Newton-Azrak Award set for Border Patrol Agent John P. Marquissee
The Newton-Azrak Award is a proud and important part of the U.S. Border Patrol’s history and tradition. Beginning as the highest Commissioner's award in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in 1973, it has recognized and paid tribute to the ultimate sacrifice made by Border Patrol Inspectors Theodore L. Newton Jr. and George F. Azrak. See this link for the full story of their sacrifice.
In its history, the award has had three distinct criteria. From its creation as a Commissioner's award in 1973 to 2003, INS employees who were involved in day-to-day federal law enforcement were eligible to receive the award. These employees included not only Border Patrol Agents, but Immigration Inspectors, district and center Adjudication Officers, Criminal Investigators, Deportation Officers, pilots, Detention Officers, and other personnel involved with law enforcement work. During that timeframe, 26 INS employees other than Border Patrol Agents received the award.
In 2003, the INS was dissolved and the U.S. Border Patrol was transferred to the newly created U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The Newton-Azrak Award was carried over into CBP. However, instead of providing the award criteria that had been in place since 1973 as implemented in the INS Administrative Manual the U.S. Border Patrol drafted a new criteria in the form of a memorandum from the Chief of the Border Patrol. Had the original INS criteria been implemented in CBP, all CBP law enforcement employees would have been eligible to receive the award. However, with the change in criteria, only Border Patrol Agents could be recipients and only for acts of bravery or heroism. Under the new criteria, CBP carried the Newton-Azrak Award as a Commissioner's award that could only be presented to Border Patrol Agents.
In 2018, the criterion was changed to better define the elements of the award and to authorize the recognition for any qualifying Border Patrol employee. Under the new criteria, the Newton-Azrak Award was removed from Commissioner's awards so that the Border Patrol would have sole control over its presentation. With the Newton-Azrak Award and adding "V" devices to the USBP Commendation Medal and to the USBP Achievement Medal, the Border has three tiers to recognize heroism and valor within the USBP Honorary Awards system. All USBP Honorary Awards are available in an open and continuous manner for nominations and presentations.
Accomplishments which may merit this award include:
Exercise of unusual courage or competence in the line of duty;
Outstanding accomplishments in special law enforcement programs;
Outstanding performance, leadership, or innovation in Federal law enforcement;
Exceptionally effective work with other law enforcement
The Newton-Azrak Award is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a Border Patrol Agent for acts of bravery or heroism. Consideration for eligibility to receive this award is based on the following criteria:
Exercise of unusual courage or bravery in the line of duly and/or
A heroic or humane act during times of extreme stress or in an emergency.
May be awarded to any USBP employee who performs a conspicuous act of heroism:
The act performed must be above and beyond the call of duty.
The act performed must present an imminent and personal danger to the life of the individual.
The individual must have knowledge of the risks involved and voluntarily assume them.
As of May 6, 2022, there have been 184 recipients of the Newton-Azrak Award, 158 Border Patrol Agents and 26 INS employees. Listed below in chronological order, are the recipients of the Newton-Azrak Award since its inception and where available, a description of the events that led to their recognition.
In discussing how many people have been recipients of the Newton-Azrak Award, it must be mentioned that in 2020, Chief Raul Ortiz blocked the consideration of past unrecognized and under-recognized actions, severely imparting the ability of the U.S. Border Patrol to appropriately recognized the workforce. His decision, given without explanation or reason, prevented over 370 employees from receiving recognition from the USBP for their worthy actions. Including, preventing at least four Border Patrol Agents from being recognized with the Newton-Azrak Award for their conspicuous heroism, performed beyond the call of duty while facing grave danger. See this page for more information.
If you are a Newton-Azrak Award recipient and wish to add a photograph or additional information to this page, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Willard T. Lamade Immigration Inspector San Ysidro, California Inspector Willard T. Lamade was recognized for his heroic action in assisting Federal agents in capturing a dealer in large amounts of narcotics and alien smuggling, at great risk to himself.
Michael G. McManus Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector Border Patrol Agent Michael G. McManus was recognized for his heroic and unselfish performance in rescuing a man from a burning building.
McManus had been called out in the early morning hours by the Calais Police Department to question a Canadian citizen. Upon leaving his house, he observed what appeared to be a prowler in the yard of his neighbor’s home. However, upon investigating, he discovered it was not a prowler, but a visitor in his neighbor’s home who had fled from the house, which was on fire.
McManus, without thought of himself, entered the flaming house in search of his neighbor, was driven back out into the air, and once again entered the house, remaining until he located the unconscious victim and brought him safely out of the burning building.
BPA McManus’ actions did not end with rescuing the man from the flaming house. Once outside, he then began resuscitation efforts and although exhausted from is efforts, continued his assistance by going to the hospital and helping the staff in removing the burnt clothing from the victim.
Ted L. Giorgetti Criminal Investigator Chicago, Illinois Criminal Investigator Ted L. Giorgetti was recognized for outstanding devotion to duty and exceptionally effective efforts leading to the apprehension of a narcotics smuggling ring and the largest drug seizure ever made in the city of Chicago.
Working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Investigator Giorgetti’s efforts resulted in the break-up of a multi-million dollar a year narcotics ring with the arrests of four men and confiscation of heroin and cocaine valued at more than $10 million. The seizure would not have come about but for the efforts of Investigator Giorgetti, who learned of the operation through one of his informants and then worked with the DEA and the informant in setting up the entire operation.
A large part of the 20 kilos of heroin and cocaine was located by Investigator Giorgetti, assisted by Investigator Gerald Coyle, after DEA agents had given up the search. In a letter to Investigator Giorgetti, DEA Administrator John R. Bartels, Jr. said, “Let me personally congratulate you on the fine cooperation you extended to DEA and commend you for the high standard of professionalism you displayed to our agents during this investigation.”
Lawrence V. Granelli Criminal Investigator New York, New York James E. Kibble Investigator New York, New York Criminal Investigator Lawrence V. Granelli and Investigator James E. Kibble were recognized for their unusual courage and competence during the course of an extended under-cover investigation, which led to the arrest of 22 persons, the seizure of $46,000 in bribe monies, and the development of pertinent intelligence concerning other criminal activities in the Chinese community of New York City. Their achievements involved great personal risk.
James P. Moody Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Patrol Agent James P. Moody was recognized for his courage while under gunfire in placing a gravely wounded fellow officer in a car and driving through that same fire to get to the hospital.
On June 9, 1975 at approximately 0030 hours, Senior Patrol Agent Allen H. Fry and Patrol Agent James P. Moody were performing assigned line-watch duties east of Brownsville, Texas. Observing a suspicious car in a known smuggling area with several people visible in the car, they attempted to stop the vehicle, which immediately took evasive action.
The vehicle was pursued about two miles and SPA Fry driving the government unit was able to force it to stop. Several people immediately attempted to flee and were pursued by PA Moody.
At that time, PA Moody heard a shot and a cry from Fry that he had been hit. Moody immediately returned to the vehicle. Moody observed that Fry had managed to get to the driver's seat and was attempting to radio for assistance.
Moody observing that Fry was gravely injured and bleeding profusely, started around the car to assist Fry when he came under fire from a concealed position to his right.
Eight to ten shots were fired at Moody as he moved around the car, and he returned fire with three rounds from his service revolver. Ignoring his personal safety, he ran under fire to the left side of the Service vehicle and seeing that Fry was in grave danger of bleeding to death, placed him on the rear seat to transport him to the hospital.
Moody, knowing that the shortest route to the hospital was back through the area under fire, drive the car forward about 100 yards, turned around and passed back through the area of the assault, again exposing himself to extreme danger from the assailant and proceeded at a high rate of speed for the hospital. Moody alerted nearby units of the assault and the grave injury, had the hospital alerted of the emergency, which resulted in a doctor and staff being on stand-by awaiting his arrival. There is little doubt that this immediate action saved SPA Fry's life.
1976 No Awards
1977 No Awards
1978 No Awards
Kenneth D. Crockett - group photo Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Larry M. Herbert Investigator Yuma, Arizona William A. McIver - award documents, photo 1, photo 2 Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector On March 25, 1978 at approximately 6:30 PM, Agent Larry Herbert was near a construction bridge that spans the Andrade and Morales area near Yuma, Arizona. The water which flows under the bridge is constricted which creates an extremely dangerous and turbulent whirlpool.
As Agent Herbert approached the bridge, he saw three people in a small boat. The operator of the boat was frantically attempting and failing to start the boat's motor. Agent Herbert immediately radioed for help.
Agent Herbert attempted unsuccessfully to reach the people with a tow strap before it was pulled into the turbulent waters where it capsized spilling the occupants into the water. All of the occupants were having difficulty keeping their heads above water. Agent Herbert was able to quickly pull two of the victims from the water. Keeping the third person in sight, he instructed one of the people he had just saved to use his Service vehicle's radio to advise that more help was needed.
Upon seeing that the third victim had been pulled into the whirlpool, Agent Herbert jumped into the water to rescue him. Becoming exhausted and unable to save the victim, Agent Herbert swam to shore.
As Agent Herbert swam to shore, Agent William McIver and Agent Kenneth Crockett arrived at the scene. Agent McIver immediately jumped into the water and entered the whirlpool with the victim. After a tremendous struggle, Agent McIver was able to escape the whirlpool with the victim.
Having become exhausted, Agent McIver couldn't get himself and the victim out of the water. Agent Crockett then reach out and was able to pull both Agent McIver and the third victim to shore.
Dale R. Wilson Border Patrol Agent Temecula, California While on patrol in June 1979, Agent Wilson, along with Senior Patrol Agent Ted Lara, were awaiting approaching northbound smuggling vehicles on the main divide trail above Lake Elsinore off the Ortega Highway. The lead vehicle, a van, stopped when the driver spotted the Border Patrol unit. The driver, prior to jumping to the rear of the van to conceal his identity as the driver, most likely believed he had put the shift selector in the “Park” position but instead put the vehicle into reverse. The vehicle began backing to the edge of the road and a shear drop of approximately 300 feet. Agent Wilson ran to the driver’s side of the van and, without regard for his own safety, jumped into the van, jammed on the brakes, and stopped the van with the rear wheels one foot from the edge of the cliff. The van contained 30 illegal aliens, who were unharmed.
Joel C. Hardin Border Patrol Agent Bellingham, Washington On Thursday, May 24, 1979, Artie Ray Baker, who had escaped from prison, arrived from Canada at the Lynden Port of Entry with a female companion. Baker's car was selected for a routine inspection. Baker was referred to Customs Inspector Kenneth G. Ward for further examination inside the port-of-entry building. Once inside the building, Baker, fearing he would be caught, pulled a .45 caliber pistol from behind his back, shot and killed Inspector Ward. Baker and his companion fled the port-of-entry in his car.
A short time later, Baker drove off-road and his car became stuck. Baker and his companion fled on foot and a large law enforcement search ensued.
One of the searchers was Border Patrol Agent Joel Hardin. Even though the dogs and searching officers had obliterated most of Baker's tracks, Agent Hardin eventually found his trail. Accompanied by two local law enforcement officers with shotguns, Agent Hardin proceeded slowly to track Baker through the woods. He found where Baker had taken his boots off and had circled back, and where he hid in a tree. Agent Hardin pointed out where Baker had paused to put his boots on again, confident he had lost the tracking dogs.
At about 8:00 a.m. Agent Hardin was closing in when a Bellingham Police detective spotted Baker crouching in the bushes, preparing to make a dash across Mission Road. The detective approached from behind, aimed his shotgun at Baker and ordered him to "freeze." Baker surrendered without a struggle, still in possession of the loaded .45 caliber pistol he used to kill Inspector Ward.
Agent Harding was recognized with the Newton-Azrak Award for his part in capturing Baker.
Myron B. Merchant - award memo, news article Border Patrol Agent Swanton, Vermont On October 14, 1979 at approximately 10:30 p.m. a call was received by Border Patrol Agents at Rouses Point, New York that two men were walking in a sparsely populated rural area south on Cannon Corners Road near Mooers Forks, New York. Border Patrol Agent (BPA) Myron Merchant and another agent responded to the call. BPA Merchant took a surveillance position at the intersection of Cannon Corners Road and Route 11. Soon afterwards, BPA Merchant saw two men walking a short distance from his location. Suddenly the men ran into the woods. BPA Merchant notified the other agent by radio of the circumstances and followed the suspects into the woods. About fifty feet from the road BPA Merchant came under close range gunfire. One shot struck him in the upper abdomen, knocking him to the ground. One of the assailants walked toward him and raised his weapon in an apparent attempt to kill him. BPA Merchant instinctively rolled on the ground as the assailant fired narrowly missing him. BPA Merchant drew his weapon and returned the gunfire, killing the assailant. While seriously wounded, BPA Merchant marked the position of the dead man with his flashlight and then crawled on his back to the road where he was met by the agent he had earlier radioed.
During the gunfire the second man fled. He was captured later at a New York State Police roadblock in Mooers, New York. BPA Merchant’s ability and presence of mind to be able to give a description of the second man greatly contributed to his capture. The two men were later identified as two escapees who had been charged with murdering a Montreal, Quebec police officer and seriously wounding two other officers of that city. BPA Merchant’s actions that evening reflect his great personal courage and presence of mind during an emergency life and death situation.
