

On Jan. 12, 2020, Trooper Matthew R. Cook responded to a request for assistance from a Newton County sheriff's deputy who was following a vehicle northbound on Interstate 49 into Jasper County where the vehicle exited onto Missouri Highway 571 then traveled east on Airport Road. The driver of the vehicle reportedly was intoxicated, suicidal, and threatening to shoot law enforcement officers. Tpr. Cook, Trooper Benjamin R. Dodson, and a Jasper County deputy responded and were on Highway 571 when they observed the suspect make a U-turn through a large parking lot and drive back toward the highway. Tpr. Cook positioned his car to affect a traffic stop and prevent the violator from re-entering Highway 571. He exited his patrol vehicle, drew his assigned Glock duty pistol, and began giving verbal commands to the violator. The violator retrieved a handgun, extended it out the driver's side window, and fired a round at Tpr. Cook seven seconds after the traffic stop was initiated. Tpr. Cook moved toward a position of cover as he returned fire. The violator fired four additional rounds through his windshield, one of which struck Tpr. Cook's hip, inflicting a minor injury. Tpr. Cook remained calm, reloaded his weapon, checked the seriousness of his wound, and assisted the other officers as they approached the violator. The officers rendered first aid on the scene until an ambulance arrived. The suspect died at the scene.