2nd Annual Heroes Awards ceremony proves to be Another success, recognizing HPD’s standouts

Heidi Hlavinka

Assist the Officer Foundation presented its HPD Heroes of the Year awards during the second annual Heroes’ Gala on March 30.

The sold-out crowd filled the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Downtown and included friends, family and supporters of HPD from all over Houston.

Emceed by Sunny 99.1’s Dana Tyson, the Patrol Officer of the Year and Investigator of the Year awards were presented to two groups of HPD officers whose bravery and skill earned them recognition in 2018 at the HPOU’s monthly membership meetings as well.

Tyson was quick to praise the award winners, telling the audience, “I hope I’m invited back again to read what incredible feats these heroes get into next year!”

Patrol Officer Heroes of the Year honors went to Sgt. James Seymour and Officers Michael Harris, Joshua Few and Carlos Santana.

Investigator Heroes of the Year honors went to Sgts. Jason Alderete and Terry Seagler and Detectives John Verela and Anny Vasquez.

The audience also was made aware of the details. Every detail highlighted individual talents and professionalism.

One heroic scenario entailed a confrontation with an armed suspect, while another involved the complicated staging of a hitman’s “murder” of a police officer.

Here are the details:

 

Patrol Heroes Highlights

 

Patrol officers were dispatched to a disturbance with a weapon call from a third party who had received a facetime call from a victim that her boyfriend was harming her. The boyfriend ended the call before the apartment number could be confirmed.

Officers arrived but had no apartment number. Locating the suspect’s car and running the registration, Command Center was able to provide an apartment number.

Sgt. Seymour positioned officers at the front and back door of the apartment.  Officers at back could hear the female crying and moaning.  Sgt. Seymour had the officers at the front door to knock and authorized entry if there was no answer.

Forcing entry, they were met with gunfire from the suspect. They took cover as the suspect continued to fire at them.  The suspect also shot the female again.

Officers at the back of the apartment observed the suspect exit in their direction still armed with the pistol.  Officer Harris ordered him to drop the gun, several shots when the suspect failed to comply.  The suspect fled back into the apartment.

An officer climbed the stairs next to the patio and saw the pistol was on the patio.  Thinking the suspect was also in need of medical attention, Sgt. Seymour, Officer Few and Officer Harris approached the patio.

Hearing the male say he was hurt and asking for help along with the female crying, Sgt. Seymour made entry into the apartment and found the suspect cowering in the corner with the female to his left. Seymour commanded the two to show their hands. The female complied, the male suspect did not.

Seymour then instructed the female to lift the suspect’s hands, thinking the man might be disabled. As she reaches for the suspect’s hands, the suspect jumped up, bounded over the bed and into an adjacent room.

Officer Few covered the room from a tactical position while Sgt. Seymour worked to get the injured female from the room. The suspect suddenly emerged with a butcher knife held over his head.

The suspect jumped onto the bed just feet from the female and the officers.  Seymour and Few fired their sidearms as Officer Santana discharged his CED.

The suspects collapsed to the floor between the wall and the bed.  Officers safely extracted the female to safety. She was suffering from gunshot wounds.

The sergeant secured the knife and officers removed the suspect to the rear parking, starting first aid until the arrival of HFD paramedics, who pronounced the suspect DOA. They transported the female to the hospital. She suffered five gunshot wounds, none of which proved to be life-threatening.

 

Investigator Heroes Highlights

 

Commander Dwayne Ready and his Threat Investigation Unit of the Major Crimes Division determined that the murder threat against an officer earlier in 2018 was real and promptly developed a plan to furnish the suspect involved a phony hitman who would perform the task.

Sgts. Seagler and Alderete supervised the workings of the confidential informant and surveillance side of the case while Detectives Varela and Vasquez focused on the reactive aspects of the case. Seagler and Alderete worked at all hours for more than six weeks in undercover roles with the suspect. Varela and Vasquez followed up with their successful interrogation.

There were some hurdles in this solicitation of capital murder case. They included malfunctioning equipment: the suspect’s desire to add more people to the scenario, a situation that would have changed the dynamics of HPD’s plan; use of a foreign language that required an interpreter; dealing with secondary events like Ramadan training.

But these sergeants and detectives were determined the plan would succeed. Through it all the detectives were able to compose a credible narrative for the suspect to actively conspire, make a down payment, request proof of hit and further coordinate according to his liking.

The staging of the “murder” entailed bullet holes through a shirt worn by the officer, animal blood spread in the right places, pictures that would proof the hit had happened and the theft of the officer’s police ID.

That ID and other evidence was presented to the suspect whereupon he agreed to make the final payment for the murder and was subsequently arrested.