George Fernandez Jr. Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector Border Patrol Agent George Fernandez Jr. was recognized for his courage in jumping into the driver’s seat of a run-away van in time to steer it out of the path of an oncoming truck. As a result, five persons, including two children, were saved from death or certain injury.
John Gallo Interpreter New York, New York John B. Knowles Investigator New York, New York Joseph Occhipinti Investigator New York, New York Reginald D. Ricks Investigator New York, New York Interpreter John Gallo, Investigator John B. Knowles, Investigator Joseph Occhipinti and Investigator Reginald D. Ricks were recognized for their participation in several highly complex and dangerous undercover bribery-corruption investigations resulting in some of the most noteworthy arrests and convictions in the history of the INS.
Edwin Rodriguez Criminal Investigator San Juan, Puerto Rico Investigator Edwin Rodriguez was recognized for aiding local police by capturing an assailant who had mortally wounded a police officer.
Hipolito Acosta Investigator El Paso, Texas Investigator Hipolito Acosta was recognized for his participation in several highly complex and dangerous undercover investigations resulting in the seizure of thousands of altered and counterfeit documents, and the arrest and convictions of the most notorious vendors of counterfeit documents ever encountered in the Chicago area.
Gary Renick Investigator San Antonio, Texas Investigator Gary Renick was recognized for his efforts in gathering crucial evidence which aided the Drug Enforcement Administration in the seizure of five kilos of heroin, and which resulted in the arrest of a three-time convicted alien smuggler. He was also credited with uncovering widespread corruption at the State of Illinois driver’s license facilities.
Richard Shuler Investigator Dallas, Texas Investigator Richard Shuler was recognized for his courageous act in rescuing an individual from a burning building at risk to his own life.
Paul Conover Border Patrol Agent Marfa Sector Stanley U. Spencer Senior Patrol Agent Marfa Sector Border Patrol Agent Paul Conover and Senior Patrol Agent Stanley U. Spencer were recognized for his exceptional devotion to duty in the face of grave danger, while pursuing a murder suspect attempting entry from Mexico. On August 17, 1982, Senior Patrol Agent Conover and Senior Patrol Agent Stanley Spencer spotted two individuals crossing the river by boat, and attempted to approach the subjects upon land. Shots were fired by one of the subjects, wounding Agent Conover. Spencer returned the fire and then administered first aid to his partner. Conover was hospitalized for eight weeks while recovering from wounds received in the incident.
Robert B. LaBelle Border Patrol Agent Swanton Sector Peter R. Moran Border Patrol Agent Swanton Sector Donald A. Peck Border Patrol Agent Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agent Robert B. LaBelle was recognized for his exceptional courage in rescuing two Canadian residents whose boats had capsized in the midst of one of the most violent summer storms ever experienced in the Lake Champlain region. On August 8, 1983, despite the extremely hazardous and life threatening weather conditions, he, along with Border Patrol Agents Peter Moran and Donald Peck, made numerous attempts before successfully rescuing the victims.
Douglas G. Roy Border Patrol Agent El Centro Sector Border Patrol Agent Douglas G. Roy was recognized for his courageous actions in saving the lives of persons involved in a fiery collision of a tractor-trailer and a parked Border Patrol vehicle. On April 25, 1983, he personally extricated the driver of the overturned tractor-trailer and moved him to safety. He also extinguished the flames that engulfed a passenger in the Border Patrol vehicle, at risk to his own safety.
Bruce D. Sanny Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector Border Patrol Agent Bruce D. Sanny was recognized for his courageous actions performed on May 23, 1983, in successfully stopping a driver-less van with three occupants, which was in danger of plummeting down a 100-foot cliff.
Mark Cangemi Investigator Chicago, Illinois Investigator Mark Cangemi was recognized for a successful undercover operation resulting in the break-up of two major smuggling rings operating in the U.S., which moved more than 175 aliens per month, and grossed over $700 thousand monthly. Cangemi, at risk to himself, worked undercover as a transporter for a major smuggling organization operating out of Chicago from July 1983 to May 1984. He transported illegal aliens, had numerous contacts with organization members, including the Mexican connection, and met other members who were involved in the sale of narcotics, firearms, and counterfeit documents. As a result of this extremely dangerous assignment, the Service was able to uncover the widespread movement of hundreds of Yugoslavian aliens into the U.S. through Mexico from Europe.
Oscar H. Garza Jr. Investigator Laredo, Texas Stephan A. Peregoy Investigator Laredo, Texas Investigator Oscar H. Garza Jr. and Investigator Stephan A. Peregoy were recognized for their unusual courage in a life-threatening situation involving investigation of a violence-oriented alien smuggling organization named “Las Tejas.” The investigation resulted in the arrests of over 100 organizational principals, apprehension of 2,000 aliens, and the seizure of 85 vehicles. Additionally, the Government of Mexico agreed to prosecute the organization head, who was continuing to direct the operation from the sanctuary of Mexico.
David Gutierrez Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent David Gutierrez was recognized for his courage and heroism in saving an individual from a flaming auto crash on March 1, 1984. The crash vehicle was engulfed in flames when BPA Gutierrez, without concern for his own life, pulled the driver from the car to safety. Although the crash victim received second and third degree burns over 65 percent of his body, his life was saved thanks to Gutierrez’s quick action.
John A. Kalabus Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Border Patrol Agent John A. Kalabus was recognized for saving a potential drowning victim from the Colorado River. While patrolling along the Mexican Border, Kalabus encountered two illegal aliens, one of whom jumped into the river attempting to return to Mexico. He was caught in a whirlpool and unable to get free. Without thought to his own safety, Kalabus swam to the alien and after several efforts, was successful in breaking the alien and himself free from the strong undertow and returning safely to shore.
Michael A. Lewis Border Patrol Agent Livermore Sector Border Patrol Agent Michael A. Lewis was recognized for his courageous actions in saving three aliens from possible drowning. During a farm and ranch check, a number of illegal alien workers began fleeing when Lewis spotted three who had jumped in a nearby 16-foot deep canal. Two of the aliens were able to reach the other side but the third was floundering helplessly in the middle of the canal. Lewis, at risk to his own life, jumped into the water and upon reaching the panic-stricken alien, was able to gain control and pull him to safety. He then proceeded to assist the other two individuals, who were still in the canal, by swimming to them with a lifeline and pulling them to safety.
1985 No Awards
John J. Burgmeier, III - photo, memo Border Patrol Agent Yuma, Arizona On January 19, 1985, while on duty, Border Patrol Agent John J. Burgmeier observed a house engulfed in flames. He reacted by notifying the Border Patrol Radio Operator and requested the Yuma Fire Department. He then proceeded to the front door of the house and encountered a woman who informed him that her mother and son were still in the burning house. Without hesitation, he entered the burning. Smoke filled home and attempted to rescue the individuals. Almost overcome by smoke, he came outside, at which time the woman who he initially encountered pointed out a man nearby and indicated he was the one who started the fire. Agent Burgmeier immediately took the suspect into custody. At this time a second officer appeared, to whom Agent Burgmeier turned over the suspect and again entered the burning house. He courageously reentered the house many times in the attempt to rescue the individuals believed to be inside, until he was so overcome by smoke that he had to be taken to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.
One of the persons inside the house managed to escape while the other was overcome and died in the blaze.
Agent Burgmeier’s valiant efforts resulted in the arrest of an arson/murder suspect and displayed courage beyond that expected in normal line of duty.
Lee R. Prejean Criminal Investigator Seattle, Washington Criminal Investigator Lee R. Prejean conducted undercover activities as part of Operation Castoron, which commenced as a marriage fraud investigation and grew into a visa fraud, smuggling, gunrunning, narcotics and terrorist investigation. Through his devoted and selfless efforts, he was able to infiltrate the large-scale conspiracy organization posing as a corrupt immigration officer. During the period of his undercover activities, he held hundreds of consensually monitored conversations, both telephonic and in person, with criminal elements involved in the investigation. He received pay-offs for alleged misconduct on his part, and was able to elicit the support and fidelity of the criminal principals in the case to such an extent that much valuable information was supplied to him willingly by these individuals which, in effect, led to the successful conclusion of this investigation. His involvement was so thorough that he placed a separate telephone and answering machine in his home in order that he might be available to the principals at any time. Mr. Prejean demonstrated unusual courage and competence while in the line of duty and under very trying circumstances.
Charles J. Kothman Border Patrol Agent New Orleans Sector Craig L. Weinbrenner Border Patrol Agent New Orleans Sector William A. Preston Supervisory Border Patrol Agent New Orleans Sector Robert S. Coleman Jr. Supervisory Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector
Border Patrol Agent Charles J. Kothman, Border Patrol Agent Craig L. Weinbrenner, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Robert S. Coleman Jr., and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent William A. Preston were recognized for their actions to help control the uprising of Cuban detainees at the Federal Detention Facility in Oakdale, Louisiana, from November 21, 1987 to November 30, 1987.
James F. Murphy Supervisory Immigration Officer Glynco, Georgia Supervisory Immigration Officer James F. Murphy was recognized for stopping the assault of a female colleague by a man with a knife in Kingston, Jamaica, in August 1987.
Charles A. Rodgers Jr. Border Patrol Pilot Del Rio Sector On July 2, 1988, while patrolling the Rio Grande River near Del Rio, Texas via Service helicopter, Border Patrol Pilot Charles A. Rodgers Jr. located three persons, one male and two females, who had recently landed on the United States side of the river illegally by the use of tire inner tubes.
As he circled the area, he advised the party of three, utilizing the helicopter public address system, against attempting to return to Mexico by swimming because of the depth and swiftness of the river. He noticed that the male subject, who did not heed the warning and proceeded to swim across the river towards Mexico, was having difficulty remaining above the surface. Rodgers lowered the helicopter and advised the victim to grab the landing skid. The victim managed to grasp the skid but due to exhaustion could not hold fast. Rodgers made a final attempt to save the male subject by hovering dangerously above the surface and lowered the skid into the water, but the victim apparently lost consciousness and did not surface again. He gained altitude in order to direct the rescuer and allow him to help the victim, but the rescuer was also having difficulty staying afloat. With total disregard for his personal safety, Rodgers lowered the Service helicopter perilously to the surface of the river. The rescuer was able to clutch the skid and was taken to safety on the Mexican shoreline.
Thomas W. Slowinski Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector On July 8, 1989, the roof of the Amigoland Department Store in Brownsville, Texas collapsed trapping several customers and employees inside the store. Border Patrol Agent Thomas W. Slowinski and his Service Canine “Barco” quickly deployed to Brownsville on a search-and-rescue operation and were able to rescue numerous survivors. While inside the building, searching for other trapped victims, another part of the roof and building collapsed; but, thankfully, Agent Slowinksi and Barco were able to find their way out of the rubble with no injuries.
1990 No Awards
Howard H. Gay Border Patrol Pilot Marfa Sector Posthumously Awarded On October 3, 1990, while driving to work in the morning thick fog, Border Patrol Pilot Howard H. Gay noticed a stranded motorist on the highway. Realizing the danger, Mr. Gay attempted to turn around to render assistance when he was struck and killed by an on-coming vehicle. He will be remembered as a person always willing to help others in distress.
Theo D. Hudson Senior Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Senior Patrol Agent Theo D. Hudson designed and developed a “situation board” for tracking and documenting narcotic and undocumented alien entries into the United States. This system has been directly linked to the detection of three major air smuggling routes through southeastern Arizona, the seizure of numerous tons of marijuana, and the apprehension of hundreds of undocumented aliens and their smugglers.
Robert E. Jolicoeur Border Patrol Agent Del Rio Sector On June 21, 1990, Border Patrol Agent Robert E. Jolicoeur responded to a call for assistance from the Eagle Pass Police Department concerning a possible hostage situation. After lengthy negotiations with the heavily armed suspect by local policy authorities had failed, Agent Jolicoeur risked his life to disarm and subdue the individual. His professionalism and unselfish dedication resulted in the successful termination of a critical situation without injury or loss of life.
Jose Cisneros Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Theodore E. Huebner Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector On June 3, 1991, seven-year-old Adrian Rose and his stepfather, Randy Velasquez, had been fishing the Arizona bank of the Colorado River. Later that evening, they decided to swim to the California side. Adrian reiterated that they had not expected the river’s current to be so swift and were swept away into the main channel as they entered the water. He witnessed his stepfather cry out and then slip under the water and not resurface. Adrian managed to swim to a spot in the river where he was able to cling to a bush and keep his head above water. He spent several hours there calling for help and described the water as very cold and very fast.
Border Patrol Agents Jose Cisneros and Theodore E. Huebner were performing Border Patrol operations along the Arizona side of the Colorado River, near the Morelos Dam on June 4, 1991. At approximately 2:30 a.m., they heard Randy’s cries for help coming from the California side of the river. Border Patrol agents working the California side were summoned for assistance. After a coordinated effort between the agents, they pinpointed the location of the cries. Agents observed a child in the river, up to his chest in the swift moving water. Agents on the California side of the river, nearest the child, made several attempts to reach him but were hindered by the thick brush that lined the river’s bank.
