Lt. Governor Kehoe awards Missouri Public Safety Medals to first responders and civilians for heroic actions in 2022
18 first responders are honored, six of them posthumously, along with four civilians honored for bravery in assisting first responders
(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – This afternoon, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe awarded Missouri Public Safety Medals to 18 first responders for heroic and life-saving actions during 2022. The awards – the Medal of Valor, and the Red, White and Blue Heart Award – are Missouri’s highest recognitions for first responders acting during critical incidents. Six of the Red, White and Blue Heart awards were bestowed posthumously. The Lt. Governor also presented Public Safety Civilian Partnership Awards to four civilians for courageous assistance to first responders during emergency situations in 2022.
“I was honored today to present these awards to civilians, first responders and the surviving family members of Missouri first responders who laid down their lives in order to protect their fellow citizens,” Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe said. “The courage and valiant actions by these heroes show the tremendous debt we owe to first responders. They hit the streets each day never knowing the challenges they will face, but determined to bravely serve the people of Missouri, no matter the personal cost. The four civilians honored today provided invaluable and life-saving assistance in support of our first responders, bravely taking action without hesitation during dangerous emergencies.”
“The brave, life-saving actions taken by Missouri’s first responders in 2022 are truly inspiring and demonstrate once again the risks our first responders accept and the tremendous sacrifices they make to protect others,” Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said. “Six of those we honored paid the ultimate price for their service as first responders. I am also grateful to the four courageous civilians honored today, who selflessly came to the aid of their fellow Missourians and helped save lives.”
Family members and colleagues were on hand for the awards presentation during the Jefferson City ceremony. The award recipients and the acts for which they were honored are as follows:
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award: Awarded to a civilian who has provided valuable or courageous assistance to members of a Missouri public safety agency in an emergency situation.
Kevin Jeffries and Justin Parrack, nominated by Missouri State Highway Patrol – On July 5, 2022, Troop D troopers were dispatched to Missouri 13 in Greene County, where a vehicle was northbound in the southbound lanes. Upon investigation, troopers learned that a motorist driving an SUV had suffered a cardiac emergency and was unresponsive as his vehicle traveled north. The SUV traveled into the median and continued northbound. Two motorists who had been driving north separately – Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Parrack – parked their vehicles on the shoulder and ran to intercept the uncontrolled SUV. Jeffries and Parrack ran beside the vehicle in the median and attempted to awaken the occupant, who was slumped over the console toward the passenger seat. They then tried to enter the vehicle from the passenger side but the door was locked. They moved back to the driver side of the vehicle and resumed their efforts to awaken the driver. The vehicle had now shifted from the median to traveling northbound in the southbound passing lane of the four-lane highway. Oncoming traffic had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Jeffries and Parrack were finally able to enter the SUV, steer it back into the median and stop the vehicle. Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Parrack now saw the driver was not breathing and was in cardiac arrest. They pulled him from the vehicle and began administering CPR. They continued until Ebenezer Fire Protection District personnel arrived. The victim, Richard Mogan of Eldorado Springs, had been driving home from a round of cancer radiation treatment in Springfield. He was subsequently treated by EMS personnel and transported to Mercy Hospital – Springfield, where he was treated and recovered. The Highway Patrol reunited him with Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Parrack at Troop D headquarters in December. Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Parrack acted bravely and without concern for their own safety. Their actions likely prevented a collision and saved Mr. Mogan’s life.
Shane Childress, nominated by Branson Police Department – On August 13, 2022, a head-on collision occurred about 150 feet away from Shimi’s Food Truck/Café on Fall Creek Road, just outside of Branson. A Jeep was in a ditch and burning. The front end of the vehicle was severely crushed and a passenger was screaming in pain from the smoke-filled vehicle. Smoke was also coming from the sedan that was involved in the crash. The restaurant owner, Shane Childress, immediately went to the scene with three fire extinguishers from his business. The driver of the sedan, who was alone, managed to get out of his car but the scene was extremely dangerous and vehicle traffic continued on the road. Childress had restaurant staff use a chair on casters from his business to wheel the injured man to the safety of the restaurant, with the assistance of a Branson Police officer. Mr. Childress then went to the burning Jeep. He deployed the fire extinguishers, but the fire continued to grow. A woman and child were able to get out of the back on their own. The front and side airbags had deployed in the front of the vehicle. Mr. Childress used kitchen knives to cut the driver’s airbags and helped her out of the vehicle. Next, he tried to get the passenger out. He was a large man, screaming in pain and having trouble breathing because of the thick smoke. The passenger door was locked so Mr. Childress climbed into the vehicle from the back driver side door and unlocked the front passenger door. Mr. Childress, who is 5-foot-7, then tried to get the trapped passenger out, without success. The man’s head was on the dashboard in the crushed vehicle; his left leg had been severely injured. At that point, the Branson Police Department’s Sergeant Tanner Muckenthaler and Officer Brendan Gamble arrived on the scene and immediately went to work cutting the victim’s seatbelt and then quickly but carefully extricating the severely injured man from the crushed passenger compartment as the fire continued to burn. The Jeep was fully engulfed in flames within 45 seconds of the victim being extricated by the officers. Had it not been for the quick and resourceful actions of Mr. Childress and Muckenthaler and Gamble, the trapped man would have likely succumbed to the smoke and fire.
