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Ellis County officers honored in Austin by CLEAT

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ERIC CORNELISON
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AUSTIN - Four city law enforcement officers from Ellis County and four Department of Public Safety troopers, who patrol Ellis County, were honored for their bravery by the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas.

These eight officers and troopers received the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers and Education achievement award sponsored by CLEAT.

'This ceremony was a testament to these officers' courage and dedication,' said Representative Jim Pitts, who was there during the awards ceremony.

'They place themselves in danger on a daily basis and it was nice to see their efforts rewarded.

'I am especially proud that out of the twenty officers honored, eight of them call Ellis and Hill County home.'

An independent panel made the decision to hand out 20 awards out of the 76 nominees, ranging from valor to public service.

Of the 20 awards 15 of those were for valor, three were for professional achievements and only two were for public service.

Officer Keith A. Moore from the Glenn Heights Police Department was given an award for his valor after saving the life of a woman who was trapped inside a burning trailer in March 2006.

Midlothian Police Department was represented by Officer Cody McKinney, Officer Dustin Compton and Sgt. Brian Woolery for their heroism during a standoff with a gunman.

'It's been said that when courage meets circumstance, heroes are made,' said Britton Snipes, public information officer for the Midlothian Police Department.

'Our department is proud of our heroes and pleased that the State of Texas has officially recognized Sgt. Woolery and Officers Compton and McKinney for their demonstration of integrity, character and courage.'

According to reports, the incident on Aug. 20, 2006, started when Midlothian police were investigating a broken window which may have been the result of a bullet.

Midlothian police officers focused their investigation on an apartment when they heard sounds from inside.

They attempted to force their way into the building and the suspect opened fire through the door wounding three Midlot-hian officers, two of which were evacuated to safety but the third was still in an open area and in the line of fire after three gunshot wounds rendered him unable to walk.

Troopers Terry Eaton, Vance Griffin, Rick Smith and Bill Werkmeister, who were also awarded for their valor during this incident, had responded to a call of the Midlothian officers down.

Smith ran to aid the downed officer and was soon joined by Troopers Werkmeister and Griffin pulling the injured Midlothian officer to safety.

The public information office of DPS went on to describe the rest of the incident by stating once the Midlothian officer was out of the line of fire, Smith maneuvered to locate the shooter's position and the suspect opened fire on him striking him once in the face.

Griffin and Trooper Terry Eaton returned fire until the suspect stopped shooting.

Griffin then ran to assist Smith, who was motionless on the ground.

Werkmeister put himself in the line of fire to provide cover for the two troopers and Eaton ran to aid Griffin as they pulled the injured Smith out of harm's way.

Col. Thomas A. Davis Jr., director of DPS, stated, 'These four troopers saved lives with their willingness to put themselves in danger to protect others.

'Their devotion to duty is an example to all troopers.

'We are proud they work for the Department of Public Safety.'

Each officer was presented with an award for valor and a proclamation from the governor during the ceremony.

Troopers Eaton, Griffin and Werkmeister all received Medals of Valor last year for the incident while Trooper Smith received the Medal of Valor and a Purple Heart from DPS.

Eaton is stationed in Ennis; the other troopers are stationed in Waxahachie.

'In law enforcement, we know our jobs are dangerous,' Highway Patrol Chief Randall Elliston said.

'Yet when an incident such as this occurs and you see officers willingly placing themselves in a bullet-riddled environment to rescue a fallen officer and protect innocent citizens, it is truly a heroic act.'

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