Realizing that time was vital if they were going to rescue the boy from drowning, Agents Theodore Huebner and Jose Cisneros elected to attempt the rescue from their side of the river. Disregarding their own safety, in the hours of darkness, they unselfishly entered the river into unseen hazards. By wading and swimming, they crossed approximately 200 yards of river to reach seven-year-old Adrian Rose and carried him to safety. The location of the rescue was about ¾ of a mile north of Morelos Dam, where water from the Colorado River is diverted into Mexico. The Imperial County Diver’s Team estimated the water’s temperature on that day at 55 degrees and flowing at a rate of 1.5 feet per second.
The river at this point varies in depth, is approximately 200 yards wide, and is covered with quick sand and deep holes. Due to the varying strong undercurrents, these conditions change constantly and are unpredictable.
This stretch of the Colorado River has been the site of numerous boating mishaps and drownings. Although this information is common knowledge to the general public and Border Patrol agents alike, Agents Huebner and Cisneros knowingly entered the river without regard for their personal safety, to accomplish the rescue of Adrian Rose.
Jesse Collins Senior Patrol Agent Marfa Sector On February 20, 1992, Senior Patrol Agent Jesse Collins voluntarily risked his own life and exhibited extraordinary courage rescuing a 15-year-old girl. The girl was speeding in a car when she lost control and the car plunged into a small, deep lake, with a water temperature of 35 degrees. When Agent Collins arrived, one Texas Department of Public Safety officer who had entered the water was struggling and having difficulty staying afloat. Agent Collins went into the lake and assisted the DPS officer to shore. He then went back into the lake and rescued the young girl from the sinking vehicle. In frigid waters, Agent Collins moved behind the helpless girl and pushed her toward the bank. After a number of pushes, each one resulting in Agent Collins going under water, they neared shallow water and a Texas police officer helped bring the girl out of the water.
Christopher M. Jacobs Detention Enforcement Officer Buffalo, New York On March 16, 1992, Detention Enforcement Officer Christopher M. Jacobs saved a passenger from a burning vehicle. He and another officer were escorting a detained alien on the New York State Thruway. They were at a tollbooth when a vehicle traveling at a high speed plowed into the rear of another vehicle in the booth adjacent to the D & D vehicle. There was an instantaneous explosion that pushed the vehicle forward about 200 feet, engulfing the car into a fireball. Officer Jacobs exited his vehicle, obtained a fire extinguisher, and ran to the vehicle. The driver was able to exit on his own but the passenger was semi-conscious and unable to get out. Officer Jacobs entered through the driver’s door, ignoring the real danger for himself, and got the passenger out. He administered first aid until the ambulance arrived.
Johnny Magdaleno Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Brendan Manley Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Armando Ornelas Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Robert Pittenridge Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector On April 23, 1992, Border Patrol Agents Magdaleno, Ornelas, Pittenridge, and Manley rescued four youths who were trapped in a vehicle that had crashed and become engulfed in flames.
Agents Magdaleno and Ornelas commenced pursuit of a vehicle that ran the traffic checkpoint. The pursuit came to an abrupt end when the driver attempted to exit at an off-ramp, crashed through the guardrail, became airborne off the embankments, and crashed to the desert floor. Upon arrival at the scene, the two Agents observed the engine on fire and the youths in a heap in the back seat, injured and trapped, crying for help. They called for an ambulance, ran to the vehicle, and began attempting to extricate them. The impact of the crash had jammed the doors shut and they were locked into position. The fire was rapidly spreading to the interior of the vehicle. Agent Ornelas physically tore the left front door from the vehicle, thereby exposing the passenger compartment. Two persons were quickly removed and carried a short distance to safety.
When Agent Pittenridge arrived on the scene, he immediately ran to the vehicle to assist in the extrication of the remaining occupants, ignoring the flames that had now engulfed the entire front end of the vehicle.
Agent Manley now arrived at the scene, assessed the situation, radioed for an ambulance and fire truck, grabbed his fire extinguisher, and ran to the vehicle. One more passenger had been removed to safety. Two agents were in the vehicle attempting to remove the fourth passenger and the other agent was reaching into the vehicle trying to undo the tangled seat belts. At this point, the flames were extremely close to the remaining occupant and the three agents. Agent Manley attempted to extinguish the fire and was successful in temporarily beating back the flames as the agents feverishly worked at removing the fourth victim.
After the successful extrication of the victims, the agents removed the victims from the close proximity of the now totally engulfed vehicle and administered first aid until rescue personnel arrived. Without the actions of all four agents, the successful rescue of the youths would not have been accomplished.
Alan W. Marshall Border Patrol Agent Buffalo Sector During the evening shift on March 15, 1992, Border Patrol Agent Alan W. Marshall made a winter water rescue of an alien he was pursuing, who broke through an ice-covered pond. In trying to reach the man, Agent Marshall was plunged into the same water as the ice gave way beneath him. Agent Marshall’s strength, endurance, and bravery saved not only himself, but also the alien twice that night. After having to physically lift the man from the water, Agent Marshall had to force the man to stay on his feet and walk to reach shelter in 17-degree weather.
Michael W. Snyder Border Patrol Pilot Del Rio Sector On June 9, 1992, Border Patrol Pilot Michael W. Snyder assisted the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Department in saving the life of one swimmer and obtaining much needed medical attention for several others. The Frio River was at flood stage due to recent heavy rains and swimmers were reported stranded. Pilot Snyder flew the Service helicopter directly over the stranded couple and Captain Watkins dropped a rope to the man, who was near exhaustion yet trying to keep his female companion above water and hold on to an inner-tube. After several attempts to get the rope to the man, it became apparent it was not going to work. Pilot Snyder maneuvered the helicopter among tall cypress tress and power lines to obtain visual contact with the peopled in the water, dipped the skid under the man, and nudged the couple towards the banks to several other swimmers who jumped in and pulled them out of the water. Unfortunately, the female did not make it; however, the man was saved and several others were taken by Pilot Snyder to an ambulance to receive medical attention.
William C. Spencer Jr. Senior Patrol Agent Buffalo Sector On September 19, 1992, Senior Patrol Agent William C. Spencer Jr. performed a truly remarkable feat of strength, endurance, and bravery to rescue a woman who was seconds from drowning in the swift currents of the Niagara River at Buffalo. After noting the woman’s lack of effort to save herself, and when she slipped beneath the surface and returned in a face down position, Agent Spencer dove into the river, without a floatation device. He swam about 30 yards to her, raised her head out of the water, and administered resuscitation. Agent Spencer then had to support himself and the woman while ladders could be rigged by the Buffalo Fire Department for removal from the water.
Darrel Welsh Senior Patrol Agent Tucson Sector On July 5, 1992, the largest manhunt in the history of the State of Arizona ended when escaped fugitive Danny Ray Horning was captured by Senior Patrol Agent Darrel Welsh. The actions of Agent Welsh were the result of a great deal of professionalism and devotion to duty. Horning was serving multiple life sentences for armed robbery, aggravated assault, and kidnapping and burglary. He had also been indicted for murder and dismemberment of the body of a witness against his brother in the State of California. Following what the FBI believed a frivolous lead, Agent Welsh responded to the area of a reported sighting. He confirmed the boot-print left by Horning and concluded he was indeed in the area. A short time later, Agent Welsh leaped into the ditch where Horning was huddled and single-handedly took him into custody.
Lazaro Alvarez Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector In 1993, while off duty and at home, Border Patrol Agent Lazaro Alvarez heard a loud explosion at the Wagon Wheel Mobile Home Park across from his residence. Agent Alvarez quickly responded and assisted three burned, elderly people get away from the burning building. He then learned that another elderly woman was trapped underneath the collapsed building. Agent Alvarez quickly gathered help to assist him with removing debris until he was able to extract her from the burning site and carry her to safety. Agent Alvarez continued rendering first aid to other injured residents until emergency medical technicians arrived.
John K. Crowther Border Patrol Agent Del Rio Sector Border Patrol Agent John K. Crowther was recognized for his courage in attempting to rescue two men from the Rio Grande River. On the night of April 6, 1993, Agent Crowther was performing river patrol when he spotted three individuals attempting to illegally enter the U.S. at a weir dam located upriver from the Del Rio, Texas International Bridge. Two of the subjects tried to get away by diving into the water near the dam. This part of the river, filled with strong currents and dangerous undertows, had caused numerous drowning deaths. Knowing the danger involved and putting his own life at risk, Agent Crowther entered the water and attempted to rescue the two men. He managed to grab one of the men and pull him to safety. Agent Crowther tried to rescue the other man but could not locate him. Agent Crowther put his own life at risk to save another person from certain death, exhibiting great courage with his act of heroism.
Michael Deshaies Senior Patrol Agent New Orleans Sector Senior Patrol Agent Michael Deshaies was recognized for his efforts in saving a person from drowning near Pensacola, Florida during a February cold spell. On February 18, 1993, Agent Deshaies, in an act of unparalleled bravery and heroism, exhibited total disregard for his personal safety by diving into the frigid water of a wide drainage canal and pulling a drowning victim to safety. The victim, a fleeing illegal alien, was carried ashore and revived by Agent Deshaies.
Carlos Martinez Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector No description available.
Jorge Arballo Border Patrol Agent El Centro Sector Forrest J. Mauldin Border Patrol Agent El Centro Sector At approximately 12:15 a.m. on April 8, 1994, Agents Marshall Tjaden and Forrest J. Mauldin observed a group of nine suspected narcotics smugglers approximately one mile west of Drop 4 on the All American Canal. The nine suspects were ferrying large bundles of contraband, in this case marijuana, across the canal in a rubber raft. Agents Tjaden and Mauldin advised SBPA Donn Hoberg of the situation, who then instructed Agents Arballo and Lee to respond and assist Agents Mauldin and Tjaden.
At the point on the canal where this activity was taking place, the canal is approximately one hundred yards wide, deep, and had an extremely swift moving current. It should also be pointed out that on this particular night, the weather conditions were poor. The wind was strong, gusting up to 30 miles per hour and the temperature was in the forties.
Agents Tjaden and Mauldin maintained surveillance on the group until all nine suspects, with large bundles of contraband and the rubber raft were all out of the canal and on the north side of the north berm of the canal. Agents Tjaden and Mauldin began to sneak up on the group and got into position less than eight feet from them. They made their move and apprehended two of the nine suspects and 366.5 pounds of marijuana.
While Agents Tjaden and Mauldin were securing the apprehension scene and checking the immediate area for the seven suspects who had fled, they heard screams coming from the direction of the canal. Agent Tjaden climbed to the 40-foot berm and saw an individual in the berm. The person was screaming for help and appeared to be drowning. Agent Tjaden called for Agent Mauldin to assist him. Agent Mauldin climbed to the top of the berm while Agent Tjaden ran down to the canal bank.
At this point, Agents Arballo, Lee, and SBPA Hoberg arrived on the scene. Agent Mauldin guided Agent Arballo to his location on the north side of the canal. He then directed Agent Lee and SBPA Hoberg to the south side of the canal as the drowning man appeared closer to that side. Agent Tjaden was telling the man in the water not to fight the current, but to swim with it.
Agents Arballo and Mauldin were preparing to make another rescue attempt. This time, the drowning man was able to grab onto a small outcropping of brush, which slowed him down considerably.
Without hesitation, Agent Arballo again jumped into the icy water while Agent Mauldin anchored the tow strap. This time, Agent Arballo was successful in reaching the man. He grabbed the man and yelled for Agent Mauldin to start pulling. Agent Mauldin pulled as hard as he could, and after several minutes, managed to pull Agent Arballo and the drowning victim to safety.
Because of the extremely cold water, the distance they had traveled, which was over one mile, and because this entire ordeal had lasted approximately 30 minutes, Agents Arballo and Mauldin were physically exhausted.
Agents Arballo and Mauldin acted on instinct more than anything else. They disregarded the fact that a large load of narcotics had just been apprehended and the fact that the drowning man was probably one of the drug smugglers. They saw a person in desperate need of help, rushed to his aid, and saved his life.
What Agents Arballo and Mauldin did was extremely dangerous. However, they acted without hesitation. They thought about what there were going to do, planned their moves, and executed them to the best of their ability.
Christina M. Carnes Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector David Hinojosa Jr. Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector Cheryl R. Smith Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector Bruce L. Cooke Supervisory Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector On March 20, 1994, Rose Johnson-Navarro was involved in a one-vehicle accident on Paisano Avenue in El Paso, Texas. Her vehicle had gone out of control, crashed through a fence and guard rail, and came to rest on its wheels with the front end slanted down towards a deep canal.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Bruce L. Cooke, Border Patrol Agents Cheryl Smith, Christina M. Carnes, and David Hinjosa Jr. of the El Paso Border Patrol Station responded to the scene. The entire front part of the vehicle was engulfed in flames that swept back over the front half of the vehicle. The inside of the vehicle was completely obscured with smoke. A bystander informed the agents that no one had escaped from the vehicle.
With the knowledge that someone was still inside the burning vehicle and at great personal risk, the agents attempted to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher. They managed to suppress the fire enough to open the driver side door. They then entered the burning vehicle and extricated Ms. Johnson, who was injured and unable to escape.
After being carried to a safe distance, Ms. Johnson advised the agents that her two children were still inside the vehicle.