Joseph Sapp, nominated by Branson Police Department – On December 12, 2022, Branson Police Department Sergeant Abe Jones responded to a call about a possible fight in progress in the parking lot of a Branson apartment complex. As Sergeant Jones attempted to arrest a suspect, the man violently assaulted him. Sergeant Jones was down on one knee as the man repeatedly punched him in the head. Joseph Sapp, who was 19-years-old at the time and lived in the apartment building, saw what was taking place and immediately responded. He shoved the assailant away from Sergeant Jones and then repeatedly struck the attacker. Mr. Sapp’s actions allowed Sergeant Jones to get back up on his feet and deploy his Taser to quell the assailant. Without regard for his own safety, Mr. Sapp, who joined the U.S. Army in January 2023 and is now stationed in Texas, took immediate action to help a law enforcement officer in need of assistance, preventing further injury to the officer, protecting the public, and assisting in the assailant being taken into police custody.
Medal of Valor: Missouri's highest award recognizing public safety officers who exhibit exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.
Adam R. Shipley, Missouri State Highway Patrol – At about 5 p.m. on January 25, 2022, Trooper Shipley heard radio traffic about an aggravated rape in progress at the Amidon Conservation Area in Madison County and immediately responded to the area. As he approached on County Road 253, he observed a 58-year-old man forcing a woman and young child toward a vehicle at knifepoint. The woman, who had just been sexually assaulted by the man, ran toward Shipley with her four-year-old in her arms. Trooper Shipley exited his vehicle and pursued the attacker into the woods. He caught the man after about 60 yards. As Shipley attempted to handcuff him, the man reached for a knife in his waistband. The two fell to the ground as they fought. The man managed to get Trooper Shipley’s pepper spray and Taser, deploying both toward the trooper. The Taser probes struck Trooper Shipley but it was not effective. Although impaired by the pepper spray, he could see the man reaching again for the knife in his waistband. Trooper Shipley drew his duty pistol and discharged one round, striking the man in the chest. He attempted to administer first aid but the attacker died at the scene. The attacker had recently completed a prison sentence for sexual assault and been released. By responding quickly and acting decisively, Trooper Shipley prevented additional harm to an innocent mother and her child and ended the threat of further violence to the community.
William E. Davis and Rick D. Hirshey, Joplin Police Department – On March 8, 2022, Joplin Police Corporal Ben Cooper and Officer Jake Reed responded to a business for a disturbance call. As they attempted to take a suspect into custody, the man pulled a concealed gun and shot Cooper and Reed, mortally wounding both. The gunman then fled the scene in Corporal Cooper’s patrol vehicle. Officers gave chase as the gunman fired at them. The gunman crashed the patrol vehicle and attempted to steal a minivan. Officer Hirshey located the gunman and positioned his vehicle to prevent the gunman from fleeing in the minivan. The gunman fired at Officer Hirshey, who received a life-threatening gunshot wound to his face. Captain Davis arrived on the scene and was also fired upon. He shot and killed the gunman. On a tragic day when two members of the Joplin Police Department were killed and the community threatened, Officer Hirshey and Captain Davis responded courageously, decisively and ended a danger to the police department and Joplin itself.