Agents Smith, Carnes, and Hinjosa then returned to the vehicle that was almost fully engulfed in flames and managed to search for the missing children to no avail. It was later determined that the children had not been in the vehicle.
Agents Cooke, Smith, Carnes, and Hinjosa, at their own personal life risk, saved the life of Rose Johnson-Navarro by exercising unusual courage and bravery.
Robert S. Herrera Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector On March 29, 1994, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Border Patrol Agent Robert S. Herrera responded to an intrusion device that had indicated activity near the Sanchez Canal, west of San Luis, Arizona. Upon Arrival, Agent Herrera observed a subject who appeared to be a male juvenile swimming to the east bank of the canal. While watching the subject swim to the other side, BPA Herrera’s attention was caught by a disturbance in the water just to the south of where the first subject was swimming.
Looking to the south, Agent Herrera saw a person’s head break the surface of the water and then go back under. Continuing to watch, Agent Herrera saw the person pop up again, flail the water, and gasp for air before disappearing beneath the surface again.
By the time the individual went under for the third time, Agent Herrera was on the bank of the canal, dropping his leather as he jumped into the water. In the middle of the canal, Agent Herrera was able to grab and eight-year-old child and bring him safely back to shore where BPA Matthew Sutton pulled him up onto dry land.
Robert Herrera’s actions on the morning of March 29, 1994, were above and beyond what is normally expected of an agent. He imperiled his own safety by leaping into a polluted canal to save the life of a child.
Robert E. Lindemann Senior Patrol Agent Detroit Sector On November 24, 1994, two small children were kidnapped in Windsor, Ontario, Canada by a suspect who had three warrants in Canada for Threats to Cause Death and Assault. The suspect, with the abducted children, then illegally entered the United States by running through the Port of Entry at Detroit, Michigan, in his vehicle.
Senior Patrol Agent Robert E. Lindemann immediately commenced an investigation into the incident. After a diligent investigation, utilizing numerous sources, Agent Lindemann was able to locate the abducted children in a barricaded house where he safely rescued the children. Agent Lindemann then returned the children back to the Canadian Police authorities and their grateful mother.
During this international incident, Agent Lindemann exhibited exemplary self-motivation in initiating this investigation. His professional demeanor in this incident reflects the highest standards of competence of the Border Patrol.
John D. Marlborough Senior Patrol Agent El Centro Sector On June 21, 1994, agents from the Riverside Border Patrol Station were working information in the Moreno Valley area near Riverside, California. The agents were traveling down Gilman Springs Road and were passing a large onion field being harvested when agents saw several of the pickers start to run. Senior Patrol Agent John D. Marlborough obtained permission from the foreman and consent was given for the agents to check the crew. As agents were working their way through the crew of almost 100 workers, they saw another subject bolt from the group and run away. Agent Saturnino Natera pursued the individual until he dove headfirst into Mystic Lake and swam away from the shoreline. Agent Natera stopped at the water’s edge and advised the subject that, for his own safety, he should not try to evade arrest by swimming out into the lake. As the other agents kept watch on the subject, Agent Natera left to chase other abscondees.
Agent Aricelia Sandoval was attempting to talk the subject out of the water when she noticed that he seemed to be having difficulty keeping his head above water. Agent John Marlborough arrived at the scene, removed his gear, and entered the lake. As he approached the subject, who at this time was almost 400 yards off the shore, he attempted to secure the person and bring him back to the shore. The subject continued to resist until he was too waterlogged to fight anymore. At the time, Agent Marlborough swam back to the shore with the semi-conscious alien in tow. The alien was removed from the water without injury and did not require first aid. It was later determined at the Border Patrol station that he was a criminal alien.
Agent Marlborough risked his own life in order to save the life of an alien attempting to evade arrest.
Jose (Joe) L. Perez Supervisory Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector On the night of October 3, 1994, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jose (Joe) L. Perez was performing his patrol duties in the Dulzura, CA area on Highway 94. Highway 94 runs east and west adjacent to the International Border between the United States and Mexico. While performing his patrol duties, Agent Perez came upon a one-car vehicle accident. Being the first law enforcement officer on the scene, Agent Perez took those steps necessary to notify the proper agencies through the Border Patrol Dispatch, and then took additional steps well above the call of duty.
Agent Perez observed that there were three occupants trapped inside a vehicle that was overturned and resting on its roof. As Agent Perez approached the vehicle, he observed that the doors were jammed shut. Agent Perez used what leverage he could and managed to open one front door. Through this door, Agent Perez was able to remove the driver and the front seat passenger. He placed both of them out of the flow of traffic and returned to the car. Agent Perez then observed that the vehicle was on fire and that there was still one occupant trapped inside the vehicle. Agent Perez reentered the vehicle and doubled his efforts to free the remaining passenger. The last passenger was trapped between the collapsed roof of the vehicle and the rear seat with her legs hanging through the shattered rear window. Using brute strength, Agent Perez was able to force the seat to move sufficiently to allow him to extricate the passenger. Although the vehicle was on fire, Agent Perez took the time to ensure that any possible spinal or neck injuries were cared for before moving the passenger to a safe location. Agent Perez continued performing immediate first aid until the arrival of the paramedics and fire units.
1995 No Awards
Jefferson L. Barr Senior Patrol Agent Del Rio Sector Posthumously Awarded On January 19, agents out of Eagle Pass Station in the Del Rio Sector seized 246 pounds of marijuana at the Rio Grande River at approximately 8:30 p.m. Four subjects escaped by swimming across the river back to Mexico to avoid capture.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., Senior Patrol Agent Jefferson L. Barr and his partner, Border Patrol Agent Ned Thomas, responded to electronic sensor activity at a location in the same area of the earlier seizure, 2 ½ miles down river from the Eagle Pass Port-of-Entry. The two agents took up positions on a trail leading away from the sensor activations to await possible alien foot traffic. When Agents Barr and Thomas challenged four individuals carrying bundles of suspected narcotics, the subjects dropped their loads and three of them attempted to flee toward the river. Agent Thomas grappled with one of the three as the fourth subject simultaneously responded with gunfire at Agent Barr. The suspect expended all eight rounds from a .22 caliber revolver, striking Agent Barr once in the left shoulder area. The path of the projectile that struck him was such that the wound was fatal instantly. Agent Barr fired all six rounds from his .357 magnum Service revolver during the gunfight, striking the suspect once. The round struck the suspect’s left wrist, shattering his wristwatch, and entered his abdominal cavity. The suspect was able to walk the river and cross back into Mexico. Another 201 pounds of marijuana were also seized during this incident.
Diego Gonzales Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector On June 17, 1996, Border Patrol Agent Diego Gonzales was performing linewatch duties at the Franklin Headgates. At approximately 11:00 am, he patrolled his assigned area for any intrusion, and after having done so, positioned his vehicle to have a commanding view of his assignment.
As he peered through his binoculars, BPA Gonzales heard what he described later as a scream or shout. He immediately responded in his vehicle to investigate and observed a subject frantically attempting to stay afloat and at the same time desperately looking for something to hang on to and avoid from being sucked into the Franklin Headgates that were approximately 25 yards away.
BPA Gonzales immediately exited his vehicle having secured a life ring (flotation device) and there it out to the subject, thus managing to rescue him from the impending drowning. As he pulled him out of the concrete lined canal, the subject gasping for air was able to convey to BPA Gonzales that another individual had been sucked into the headgates.
BPA Gonzales quickly called out on his hand held radio asking for assistance and notifying all concerned as to the situation at hand. As the other units arrived on the scene, he coordinated their efforts in attempting to locate and/or rescue the subject. Several minutes had transpired and agents were alerted by people on the Mexican side of the river of a subject being flushed out of the headgates and into the Rio Grande River.
BPA Gonzales, without hesitation, handed SBPA Leandro M. Chavez his pistol belt and jumped into the river making his way to the subject who appeared unconscious. BPA Gonzales, along with the subject he had just rescued, managed to pull the subject to the Mexican side of the river and upon doing so, immediately commenced administering CPR.
BPA Gonzales continued his efforts to revive the subject for approximately 15 minutes, at which time a Mexican EMS unit arrived and pronounced the subject dead at the scene.
Due to BPA Gonzales’ attentiveness to both duty and the details of his work environment, his actions resulted in certain rescue of life from the treacherous waters of the Franklin Canal. Furthermore, he risked his own life in attempting to rescue the second individual.
Richard B. Holmes Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Joseph E. Kempa Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Michael W. Richardson Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Andrew W. Schutt Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Austin L. Skero II - photo Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector On September 10, 1996, agents from the Brownsville Station came under hostile fire while in performance of their assigned duties. During the encounter, Agent Rodelfo Martinez was wounded on the right arm. His fellow agents, Michael W. Richardson, Joseph E. Kempa, Andrew W. Schutt, Austin L. Skero II, and Richard B. Holmes, were performing line watch duties in an area along the Rio Grande River, approximately seven miles east of the Gateway International Port of Entry at Brownsville, Texas. The agents were working an area notorious for illegal alien and narcotics smuggling.
The immediate actions of the agents involved in the fire fight resulted in saving Agent Martinez’s life and not allowing themselves to succumb to the hostilities brought against them during the exchange of gunfire. These agents performed heroic and human acts during an emergency while under extreme stress and displayed exemplary courage under fire.
Agents Skero and Holmes were directly in line with the assailants, and Agents Kempa and Martinez and were initially pinned down by gunfire directed at Agents Kempa and Martinez. Bullets were landing all around them in their semi-covered position; however, when the assailants directed their gunfire at Agents Richardson and Schutt, Agents Skero and Holmes, without regard for their personal safety, moved to assist Agents Martinez and Kempa. Agent Holmes took up a position to protect Agents Martinez and Kempa. He assisted Agent Kempa in administering first aid to Agent Martinez. Agent Skero continued to engage the assailants who were still firing at Agents Richardson and Schutt. After the shooting had stopped, Agent Skero returned to assist in administering first aid to Agent Martinez.
Arthur G. Lopez Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector On August 10, 1995, Border Patrol Agent Arthur G. Lopez displayed unusual courage during an incident in which he was critically wounded by gunfire along the U.S./Mexico international boundary.
At approximately 2:00 pm, Agent Lopez proceeded to an area along the border commonly known as Smuggler’s Gulch. He was accompanied by BPA (T) Ronal Wehr and was assigned routine linewatch and patrol duties.
Agents Lopez and Wehr observed activity on the Mexican side of the international boundary fence that appeared to be Mexican police chasing individuals on foot. The Smuggler’s Gulch area is a notoriously known canyon leading into the U.S. from Mexico that empties near the residential and business areas of Nogales, Arizona. It is frequently used by organized criminal groups for the purpose of smuggling undocumented foreign nationals, narcotics, and other contraband. It is also a favorite lair for border bandits who prey on their victims (other illegal aliens) as they cross from Mexico into the U.S.
As Agents Lopez and Wehr arrived at a high point on the U.S. side of the border that overlooks Smuggler’s Gulch, they observed armed, uniformed individuals chasing and shooting at other individuals. The agents saw these uniformed individuals capture two, and then push and kick one of the people they were chasing. Upon discovering that they were being observed by Agents Lopez and Wehr, at least one of the individuals, later identified as Mexican police officers, began shooting at Agents Lopez and Wehr. BPA Lopez was critically wounded while attempting to run toward the steel border fence for cover. Agent Lopez fell to the ground but was able to crawl to the fence. He continued to give clear verbal instruction to BPA (T) Ronald Wehr the entire time. After ensuring the safety of his trainee partner and himself, Agent Lopez proceeded to call for assistance via his hand-held radio. He informed other units that he had been shot and that he was continuing to receive gunfire from the Mexican police. He verbally directed the responding units to his location, advising them when it was clear to approach and the originating point of the assailant’s gunfire.
His calm and composed actions during a very traumatic, critical moment most assuredly contributed to the safety of his partner, the responding units, and likely played a key part in saving his own life, as he was racing the clock against rapid loss of blood. He never lost consciousness, did not panic, and was able to clearly communicate the situation to the benefit of the responding Border Patrol units and other agency units.
Juanita Santana - photo Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector On June 29, 1995, Border Patrol Agent Juanita Santana of the Tucson Border Patrol Station, was assigned to patrol a major smuggling route south of Tucson, Arizona.
Shortly after 5:00 p.m., Agent Santana observed a suspicious vehicle and conducted a normal vehicle stop. When she reached the rear door of the car, the driver, without warning, pointed a handgun out of his window and immediately began firing at her. Two shots struck her in the chest directly over her heart. Both bullets were stopped by a bulletproof vest she was wearing. A third shot struck her left forearm and completely penetrated it below the elbow. The fourth shot struck her ammunition pouch, which was fastened to her gun belt. This fourth bullet disintegrated on impact and Agent Santana was struck in the abdomen by shrapnel from the bullet.
Although struck four times and seriously wounded, Agent Santana drew her revolver and returned fire at the driver. Agent Santana ran back to her patrol vehicle and immediately began to pursue the fleeing suspects. She radioed for assistance and informed the Communications Center that she had been shot. Even though she was injured and bleeding heavily, she maintained her composure and clearly broadcast all pertinent suspect information.
William E. Simmons III Deportation Officer Denver District Deportation Officer William E. Simmons III responded to a call for assistance from Fremont County Deputy Sheriff Dean Richardson. Deputy Richardson had encountered an escapee from the Jefferson County Jail.
When he arrived at the scene, Officer Simmons, who was unarmed, found Deputy Richardson held hostage by an armed subject. The subject fired on the officers, critically wounding Deputy Richardson. Officer Simmons focused on Deputy Richardson, thereby pulling him out of shock.
In the meantime, the subject ran away, towards the vehicles occupied by the juveniles. Deputy Richardson ordered the subject to stop, whereupon the subject turned and pointed his weapon toward the officers. Deputy Richardson fired at the subject striking him several times. Deputy Richardson again collapsed and was refocused by Officer Simmons when the subject renewed his threat against the officers. Deputy Richardson again fired at the subject, striking him in the head.
At this point, the officers secured the area and called for assistance. Officer Simmons provided medical care to Deputy Richardson and the subject until help arrived. During the course of this encounter, Officer Simmons verbally and physically supported and assisted Deputy Richardson. A deadly conclusion to this confrontation was averted through the selfless actions of Officer Simmons.
Stephen C. Starch Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector Posthumously Awarded While performing assigned duties on Saturday, June 14, 1997, Border Patrol Agent Stephen C. Starch and Senior Patrol Agent Aric Curtis were patrolling the border area south of State Route 94 in the Dulzura, California area. During the mid-afternoon hours, the agents detected the foot tracks of what they believed to be a group of illegal entrant aliens traveling northbound across the Tecate Truck Trail in the immediate border area. Based upon their observations, both agents exited their Service vehicle and began following the tracks northbound on a trail, which leads into an area known as Cottonwood Canyon.
Upon reaching Cottonwood Creek, agents noticed that the tracks that they had been following veered to the west and began climbing a very steep, rugged incline towards an area known as Little Tecate Peak. Agents Starch and Curtis continued to follow the tracks up the rugged mountainside, and as they approached Little Tecate Peak, they separated, each taking a different trail in an attempt to intercept the group of suspected undocumented aliens. During the next hour, Agent Curtis attempted to contact Agent Starch numerous times via Service radio, and became concerned when he received no response. Agent Curtis immediately contacted Supervisory Border Patrol Agents Wayne Rock and Brian Brown, who also attempted to contact Agent Starch to no avail.
A ground search for Agent Starch began immediately, and air support from Border Patrol Air Operations, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and the San Diego Police Department was requested, but unavailable at the time. Air space in the greater San Diego area was severely restricted due to the departure of Air Force One from North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado. Within several minutes, U.S. Customs advised that they had received clearance from the U.S. Secret Service and would respond. A short time later, the U.S. Customs air unit “Lima 55” was in the area and assisting agents on the ground.
At approximately 6:30 p.m., Agent Curtis discovered Agent Starch at the base of a cliff and advised other agents of his exact location. A medical helicopter from Mercy Air was requested and responded to the scene. When Agent Curtis reached Agent Starch, he discovered that he had sustained severe head trauma and was not breathing. He immediately administered CPR, and was assisted by agents who arrived just minutes later. A U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter, summoned by U.S. Customs, was also on the scene.
Due to the remote and rough terrain, it was impossible for a higher medical authority to arrive at the immediate scene before dark. After nearly an hour of CPR, the attending EMT consulted with the Flight Doctor form Mercy Air by radio, and due to the severity of his injuries, the Physician pronounced Agent Starch dead at the scene. The U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter was able to extricate Agent Starch from the extremely rugged area with their winch and gurney. He was transported directly to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla.
Agents from the El Cajon Station, the San Diego Sector Evidence Team, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Unit returned to the scene and determined, through careful investigation, that Agent Starch had in fact accidentally fallen approximately 150 feet and sustained fatal injuries. Further examination of the incident appeared to indicate that Agent Starch had fallen shortly after separating from Agent Curtis. Investigators further concluded that there was no indication of foul play.
Guadalupe Chacon Senior Patrol Agent San Diego Sector Elizabeth M. Ebisuzaki Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector On July 16, 1997, Senior Patrol Agent Guadalupe Chacon and Border Patrol Agent Elizabeth Ebisuzaki had initiated an immigration stop on a car. The car failed to yield and the pursuit was terminated. A few moments later, the vehicle was found on the shoulder of the road. As the agents pulled over, several people fled from the car into the heavy brush. After returning to the car with apprehensions, the agents noticed smoke coming from the engine compartment. They were then informed that there were four people locked in the trunk.
Flames and acrid smoke quickly filled that passenger compartment. Agent Ebisuzaki attempted to fight the fire and open the trunk with a crowbar. Simultaneously, Agent Chacon was able to pry off the back seat and rescue the four from the trunk.
C. James Engelhardt Senior Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Stephen S. Martin Jr. Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent C. James Engelhardt and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Stephen S. Martin, Jr., intercepted what they believed to be radio transmissions between a Border Patrol agent and drug traffickers. After proceeding to the area described in the transmissions and summoning assistance, Agents Engelhardt and Martin intercepted a 1,200-pound shipment of cocaine valued at $7,800,000. Because they suspected a colleague of involvement in the smuggling operation, they notified the DOJ Office of the Inspector General.
Their action led to an investigation by the OIG Tucson Field Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Customs Service. Investigators gathered physical evidence that placed the suspect Border Patrol agent next to the cocaine-laden vehicle. The investigation also revealed that the agent was involved in the importation of drugs from Mexico. Agents Engelhardt and Martin were key witnesses at the agent's trial. The agent was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 30 years' incarceration. Three co-conspirators were indicted on charges of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance; they await trial. The investigation also resulted in the seizure of $217,000.
The efforts of Border Patrol Agents Engelhardt and Martin are particularly noteworthy because they were undertaken at substantial personal risk. The small rural location where these agents lived and worked was also the home of the corrupt agent and his criminal associates.
Border Patrol Agent C. James Engelhardt and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Stephen S. Martin, Jr., displayed tenacity and courage throughout this investigation and prosecution.
Alexander Kirpnick Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Posthumously Awarded On June 3, 1998, Border Patrol Agent Alexander Kirpnick was assigned patrol duties at Ephraim and Mariposa Canyons in the Nogales area of the Tucson Sector during the midnight shift. He and his partner responded to sensor traffic.
About an hour after setting up, they heard foot traffic approaching and spotted five individuals carrying what appeared to be illegal contraband. When the suspects came closer, the agents identified themselves as Border Patrol agents and moved forward to contact the suspects.
Agent Kirpnick moved toward two suspects close to him and his partner moved toward three in his area. Agent Kirpnick’s partner heard Agent Kirpnick order the two suspects to sit down and soon after heard a gunshot. He then went to Agent Kirpnick’s position and found him prone with a wound in the head. Agent Kirpnick passed away at the University Medical Center in Tucson.
Susan L. Rodriguez Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Posthumously Awarded Ricardo G. Salinas Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Posthumously Awarded Orlando Sanchez Senior Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Border Patrol Agent Susan L. Rodriguez and Border Patrol Agent Ricardo G. Salinas lost their lives in the line of duty on July 7, 1998. Agent Rodriguez was the first woman female killed in the line of duty in the history of the Border Patrol.
Agent Rodriguez, Senior Patrol Agent Orlando Sanchez, and Border Patrol Agent Ricardo G. Salinas had responded to assist the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office in the search for a double-murder suspect in Rio Hondo, Texas. As the agents were leaving the house where the murders took place, the suspect fired from a cornfield across from the residence and adjacent to the agent’s vehicles, and immediately hit Agent Salinas in the head. The suspect continued firing, hitting Agent Rodriguez in the leg and neck. The suspect continued to fire, hitting Cameron County Deputy Raul Rodriguez in the upper torso. The suspect also directed fire at SPA Sanchez as he sought cover in an adjacent field. SPA Sanchez returned fire. A barrage of gunfire was exchanged between the suspect, the Sheriff’s deputies, two Harlingen Police officers and SPA Sanchez. The suspect was hit and finally fell to the ground, dropping his weapon.
Agent Salinas died immediately after being shot in the head and Agent Rodriguez died enroute to the hospital.
SPA Sanchez was not only directly responsible for taking the suspect down, but he also tried to render aid to the fallen agents. He radioed for help, assisted EMS personnel and continued to do all he could up until Agent Rodriguez was airlifted to the hospital where she later died.
Without SPA Sanchez’s quick and decisive actions, more people would have suffered injury or even death.
Richard L. Ashlaw Patrol Agent In Charge Swanton Sector For his heroic actions and unselfish disregard of his own personal safety to come to the rescue of James Baker, who otherwise had no chance of surviving the New Albion Hotel fire March 16, 1998. Patrol Agent in Charge Ashlaw’s actions certainly went above and beyond the responsibilities and duties of a Border Patrol Agent.
Benjamin M. Batchelder Border Patrol Agent Swanton Sector Stephen A. Brooks Border Patrol Agent Swanton Sector Martin G. Hewson Border Patrol Agent Swanton Sector Border Patrol Agent Benjamin M. Batchelder, Border Patrol Agent Stephen A. Brooks, and Border Patrol Agent Martin G. Hewson were recognized for their heroic actions in assisting a wounded agent during a gun battle with an armed murder suspect that occurred on August 19, 1997.
John C. Pfeifer - photo Patrol Agent In Charge Swanton Sector Patrol Agent In Charge Pfeifer was recognized for his heroic actions taken and critical wounds sustained while engaged in a gun battle with an armed murder suspect on August 19, 1997.
LeAlan L. Pinkerton Field Operations Supervisor Tucson Sector No description available.
Mark M. Jones Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector Sevin K. Neufner Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector On December 30, 1998, Border Patrol Agents Mark M. Jones and Sevin Neufner were assigned boat patrol duties in the McAllen area of responsibility. While patrolling and area known for alien and narcotic smuggling activities, Agent Neufner, using night vision equipment, observed what appeared to be an individual in distress in the middle of the river. He informed his partner, Agent Jones, who was operating the boat and directed him to the person, who was struggling to stay afloat. While attempting to close the distance between the boat and the person, Agent Neufner observed him slip beneath the surface for several seconds and then reappear still struggling to stay afloat. Upon reaching this person, Agent Neufner observed him go underwater for a second time and acting instinctively, jumped into the river and grasped him by his shoulders, rotating his body to a position where his face was out of the water. Agent Jones assisted his partner by throwing in a line and pulling Agent Neufner and the person into the boat. Once safe inside the boat, the person began coughing out water he had swallowed and regained consciousness.
James E. Lassiter Jr. Immigration Officer Rome District Mr. James E. Lassiter, while on official duty as the Assistant Officer-In-Charge, Nairobi, Kenya, Rome District, Office of International Affairs, courageously saved the life of Foreign Service National employee of the United States Government following the attack of the U.S. Embassy on August 7, 1998.
Mr. Lassiter was in an interior section of the main floor of the Embassy when the explosion occurred. Mr. Lassiter was buried under four feet of concrete bricks and ceiling material. He was in total darkness, pinned to the floor from the waist down, and forced to breathe toxic, smoke-filled air. When the smoke and dust cleared, Mr. Lassiter forcibly extricated himself from the heavy rubble and, although in shock, began climbing over bricks, glass, broken furniture, and mangled security bars towards daylight at the rear of the Embassy.
When Mr. Lassiter reached the INS office and adjacent foreign commercial Service office areas, he could see that all interior walls had been blown down and broken desks and files were piled from two to eight feet deep. Still in shock, he continued to make his way toward the light when he heard a cry for help from a Foreign Service National employee of the Foreign Commercial Service. When Mr. Lassiter found the employee, he had blood streaming from his head and face and his left hand was partially severed at the wrist. Mr. Lassiter assisted him to his feet, put the Kenyan’s arm around his neck, and helped him to reach the back wall. Mr. Lassiter assisted him in climbing onto a high window ledge and then dragged and verbally directed the employee to crawl approximately 15 feet to a place where they could safely exit the building and then assisted him into an ambulance. Despite severely bruised ribs and a smashed lower leg, Mr. Lassiter remained at the scene to assist in further rescue efforts. He gave direction and information to rescue workers and security personnel regarding those individuals who were present on the main floor at the time of the blast, and the layout and condition of the interior of the main floor. The Foreign Service National Employee was evacuated to Germany for medical treatment and has since regained his eyesight and use of his left hand.
Joseph P. Martin Immigration Officer Rome District Mr. Joseph P. Martin, Officer-in-Charge, Nairobi, Kenya, Rome District, Office of International Affairs, is recognized for his unusual courage and bravery in his reaction to the terrorist bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi on August 7, 1998.
Mr. Martin was in the Embassy at the time of the explosion and was able to exit the building; however, on three occasions, ignoring his own safety, he returned into the building to assist in the rescue operation of other trapped, injured, and deceased Embassy personnel. Mr. Martin assisted in the evacuation of several Embassy personnel, including the wife of his Assistant Officer-in-Charge. Additionally, concerned about the fate of another INS employee, Mr. Martin returned to the INS area of the building in an attempt to locate her. The INS office was one of the hardest hit at the Embassy; however, Mr. Martin climbed a ladder back into the Embassy in an attempt to ensure the employee’s safety.