Barry W. Morgan Jr., Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office and Joshua J. Schuenemeyer, Missouri State Highway Patrol – On the morning of March 17, 2022, heavy fog enveloped Interstate 57 near Charleston, Mo., contributing to a chain reaction crash involving more than 45 vehicles, including many tractor trailers. The crash killed five people and injured more than a dozen others. Captain Morgan and Trooper Schuenemeyer were among the first emergency personnel on the scene. Captain Morgan found a seriously injured driver trapped in the driver’s seat in the remains of a tractor. Its cab had been torn away and the driver was screaming for help. Trooper Schuenemeyer, who had been assisting other motorists, arrived and he and Captain Morgan attempted to pull away the crumpled dashboard and free the driver. So much of the tractor had been ripped away that the two stood on the engine block as they attempted the rescue. Fire service personnel had not yet reached this area of the crash scene and trucks and cars were burning around the remains of the tractor; the ground beneath it was covered with diesel fuel. Fire and intense heat were encroaching on all sides. Captain Morgan and Trooper Schuenemeyer attempted to pull the driver out through the passenger doorway, but his legs were caught under the dashboard. With time running out, Trooper Schuenemeyer ran to the driver side of the truck, placing himself between two burning tractor-trailers. Flames now burned overhead. Fire had spread to the tractor. Trooper Schuenemeyer was able to free the driver’s legs and Captain Morgan pulled the driver out the passenger doorway as flames spread across the remains of the wreckage. The driver was transported to a local hospital. Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries as he was being flown to another hospital. In the midst of a massive crash scene, with fire burning all around them, Captain Morgan and Trooper Schuenemeyer each displayed undaunted courage and resourcefulness, risking their own lives in an attempt to save the life of the severely injured truck driver.
Donald W. Fessler, Missouri Department of Conservation – At 12:41 p.m. on June 27, 2022, Agent Fessler was on routine patrol when he heard a Missouri State Highway Patrol radio call about a major train derailment crash near Mendon, in Chariton County. At 12:51 p.m., Agent Fessler arrived on the scene before any other first responders. As he moved on foot toward a derailed Amtrak train with his medical bags, people were running toward him and pointing to a ditch. There, he found a truck driver whose dump truck had been struck by the train. Agent Fessler and a civilian began administering CPR, but the victim could not be revived. Agent Fessler then moved toward the train wreckage, where there were many seriously injured passengers. He triaged the scene, rendered aid and directed other arriving first responders. He then determined to climb into the train cars laying on their sides to search for and assist victims who could not evacuate. The interior was dark, hot and chaotic. Agent Fessler searched for the most seriously injured with his flashlight. He found Anthony Bryant, an Amtrak employee, who was bleeding profusely from his right shoulder and arm, which were trapped between the ground and the train wreckage. He applied quick clot and gauze to stop the bleeding from the shoulder. He then began to dig out rock and debris from around Mr. Bryant’s arm. Agent Fessler remained with Mr. Bryant for about two hours, keeping him calm as he continued to try to free his arm. Eventually, EMS and firefighters arrived with the Jaws of Life and other equipment to help free Mr. Bryant’s arm. Mr. Bryant was pulled from the wreckage strapped to a backboard. Agent Fessler would visit Mr. Bryant at Missouri Orthopedic Institute as he recovered from the amputation of his right arm. Agent Fessler received notes of thanks from train passengers in recognition of his attentive care and kindness. Arriving at a large scene of destruction with dozens of victims seriously injured, Agent Fessler remained calm and assisted many injured passengers. His compassionate care for Anthony Bryant likely saved Mr. Bryant’s life.
Tanner J. Muckenthaler and Brendan D. Gamble, Branson Police Department – On August 13, 2022, Sergeant Muckenthaler and Officer Gamble responded to a head-on collision on Fall Creek Road just outside of Branson’s jurisdiction because there were reports of injuries. A Jeep was on fire with a man trapped inside the smoke-filled vehicle. The man was screaming in agony because of severe injuries and the toxic smoke; smoke was also pouring out of a sedan. The situation demanded fast, resourceful action. Sergeant Muckenthaler quickly assisted in getting the driver of the sedan to safety. But a couple was trapped inside the Jeep. A civilian, Shane Childress, managed to get the Jeep’s doors unlocked and opened, dispersing some of the smoke. The driver exited, but the passenger was seat-belted in, suffering from a severely broken leg and unable to get out. Mr. Childress attempted to put out the fire with fire extinguishers without success. The fire was growing and the toxic smoke in the cabin was stifling. Sergeant Muckenthaler used a knife to cut the passenger’s seatbelt. Officer Gamble had now arrived and attempted to assist by getting into the SUV through the driver’s door but was repelled by the smoke. He then joined Sergeant Muckenthaler at the passenger’s door and together they were able to lift the screaming man out of the vehicle. The two officers then moved him to a safe distance from the fire. They then instructed everyone to get away from the burning Jeep, which was fully engulfed in flames within 45 seconds. Had it not been for the quick actions of Sergeant Childress, Officer Gamble and Mr. Childress, the passenger likely would have died in the smoke and fire.