Michael F. McCarson Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Del Rio Sector On March 1, 1999, in the early morning hours, agents working the Comstock checkpoint witnessed a vehicle crash through a fence and go out of control after hitting a deer on the highway, causing the vehicle to overturn and burst into flames. Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Michael F. McCarson, upon witnessing the crash, immediately recognized the severity of the situation and acted with total disregard for his personal safety by fighting the flames and pulling the injured driver from the burning vehicle before it was totally overcome with fire.
Simultaneous with these life-saving actions, SBPA McCarson directed on-scene agents in rendering assistance while ensuring their safety at all times, coordinated an emergency response with local officers and emergency personnel, as well as performed first-aid treatment to the injured driver. SBPA McCarson’s immediate and skillful emergency actions not only prevented a tragedy from escalating to a casualty, but clearly demonstrated his training and experience as a Border Patrol Agent and his dedication to his work.
Armando Moralez Supervisory Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector On the morning of August 8, 1998, at approximately 8:05 a.m., a serious injury two-vehicle accident occurred at the intersection of Ballantyne and Main in the city of El Cajon. As a result of the accident, one of the vehicles which was occupied by an adult female driver and a three-year-old passenger, burst into flames.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Armando Moralez was on duty at the time of the two-vehicle accident. As he came upon the scene, he positioned his vehicle to block the traffic flow to keep other vehicles from becoming involved in the accident scene. Upon observing the fire and that the vehicle was occupied, SBPA Moralez immediately retrieved his fire extinguisher from his Border Patrol vehicle and began attempting to extinguish the fire. During this time, SBPA Moralez and other law enforcement officers exposed themselves to the danger of the fire and possible exploding fuel. SBPA Moralez continued to fight the fire until the rescue of the two victims was complete.
During this stressful emergency, SBPA Moralez exercised great courage and bravery in the pursuit of a worthwhile objective fully knowing that he was placing himself in imminent peril of loss of life or great bodily injury in the line of duty.
Christopher A. Ramnes Border Patrol Agent McAllen Sector On June 17, 1999, at approximately 1:00 a.m., off-duty Border Patrol Agent Christopher A. Ramnes was driving home to retrieve his video camera to memorialize the birth of his first child when he observed a vehicle approaching an intersection at a high rate of speed. The driver failed to stop, continued through the intersection, and plunged into an irrigation canal.
Without hesitation, BPA Ramnes ran to the canal and jumped into the water. He reached into the submerged vehicle, grabbed a hand, and pulled a young man to the surface, then placed him onto the canal bank. He returned to the submerged vehicle two more times and extracted two more young men.
Agent Ramnes summoned emergency unity to the scene and continued to search for a fourth victim. Unfortunately, the fourth young man had been ejected from the vehicle and was later recovered a few feet from the vehicle.
Floyd Southerland III Border Patrol Agent Del Rio Sector On March 18, 1999, at approximately 12 noon, Border Patrol Agent Floyd “Buddy” Southerland III and his partner responded to sensor activity three miles up river from the Port of Entry at Del Rio, Texas. Upon arrival at the location of the sensors, Agent Southerland and his partner observed four subjects on the United States side of the Rio Grande River. When the four subjects saw the Border Patrol vehicle, three of the four jumped into the river and began to swim to an island in mid-river. The fourth hesitated, looked at the agents, then jumped. The fourth man could not swim.
The Rio Grande River flow down river from Amistad Dam is controlled through water release monitored by the International Boundary and Water Commission. The commission had increased water release from the dam to supplement irrigation needs in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to a level that brought the river to a very high and swift current.
As Agent Southerland arrived and observed the scene, the fourth man was floundering in the water away from the shore and near the mid-river island. Agent Southerland shouted to the three men on the island to help their friend, but they refused. The Rio Grande, due to high water, was a mass of floating debris of cane stalks and other flotsam. Thinking quickly as he watched the river drag the man down and away from the shore and island, Buddy told his partner to get the spare tire from the government vehicle as he began to remove his gun belt and boots. Without hesitation and with total disregard for his own safety, Agent Southerland dove into the muddy river to search for the man. Agent Southerland’s partner cast the spare tire into the river, Agent Southerland used the tire as a floatation device, swam out, located the floundering man, pulled his head out of the water and with monumental effort, brought the man back to the safety of the river bank. The man was a 29-year-old Mexican national.
Agent Southerland’s act of selfless heroism and life-saving actions of commendable efficiency and skill draw upon his training and experience acquired throughout his career with the U.S. Border Patrol. He displayed great physical courage, as well as moral courage, to do the right thing.
This was the second act of heroism that Agent Southerland had been involved in during that Fiscal Year.
In October of 1998, Buddy was cited by the office of the District Attorney, 63rd Judicial District of Texas, for his apprehension and arrest of a man who had kidnapped a teenaged girl, terrorized, and sexually assaulted her. It was the opinion of the District Attorney that Buddy saved her life by rescuing the girl from the man who was holding this young victim.
William T. Veal Chief Patrol Agent San Diego Sector On the night of April 1, 1999, eastern San Diego County experienced very low temperatures and unexpected snow during a fierce overnight storm, which left many illegal entrant aliens stranded and lost in the rugged mountainous terrain of the area. Many of these people were in great peril of imminent death and at least seven others had already succumbed.
After ensuring that Sector resources were mobilized to cope with this emergency, Chief Patrol Agent William T. Veal, in the early morning hours of April 2, responded by flying into service the Border Patrol’s heavy lift UH-1 helicopter. Joined by the Patrol Agent in Charge of Air Operations, John D. Pool and Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Harold R. Beasley, he flew into very hazardous weather conditions to effect the rescue of stranded and hypothermic aliens. During this time, Chief Veal rescued eight aliens who were hypothermic and in imminent danger of death. The attending physician stated to rescue personnel that one of these individuals would have died had he not received medical attention within the hour. Additionally, by flying through treacherous terrain in deteriorating weather conditions, while fighting low ceilings, clouds, and fog, Chief Veal inserted Border Patrol and San Diego County Search and Rescue teams into accessible areas to search for stranded aliens. This included making landings in the same rugged terrain, at times with only one tip of a skid touching the ground.
With no regard for his personal safety, Chief Veal continued search and rescue activities until he was assured that no additional aliens were in peril. He flew a total of 6.9 hours with the only breaks being three brief refueling stops.
Jay Visconti - photo, statuette Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector On June 24, 1999, Border Patrol Agent Jay Visconti observed an automobile driving erratically on northbound Interstate 15, in San Diego, California. Agent Visconti was on-duty and returning from firearms training. Agent Visconti maneuvered his marked Border Patrol sedan closer to the erratically moving automobile and was able to ascertain that the driver of the vehicle was in serious distress. Agent Visconti then observed that the front seat passenger was attempting to steer the vehicle.
Agent Visconti realized that this was an extremely grave situation. Traffic was very congested during this time and there was a great deal of danger to the safety of the motoring public. Agent Visconti activated his overhead lights and created a traffic break. The erratically moving vehicle did not stop, but pulled over to the shoulder of the road and continued at a slow rate of speed. Agent Visconti pulled over and, exiting his vehicle, ran alongside of the offending vehicle until he was able to jump in through the passenger window and turn off the ignition.
The driver was apparently suffering from a heart attack. Agent Visconti immediately activated the emergency medical system and proceeded to render first aid treatment. When the San Diego Police and Fire Departments arrived, the driver was in full cardiac arrest and Agent Visconti was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on her.
Tragically, the afflicted driver of the automobile did not survive. Upon being relieved of performing CPR, Agent Visconti was instrumental in directing the fast moving traffic around the scene of the stop and providing much needed support to the grieving passenger.
Walter M. Davenport Senior Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit James D. Goldman - Award Statuette Assistant District Director of Investigations Miami District Office Jonathan P. Miller Senior Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit Ruben Miranda Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit Charles L. Sachs Senior Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit Mickey A. Valdez Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit Casey S. Wilson Immigration Agent (Enforcement) Miami, Florida James L. Wolynetz Jr. Immigration Agent (Enforcement) Miami, Florida Betty A. Mills Special Agent Miami, Florida Steven J. Pastor Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit Charles C. Whitmire Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Border Patrol Tactical Unit Eleven Immigration and Naturalization Service employees were recognized for his involvement in Operation Reunion, the enforcement response that INS/Border Patrol conducted to safely recover Elian Gonzalez and reunite him with his father conducted on April 22, 2000.
Jesus E. De La Vega Supervisory Border Patrol Agent El Centro Sector On November 2, 1999 at about 11:20 PM, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jesus E. De La Vega was patrolling the border area along Interstate Highway 8 near Seeley, California. As he turned off the highway, he saw a huge white cloud of smoke covering the ramp. Through the smoke, he was able to make out a vehicle that had just crashed, rolled over twice, and come to rest on its side. Flames shot out from the front passenger compartment and from under the hood.
Looking for occupants, SBPA De La Vega spied a single male victim, later identified as a Bruce Allen Stanley, who was severely disoriented and desperately attempting to exit the vehicle. Stanley could make no headway, unable as he was to move his right arm, which had been injured when the vehicle rolled over. Agent De La Vega asked Mr. Stanley whether any other occupants were in the vehicle. The victim stated that he was the only one. As the flames became more intense, Agent De La Vega, oblivious to his own safety, attempted to open the door of the vehicle, but was initially beaten back by the smoke and heat. After a few more attempts, Agent De La Vega was finally able to pull open the door, release the man’s seat belt, and drag him to safety away from the vehicle, which by then was entirely engulfed in flames. Agent De La Vega proceeded to administer emergency first aid to Mr. Stanley and make him as comfortable as possible.
Next, he radioed for emergency services, and within minutes, units from the California Highway Patrol, Imperial County Fire Department, and Gold Cross Ambulance had responded. They treated Mr. Stanley for the injuries to his shoulder and arm and for smoke inhalation. For his part, Agent De La Vega escaped injury. His selfless and heroic actions saved a life and are a true inspiration.
Benjamin Sanford Senior Patrol Agent El Centro Sector On April 2, 2001, Senior Patrol Agent Benjamin Sanford was patrolling a stretch of the All American Canal, near Calexico, California, monitoring the border fence for people attempting to enter the country illegally from Mexico. A concerned citizen frantically approached him to report that a car had just plummeted into the canal. Agent Sanford immediately called his colleagues at the Calexico Station for assistance, and then drove to the crash site. When he arrived at the scene, he saw a partially submerged car and a woman flailing in a fight against the swift currents. Realizing he could not wait for help to arrive, and giving little regard to his own well-being, he dove into the water, swam to the woman, and dragged her to shore. His heroic actions saved her from certain death.
Jered Bacon Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Robert M. Lawler Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector On August 31, 2001, at about 1:15 a.m., while patrolling the border, Border Patrol Agents Robert M. Lawler, Jered Bacon, and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Ed Tracy noticed an apartment building fire at 1850 Patagonia Highway near Nogales, Arizona. The agents immediately called for the Nogales Fire Department. The fire spread so quickly that the building was engulfed in flames without warning to the occupants. Realizing that the Nogales Fire Department would not arrive on time, and being the only individuals in the area, the agents took immediate action. Without regard for their own safety, the agents risked their lives to evacuate the building. Most of the occupants were sleeping in their beds at the time of the fire. By the time the Nogales Fire Department and the Nogales Police Department arrived, the agents had extracted all 22 occupants from the building, which by then was totally engulfed in flames.
Robert H. Arnold Jr. Senior Patrol Agent El Paso Sector Herbert L. Williams Supervisory Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector Senior Patrol Agent Robert H. Arnold Jr. and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Herbert L. Williams were recognized for their acts of bravery and heroism during the pursuit of a narcotics load vehicle after it illegally entered the U.S. with 1,900 pounds of marijuana.
On October 12, 2002, Agent Arnold and his partner Border Patrol Agent Valerie Jaramillo pursued a narcotics load vehicle back to the Rio Grande River after it had entered the United States illegally. This occurred approximately 27 miles east of the Ft. Hancock, Texas Port of Entry.
The driver abandoned the vehicle (containing 1,900 pounds of marijuana) and crossed back into Mexico. The driver, along with several other armed assailants, began shooting into the United States at these agents. Agents Arnold and Jaramillo were ambushed and came under heavy gunfire. Agent Jaramillo was shot in the leg and the same bullet narrowly missed Agent Arnold. Additional rounds struck the engine compartment and battery, disabling their vehicle.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Herbert L. Williams entered the area as back up and took heavy fire. Agent Arnold returned fire from cover. Agent Williams positioned his vehicle in the line of fire to provide additional cover so that Agent Jaramillo could be extracted safely. Agents in self-defense of the heavy automatic gunfire fired over 240 rounds. Agent Arnold removed Agent Jaramillo to Agent Williams vehicle and then left the scene to meet with a medical helicopter. Agent Williams provided cover fire as they left the area, at which time they were continuing to take heavy fire from Mexico. Agent Williams was able to safely get out of the line of fire and Agent Jaramillo subsequently recovered from her gunshot wound.
James P. Epling Border Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Posthumously Awarded Border Patrol Agent James P. Epling was honored posthumously for his courage and bravery in rescuing a female alien in distress in the swift cold waters of the Colorado River and attempting to apprehend a group of illegal aliens along the riverbanks. On the evening of December 16, 2003, Agent Epling was assigned to the Yuma Border Patrol Sector in Yuma, Arizona. He was working near Andrade, California, when he was last seen attempting to apprehend a group of illegal aliens along the banks of the Colorado River. Moments prior to his disappearance, Agent Epling entered the swift, cold waters of the Colorado River to rescue a female alien in distress. Once the woman was safe, Agent Epling pursued four other individuals he observed running south toward Mexico along the riverbank in an attempt to escape arrest. This was the last time Agent Epling was seen alive. Agent Epling’s body was recovered from the river after a three-day search.
Christopher D. Brinkhoff Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Juan H. Villa Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent Christopher D. Brinkhoff and Border Patrol Agent Juan H. Villa were recognized for extraordinary courage and valor during the performance of their duties on June 30, 2005, when they discovered evidence that there were narcotics smugglers in the remote desert area of Nogales, Arizona. At approximately 12:25 p.m., the agents encountered a group of 10 to 12 individuals. Immediately, an unknown number of the group began to fire at the agents. During the exchange of gunfire, both Agents Brinkhoff and Villa were shot in the right leg. The agents, suffering from shattered femurs, relayed via radio that they were down and needed assistance. A subsequent search of the area revealed 498.1 pounds of marijuana hidden in the brush.
Ricardo J. Hernandez Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector Felix Morales III Border Patrol Agent El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agent Ricardo J. Hernandez and Border Patrol Agent Felix Morales were recognized for demonstrating extraordinary courage and valor during the performance of duty on August 15, 2006. Without regard for their own personal safety, Agents Ricardo J. Hernandez and Felix Morales’ quick response to save a father and his minor children from drowning. While assigned to the Checkpoint located on New Mexico Highway 195, the agents were approached by a frantic woman who informed them that water had trapped her husband and two children in their submerged SUV. Agents Hernandez and Morales jumped into the turbulent water and made their way to the vehicle. Agent Morales was swept down the river while holding one of the children. He eventually managed to cling to some brush and hand the child to another person at the scene. Agent Hernandez was able to rescue the other child and father. The father sustained a leg injury after being struck by the rolling SUV, and the children were treated for exposure and shock.
Dan M. Harris Jr. - photo Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Marfa Sector Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Dan M. Harris Jr. was recognized for demonstrating unusual courage during an extremely dangerous and stressful situation on May 17, 2007. Agent Harris was invited to Athens, Texas to be the guest speaker at the Henderson County Peace Officer Memorial Service. During the service, Henderson County Deputy David Harris received a call for emergency backup due to shots being fired at a domestic disturbance. Upon arrival, the deputies began receiving gunfire and tragically, two deputies were shot and killed and another deputy was wounded. Agent Harris exposed himself to extreme risk or loss of life in order to render aid to the wounded deputy. Also being a certified Emergency Medical Technician, he was able to stabilize the wound with the assistance of other deputies.
Gary L. Ortega Jr. Border Patrol Agent El Centro Sector Border Patrol Agent Gary L. Ortega Jr. was recognized for his selfless dedication to duty to ensure the survival of injured and helpless people. On his return to the Indio Border Patrol Station at the conclusion of his shift at the checkpoint on Highway 86 near Westmoreland, California, Agent Ortega encountered a station wagon that had been involved in a single vehicle accident and had rolled into the median and caught on fire. As he approached the vehicle, one injured woman was near the vehicle on her hands and knees, and he could see two children and an elderly man in the rear seat of the vehicle. Agent Ortega assisted the injured woman away from the burning car and then attempt to gain entry through the doors that were jammed shut. He extricated the two children through the rear hatch and returned to help the elderly man who was trapped inside. As the flames spread from the engine compartment to the passenger compartment, Agent Ortega unsuccessfully attempted to break out the windows. Disregarding his own personal safety and without hesitation, he re-entered the rear of the vehicle, and used his collapsible steel baton to pry the seat enough to allow him to pull the elderly man to safety as the entire vehicle had become engulfed in flames.
Luis A. Aguilar - photo Senior Patrol Agent Yuma Sector Posthumously Awarded Senior Patrol Agent Luis A. Aguilar was honored posthumously for his selfless courage, which resulted in saving the life of a fellow agent. On January 19, 2008, while performing anti-smuggling duties in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area as part of the Yuma Station IMPACT Team, Agents Luis Aguilar and German Burgoin coordinated efforts to apprehend two vehicles suspected of being loaded with marijuana that illegally crossed from Mexico into the U.S. The agents were deploying a Controlled Tire Deflation Device in the path of one of the vehicles when the driver accelerated and drove towards them. Agent Aguilar yelled for Agent Burgoin to get out of the area as he attempted to run to a safe location behind some barriers. Agent Burgoin was able to get to safety, but the suspected smuggler intentionally struck Agent Aguilar who died as a result of his injuries. Agent Aguilar made the ultimate sacrifice in saving the life of his fellow agent.
Adam R. Ruiz Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Rio Grande Valley Sector Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Adam R. Ruiz was recognized for demonstrating unusual courage during an extremely dangerous and stressful situation. On March 11, 2008, while performing his assigned duties on U.S. Highway 281 near San Manuel, Texas, Agent Ruiz encountered a vehicle traveling northbound he suspected of being involved in human trafficking. After initiating a vehicle stop, he observed the vehicle pull over on the shoulder and into the grass off the highway. The driver absconded and the vehicle continued to travel forward and back onto the highway.
While taking immediate action to prevent the vehicle from rolling into the oncoming traffic, Agent Ruiz discovered the brakes were not functioning and maneuvered the vehicle off the northbound lanes, avoiding a major collision with other traffic including a semi-tractor trailer. After finally bringing the vehicle to a stop, he discovered that there were 10 undocumented aliens in the vehicle. With the assistance of Rio Grande Valley CBP air assets, the driver was located.
Robert W. Rosas Jr. - photo Border Patrol Agent San Diego Sector Posthumously Awarded On July 23, 2009, Border Patrol Agent Robert W. Rosas Jr. of the Campo Border Patrol Station was responding to suspicious activity in an area notorious for alien and drug smuggling when he was shot and killed by unidentified assailants. The murder occurred in a remote border area near Campo, California. A suspect was later identified, tried, and convicted of Agent Rosas’ murder.
Steven Kartchner Senior Patrol Agent Spokane Sector Senior Patrol Agent Steven Kartchner was recognized for displaying true heroism in a harrowing emergency that nearly claimed two lives. On July 22, 2009, Agent Kartchner responded to an emergency dispatch call. A woman and a child who were rafting in the Kettle River near Danville, Washington were trapped in a pile of logs and debris by the riverbank. As Agent Kartchner made his way through the swift-moving water, he saw that the woman was pinned between two logs and was dangerously close to being pulled into the current and under the log jam. He first rescued the child. Then he returned to help the woman, lifted her from the tangled logs, and brought her to safety.
Salvatore Caccamo Border Patrol Agent Buffalo Sector Raul Tamayo Border Patrol Agent Buffalo Sector On July 25, 2010, Border Patrol Agents (Marine) Salvatore Caccamo and Raul Tamayo were conducting Riverine patrol operations on the Lower Niagara River in the Niagara Falls area of responsibility within Buffalo Sector. At about 1830 hours, the agents heard a MAYDAY call over the marine radio.
Earlier in the day, a Canadian family of four and a family friend had ventured onto a calm Lake Ontario in a 24-foot vessel for a pleasure cruise. As the afternoon progressed, a strong wind began building, quickly changing the nature of the lake. Sudden changes in weather and lake conditions are a frequent hazard on the Great Lakes, contributing to an estimated six to ten thousand shipwrecks and great loss of life in the time since sailing began on the lakes.
The family struggled to maintain control of their boat as Lake Ontario quickly turned treacherous with four to five foot breakers. Their small vessel began to take on water and founder in the unforgiving wind and waves, causing one of the occupants to give the universal MAYDAY call of a vessel in distress.
Knowing the treacherous conditions on the Lake, and without hesitation, Agents Caccamo and Tamayo responded to the distress call, communicating with the boaters as they expressed their concern that their boat would sink in short order. The Canadians’ boat was about one mile from the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario. Disregarding the perilous conditions, the agents demonstrated exceptional bravery and entered the swells and breakers on their 25-foot government vessel, in a desperate search for the sinking boat and the civilians.
The white-capped waves made the search difficult, however the agents were able to spot the vessel at some distance, and as they approached, they saw that it was in danger of capsizing, the occupants near panic.
Demonstrating superb skill and extreme courage, Agent Caccamo maneuvered the Border Patrol vessel close to the sinking boat, despite the violent pitching of the two vessels in the rolling waves and breakers. At the same time, Agent Tamayo was perilously located on the rear of the pitching Government vessel in order to affect the rescue, in constant danger of being thrown overboard into the violent lake and being crushed between the two vessels. The agents timed the movement of the two vessels and Agent Tamayo was able to pull the three children from the already half-sunken civilian boat, onto the government vessel.
Almost immediately after rescuing the children, the civilian boat began to sink at a greater rate, forcing the agents to maneuver away from its immediate proximity. The adults were forced into the water, and Agent Tamayo threw them a rescue line. One of the adults panicked, and tied the rescue line to his sinking vessel, which threatened to pull the government vessel under the surface of Lake Ontario with it. Reacting quickly, Agent Tamayo cut the rescue line. Agent Caccamo then skillfully maneuvered the government vessel in the treacherous waters so that Agent Tamayo could pull the two adults aboard, just as their boat disappeared below the waves.
Jose M. Martinez Border Patrol Agent Buffalo Sector On August 4, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Jose M. Martinez was on patrol near Sackets Harbor, New York, in the Wellesley Island Border Patrol Station’s area of responsibility within Buffalo Sector. At about 0200 hours, Agent Martinez heard an urgent request for assistance from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department regarding a domestic disturbance with shots fired in Sackets Harbor. Law enforcement presence in this rural area is minimal at best, with no local police, and few deputies or State Police troopers on duty or nearby in such early morning hours. Area law enforcement agencies depend upon each other for assistance when needed, and this morning was no exception. Agent Martinez was one of the first back-up officers to arrive.
Prior to Agent Martinez’ arrival, a male subject had shot his wife multiple times with an assault rifle, leaving her lying critically wounded in the common hallway vestibule of an apartment building. Two Jefferson County Deputies, the only officers then at the scene, had just attempted to rescue the woman, but were forced to retreat when the male subject threatened them at gunpoint from the doorway of his apartment, near where the woman was lying.
Understanding this, and in the face of the still threatening active shooter, Agent Martinez demonstrated outstanding courage and volunteered without hesitation to attempt a rescue of the woman. Acting quickly, decisively, and selflessly, Agent Martinez and two deputies made a tactical approach towards the building. As one deputy covered them, Agent Martinez and the other deputy entered the immediate danger area, still threatened by the assailant. They grabbed the motionless and defenseless woman, and dragged her out of the building to safety and a waiting ambulance.
Agent Martinez then remained at the scene to assist the local agencies with perimeter security while negotiators attempted to talk the now barricaded assailant out of the building. The subject finally surrendered without further incident when local officers entered the residence at about 0645 hrs.
Border Patrol Agent Jose Martinez’ extraordinary bravery and intrepidity in the face of recognized, real, and eminent danger saved the life of Sherry Morris, at the extreme risk of his own life.
Brian A. Terry - photo Border Patrol Agent Tucson Sector/BORTAC Posthumously Awarded On December 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was conducting operations as a member of the Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) in the Nogales, Arizona area of operations. Agent Terry’s team encountered five individuals, at least two of whom were armed with rifles, in the “Peck Well” area near Rio Rico, Arizona. During the attempt to arrest these individuals, the agents and suspects fired shots. Agent Terry was mortally wounded during the exchange of gunfire and succumbed to his injuries on December 15, 2010.
Christopher J. Dlugokinski - photo, photo Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector Michael Mielnicki - photo Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector Gabriel Pratt Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector Erich S. Rohr - photo Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector Abraham Reeder - photo Border Patrol Agent Houlton Sector Border Patrol Agent Christopher J. Dlugokinski, along with Border Patrol Agents Gabriel Pratt, Michael Mielnicki, Abraham Reeder and Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Erich S. Rohr, received the Newton-Azrak Award for the bravery they displayed during the Mahaney rescue efforts on July 19, 2011, in Jackman, Maine.
The Mahaney family’s home was virtually destroyed by a truck carrying a full load of tree-length logs that flipped over on its side, crashing into the two-story residence in which the family of six slept. Agents disregarded their own safety as they courageously crawled and dug through the wreckage and rubble during the unsuccessful attempt to rescue Border Patrol Agent Mahaney’s 5-year-old son Liam.
Eric C. Gough - photo Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Advanced Training Center Harpers Ferry, West Virginia On July 22, 2012, at approximately 7:00 p.m. in Herat, Afghanistan, an armed assailant, alleged to be an Afghan National Policeman, opened fire on government contractors and CBP personnel at the Herat Regional Training Center in Afghanistan. The assailant approached from a blind spot behind a vehicle and opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing two people immediately. As the assailant continued his attack, personnel attempted to take cover in a nearby bunker, and three additional people were shot, one fatally. Hearing the gunfire, Agent Eric Gough swiftly headed toward the location. As the assailant continued to fire, Agent Gough tactically approached and then stopped the threat by returning fire, which resulted in the death of the assailant.