Terry A. Bible, Missouri State Highway Patrol and W. Shane Blankenship, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office – On the afternoon of September 10, 2022, Deputy Shane Blankenship was at the scene of a motorcycle crash on eastbound Interstate 44 in Lawrence County when he heard a vehicle stopping suddenly. As Deputy Blankenship looked to the west he could see flames from another crash a few hundred yards down the road. As Corporal Bible arrived at the first scene, Deputy Blankenship directed him and Sarcoxie Fire Department firefighters to the second scene. There, Corporal Bible found two crashed tractor-trailers; thick smoke was coming from one of them. A motorist ran to Corporal Bible and told him the truck was on fire and the driver trapped. Bible grabbed his fire extinguisher and sprinted to the cab of the truck. He found the driver trapped with his legs pinned in by the seat, with the exterior and the rear of the cab on fire. Corporal Bible directed others on the scene to bring their fire extinguishers to the truck since the fire department was not on the scene. Inside the cab, Corporal Bible attempted to force the seat away from the driver’s leg as the flames intensified. Understanding that every second mattered, once the fire department got to the scene, Corporal Bible exited the cab, instructed the crew to bring the Jaws of Life hydraulic rescue tool to the truck and then helped pull a firehose to the cab. Bible then covered the driver with an extra set of the fire department’s bunker gear to protect him from the growing flames. Deputy Blankenship arrived and the two applied pressure to the driver’s seat as the fire department used the Jaws of Life to try to free the driver. With tires blowing up and flames moving into the cab, the fire department began spraying water on all the people in the cab to protect them. Bible and Blankenship continued to try to calm and reassure the driver, who was conscious throughout the ordeal. Eventually, the driver was freed with the Jaws of Life and was transported to medical treatment. Under the most harrowing circumstances, Corporal Bible and Deputy Blankenship remained calm and resolute in their heroic determination to risk their own lives to save the driver.
Red, White and Blue Heart Award: This is the second year the Red, White and Blue Heart is being awarded. The annual award may be presented to any first responder who under honorable circumstances is critically, seriously, or fatally injured while performing official duties in the line of duty. The injury must require long-term treatment by a medical professional and considerable loss of time from duty.
Benjamin J. Polson, St. Louis Fire Department – On the morning of January 13, 2022, St. Louis Fire Department Truck 13 was dispatched to a building fire in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood in northwest St. Louis. A vacant two-story brick structure was heavily involved in fire. Firefighter Polson stretched a 1¾ inch attack line into the burning structure to assist in conducting a rapid primary search. Firefighter Polson was on the second floor when the roof collapsed without warning, trapping him. An emergency radio call went out and several fellow firefighters made entry in an attempt to rescue Firefighter Polson but could not reach him because of the rapid fire progression and deteriorating building conditions. Firefighter Polson had earned a law degree and an MBA but felt the call to public service, following his father’s footsteps into the St. Louis Fire Department. He had been with the department for less than three years, but in his brief tenure with the department he had proven to be a leader and committed teammate, devoted to serving the St. Louis community.
Benjamin L. Cooper, Jake Reed and Rick D. Hirshey, Joplin Police Department – On March 8, 2022, Joplin Police Corporal Ben Cooper and Officer Jake Reed responded to a business for a disturbance call. As they attempted to take a suspect into custody he pulled a concealed gun and shot Cooper and Reed, mortally wounding both officers. The gunman then fled the scene in Corporal Cooper’s patrol vehicle. Officers gave chase as the gunman fired at them. The gunman crashed the patrol vehicle and attempted to steal a minivan. Officer Hirshey located the gunman and positioned his vehicle to prevent the gunman from fleeing in the minivan. The gunman fired at Officer Hirshey, who received a life-threatening gunshot wound to his face. The bullet entered Officer Hirshey’s cheek under his left eye and traveled through his head before becoming lodged in his neck. He underwent surgery and was hospitalized for eight days. He returned to work on light duty on June 30, 2022. The bullet remains lodged in his neck to this day.
Corporal Benjamin Cooper devoted his life to protecting others. He served in the United States Army from 1995 to 2001 and in the Joplin Police Department from 2004 to 2008, when he left to serve as a deputy sheriff in Colorado. He returned to the Joplin Police Department in 2013 and was promoted to corporal in 2016. He leaves a remarkable legacy of brave public service.
At age 22, Jake Reed had made the decision to fight violence and take on risks to serve and protect his community. He had been a member of the Joplin Police Department for less than five years but his heroic service and many contributions to the Joplin community will forever be remembered. His selfless service was magnified by the gift of life he provided to many others through organ donation.
Lane A. Burns and Garrett T. Worley, Bonne Terre Police Department – At about 12:30 a.m. on March 17, 2022, Bonne Terre Police were dispatched to a disturbance at a local motel. Patrolman Burns and Corporal Worley arrived and were walking up to the room where the disturbance had been reported. As they approached the room, a gunman armed with a large-caliber pistol walked out the door and ambushed the officers. Both officers were able to return fire, stopping the gunman’s advance. The gunman died at the scene. Patrolman Burns was struck and mortally wounded in his upper torso, just above his ballistic vest. Corporal Worley was struck in his lower left leg and seriously wounded. He was treated at the scene and then flown to a hospital in St. Louis. He underwent several surgeries and advanced treatment. Faced with an ambush, Patrolman Burns and Corporal Worley exhibited remarkable courage and quickly reacted to the attack, ending the threat the gunman posed to the community. Patrolman Burns gave his life protecting the community he loved and swore to serve. Corporal Worley continues to combat violence and valiantly serve the people of Bonne Terre.
Dustin W. Brandhorst, Ebenezer Fire Protection District – On the night of March 18, 2022, Firefighter Brandhorst was responding to a structure fire as part of a mutual aid agreement between the Ebenezer Fire Protection District and the Stratford Fire Protection District. Firefighter Brandhorst was driving a tender truck with his seat belt fastened and the truck’s lights and siren activated. He was not able negotiate a curve and the truck overturned, killing Brandhorst. Firefighter Brandhorst, had been a volunteer firefighter in the district for three years and was on his way to fulfilling his dream of becoming a full-time career firefighter. The husband and father of two was incredibly committed to hard work and public service and, in 2019, had been honored for serving more volunteer hours than anyone else in the district.
Daniel F. Vasquez, North Kansas City Police Department – At about 10:40 a.m. on July 19, 2022, Officer Vasquez was on patrol when he observed a vehicle with an expired Missouri temporary license plate. Officer Vasquez activated his overhead light bar and initiated a traffic stop. As he approached the driver side off the stopped vehicle, the driver discharged a firearm, striking Officer Vasquez and causing him to fall to the ground. The driver then exited the vehicle and shot Officer Vasquez again before fleeing the scene. Responding officers immediately performed first aid until paramedics arrived on the scene. Officer Vasquez was transferred to a hospital but his injuries were too severe and he was pronounced dead at the hospital. Officer Vasquez’s lifelong dream was to become a police officer. He gained experience toward his chosen profession by working as a security officer for a private firm patrolling in northeast Kansas City and as a civilian detention officer with the Kansas City Police Department. In January 2021, he entered the Kansas City Regional Police Academy, where he graduated in July 2021. He had served with the North Kansas City Police Department for just over one year before his life was tragically cut short in a senseless act of violence.
Craig M. Cook, Fort Osage Fire Protection District – On the afternoon of October 21, 2022, Fort Osage Fire Protection District Station 1 was dispatched to a natural cover fire, in which about an acre of corn stubble was burning. Strong winds caused the fire to quickly advance. Additional fire engines and brush trucks were dispatched to fight the growing fire. Captain Cook and another firefighter were in a brush truck assigned to the eastern flank of the fire when they were overcome by heavy smoke and lost their orientation as the fire advanced. They decided to drive out of the smoke toward daylight. They drove into the leading edge of the advancing fire when the truck’s engine died. Attempts to restart the engine failed. Captain Cook and his fellow firefighter decided to attempt to escape by running on foot. During the escape attempt through knee-high corn stubble, Captain Cook tripped and fell, fracturing a foot. The leading edge of the fire overran Captain Cook, causing serious burns. A Mayday was called. A civilian was able to reach Captain Cook and evacuated him and his fellow firefighter to safety. Captain Cook was transported to a burn center with severe injuries, including third degree burns. About 30% of his body was burned, including his face and head. Captain Cook spent over four months in a hospital and rehabilitation facility, undergoing several surgeries and having several fingers amputated. He will have to undergo additional surgeries. Captain Cook has paid a very high price for his selfless dedication to public service and protecting his community.
Nominations are now open for heroic acts performed during 2023 and must be received by February 29, 2024. The nominating form is available on the Missouri Department of Public Safety website at https://dps.mo.gov/medal/.
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