Upon stopping the threat, Agent Gough, also a Border Search Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) member, administered aid to the wounded. The combat medical care he provided to Border Management Task Force member Dana Hampton is credited with saving his life. Hampton was shot three times and was in critical condition, including a severe wound to the abdomen. Agent Gough stabilized Hampton’s injuries, assisted with transport, and remained with him until proper medical attention could be provided. In the course of the transport, Agent Gough had to overcome security obstacles caused by a lockdown of the compound and medical facility. Agent Gough’s perseverance and tenacity ensured that Dana Hampton was given proper medical care in a timely manner.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker lauded Agent Gough’s heroic actions and acknowledged that his decisiveness saved numerous lives. Additional accolades were received from the Department of Defense’s U.S. Central Command, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security.
Manuel E. Barreda Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Rio Grande Valley Sector, Fort Brown Station On the night of February 27, 2012, Agent Barreda witnessed a group of individuals attempting to cross the treacherous waters of the Brownsville Navigation Ship Channel, a 44-foot-deep and several hundred foot-wide waterway designed for large vessels. Agent Barreda observed that one of the individuals, later identified as Angel Celestino-Alvarado, was struggling to swim and keep his head above water.
Agent Barreda quickly evaluated the situation and notified the U.S. Coast Guard. He realized, however, that because of the frigid temperature of the water, the Coast Guard might not reach the victim before he succumbed to hypothermia or exhaustion. Agent Barreda jumped into the channel and swam 120 feet toward the drowning man, who advised Agent Barreda that he could no longer feel his legs or arms. Agent Barreda quickly secured the individual in his grasp and towed him toward the shore.
As Agent Barreda swam back to the bank of the channel in the dark with the victim in tow, he began to suffer effects from the cold water. Border Patrol Agent Jacob Gamboa, who had been nearby and was coordinating the rescue effort from the shoreline and monitoring Agent Barreda, entered the freezing water without hesitation and assisted Agent Barreda and the victim safely back to the bank of the Brownsville Navigation Ship Channel.
Agent Barreda’s heroic choice to voluntarily enter the water, coupled with Agent Gamboa’s assistance, led to the victim’s successful rescue when otherwise, he most certainly would have drowned.
Armando Ledezma Border Patrol Agent Wellton, Arizona For heroic actions to save a deputy and hospital staff from a violent felon. On November 21, 2012, Border Patrol Agent Armando Ledezma was assigned to hospital watch duties at Yuma Regional Medical Center, Yuma, Arizona. He heard a nurse shouting for security and immediately responded to the room from which the nurse had exited. As he entered the room, he saw a tall, heavyset man moving on the floor. As Agent Ledezma attempted to gain control of the man, he discovered that the subject was an inmate who had pinned an exhausted sheriff’s deputy to the floor and was struggling for the deputy’s holstered service weapon. At great personal risk, Agent Ledezma kept the inmate from getting the deputy’s weapon. Agent Ledezma grabbed one of the inmate’s hands, allowing the deputy to secure his weapon and control the inmate’s other hand. Agent Ledezma then handcuffed the inmate, ending the scuffle. Agent Ledezma’s brave actions and quick thinking saved the deputy from death or injury.
Ruben Mendoza - photo Border Patrol Agent, Hebbronville, Texas For his heroic actions to save a wounded agent under extreme duress. On March 21, 2013, Agent Ruben Mendoza was involved in a lethal force incident near Hebbronville, Texas. Two agents on roving patrol stopped to assist an individual they initially believed to be a stranded motorist. During the course of the encounter, the agents discovered the motorist was a violent felon, driving a stolen vehicle. When one of the agents attempted to search the subject before arrest, the subject resisted. As the two other agents struggled with the subject, Agent Mendoza moved to a position of tactical advantage and drew his service weapon. The subject gained access to a hidden handgun, and fired at the two agents, wounding one of them. At that time, BPA Mendoza fired several rounds, incapacitating the subject. Agent Mendoza then rendered first aid to the wounded agent. Agent Mendoza’s composure and professionalism under extreme pressure prevented further harm to his colleagues.
Steven H. Tinder Border Patrol Agent McAllen, Texas Justin L. Garza Border Patrol Agent McAllen, Texas Enrique A. Doster Jr. Border Patrol Agent McAllen, Texas On July 22, 2014, Border Patrol Agents Steven Tinder, Justin Garza, and Enrique Doster were conducting line watch operations in the McAllen Stations' area of responsibility. At approximately 4:40 p.m., sector radio communications reported shots fired and officers down in nearby La Joya, Texas. When the three agents arrived at the scene, they learned that the assailant had barricaded himself in a residence off of Leo Avenue. Multiple law enforcement officers and agents were taking cover in the "hot zone," and two police officers, who had been shot, had been extracted. From their position, the three agents observed a Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputy take cover behind his vehicle as the assailant fired multiple rounds in his direction. Immediately following the volley of shots, they saw the officer holding his rib cage as if in severe pain. They feared he had been shot, so they formulated an emergency evacuation plan and relayed their plan to other law enforcement agencies on the scene.
Agent Doster then took position as the driver of the mobile evacuation vehicle. Agents Tinder and Garza placed themselves in the front and rear passenger side of the vehicle. While other law enforcement officers provided cover, the three Border Patrol agents placed their own lives in danger as Agent Doster drove them into the hot zone to extract the deputy. Agents Tinder and Garza exited the vehicle and assisted the deputy into the front passenger seat of the vehicle. Agent Garza re-entered the rear passenger side of the vehicle and Agent Tinder joined other law enforcement personnel in the hot zone to assist with providing cover. They transported the deputy to safety. He was treated at a local hospital for the cracked ribs he sustained when he dove for cover.
Fernando Galvan, Jr. - photo Border Patrol Agent Edinburg, TX Arturo Gutierrez - photo Border Patrol Agent Edinburg, TX On April 29, 2015, while patrolling the Rio Grande River near La Paloma, Texas, Border Patrol Agents Fernando Galvan and Arturo Gutierrez received a report of drug smugglers in a minivan moving a large load of narcotics north from the Mexico-United States border.
Gutierrez discovered the minivan at a nearby intersection where it was off the road and wrecked. When the agents approached the scene they observed flames coming from under the vehicle. The agents removed one unresponsive adult male from the wreck and called for emergency medical services and local law enforcement for support. While Galvan and Gutierrez tried to extinguish the fire, now beginning to engulf the minivan, they discovered an unresponsive man inside the smoke-filled van.
Unable to put out the fire, they recognized the person inside the minivan was in imminent danger. Galvan and Gutierrez quickly entered the flaming vehicle, and removed the crash victim just in time. Once the agents pulled the man from the minivan, the front end of the vehicle became completely engulfed in flames. They placed both subjects a safe distance from the burning vehicle who ultimately survived.
Anthony Anderson Border Patrol Agent Laredo, Texas Remigio Guerra III Border Patrol Agent Laredo, Texas On July 22, 2016, at approximately 12:15 a.m., Border Patrol Agents Anderson and Guerra responded to a responded sensor activation in the Zachary Ranch located in a remote area of Webb County, Texas. Upon arriving to the area close to the Rio Grande river landing, Anderson and Guerra set up a listening post/observation post in an area that provided tactical advantage. After a short time, they heard what appeared to be people splashing in the river. Anderson and Guerra approached the river landing and observed four subjects in the river that were having trouble staying afloat. The agents immediately accessed the situation and determined immediate action was needed. Anderson entered the swift moving current and pulled the four subjects to the riverbank and handed them to Guerra, who helped get the four subjects onto dry land. Anderson and Guerra rescued the four subjects, preventing them from drowning.
The Zachary Ranch is located approximately 15 miles south of Laredo, Texas, on U.S. Highway 83. In addition to the long highway travel to get to the Zachary Ranch, you need to enter the ranch and travel approximately 2 miles on unimproved ranch roads just to get to the river’s edge making it an extended period of time before any help or assistance can arrive. Anderson and Guerra have proven to be a valuable asset to the Laredo South Station and should be recognized and commended for their heroic actions. The actions Anderson and Guerra took on July 22, 2016, serves as a reminder to all of us that we are all here to do our jobs regardless of the threat knocking at our door on a daily basis. Anderson and Guerra relied on their training, morals, and dedication to duty to properly manage the situation as it quickly unfolded. Their rapid assessment of the situation, quick, accurate response, and selfless actions prevented four individuals from drowning. These heroic actions far too often go unnoticed. These selfless actions make these agents stand out from their peers and should serve as an example to others and be rewarded.
Juan Cruz Jr. - photo Border Patrol Agent Weslaco, Texas Marcus K. Johnson - photo Border Patrol Agent Weslaco, Texas The incident occurred on October 19, 2015, at approximately 2:00 a.m. Border Patrol Agents Juan Cruz, Jr. and Marcus K. Johnson responded to a call for assistance by agents working border enforcement duties near the Hidalgo, Texas, Settling Basin. A subject had jumped into the water basin and was struggling to stay afloat. The potential victim was frantically screaming for help and periodically dipping below the surface of the water. The agents quickly improvised a safety line from tow straps and courageously entered the dark, cold water in an attempt to rescue the subject.
Unfortunately, the improvised safety line was not long enough to reach the subject and the dangerous conditions forced the agents to return to land. Cruz swam out for a second time in an attempt to throw the subject a floatation device, but that attempt also failed due to the subject’s panicked state of mind. Upon the arrival of the City of Hidalgo’s Fire Department, the agents were informed that the fire department would not attempt a rescue due to policy constraints dealing with the dangers involved in a night time water rescue.
Both Cruz and Johnson ignored the injuries they had suffered to their bare feet on their previous rescue attempts and for a third time volunteered to try to rescue the subject. They borrowed life vests from the fire department and re-entered the dangerous water. On the third attempt, the agents managed to reach the subject and provide him with a life vest and were able to successfully extract him from the water without further incident.
The subject was examined by emergency medical technicians at the scene and found to be in good health and not in need of further medical attention. Both Cruz and Johnson were treated for their injuries at a local hospital and released the same night.
Osbaldo Rios Border Patrol Agent Tucson, Arizona On November 29, 2017, Three Points Border Patrol Agent Osbaldo Rios displayed exceptional composure and courage, saving the lives of his partner and himself. Agent Rios was performing patrol duties in an area located approximately 50 miles southwest of Tucson, and about 15 miles north of the international border with Mexico. Agent Rios and two partners had responded to a ground sensor activation in a remote canyon of the Baboquivari Mountains when they observed a group of five suspected illegal aliens. As the agents closed in, the suspects scattered in multiple directions. The agents gave chase and three suspects were apprehended. One agent maintained custody of those suspects while Agent Rios and his other partner continued pursuit of the remaining two.
His partner observed a suspect and immediately gave chase, physically engaging the suspect as he was attempting to descend a steep embankment.During the physical encounter, Agent Rios partner rolled down the embankment, with the suspect ending atop of him. As the struggle ensued, the suspect struck the agent several times in the face. The event was observed by an Air and Marine Operations aircraft, and relayed to the other agents. During the encounter, the suspect gained control of the agent's sidearm.
As Agent Rios approached his partner's location, he observed the suspect with a firearm pointed at his partner. Agent Rios called out to the suspect to draw his attention and avert him from firing. The suspect looked toward Agent Rios, now aiming the weapon at him. Without hesitation, Agent Rios discharged his service weapon, neutralizing the threat. Agent Rios swift and decisive action resulted in preventing the death or injury of his partner, and himself.
Felix A. Ortiz Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California Rafael De Leon Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California Juan Zuniga Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California Alberto Lorona Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California Victor H. Herrera Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California Erik Herrera Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California Reyes Fimbres Border Patrol Agent - Intelligence Blythe, California Michael Rosamond Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Blythe, California On September 13, 2017, at approximately 1:20 a.m., Arizona's La Paz County Sheriff s Office called requesting assistance. The Arizona Department of Public Safety had a subject being held at gunpoint subsequent to a traffic stop on Interstate 10 westbound at Mile Marker 57 in Arizona. Shots were fired at the trooper by the driver of a vehicle, who then fled the scene. The trooper remained on scene with one subject at gunpoint, unable to initiate pursuit of the fleeing vehicle. Agents from the Blythe Integrated Targeting Team (ITT) responded to the call for assistance.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Michael Rosamond assigned Blythe ITT agents to areas he believed the vehicle may be fleeing. Agent Rosamond witnessed a vehicle matching the description of the fleeing vehicle pass his position.
Agent Rosamond tried to initiate a vehicle stop; Border Patol Agents Juan Zuniga and Felix Ortiz assisted as secondary/backup agents. The driver failed to yield. Then, the vehicle began to pull to the shoulder, then slow rolled to a stop, in the westbound lanes. As the subject rolled to a stop, the driver exited the vehicle, shooting at the agents approximately four to five times. While under fire and with their vehicle being struck by gunfire, Agent Zuniga was able to return two rounds of fire. The driver fled toward the eastbound lanes on foot and hijacked a big-rig. Agents Zuniga and Ortiz continued the pursuit of the big-rig; Agent Rosamond remained with the vehicle and the driver of the big-rig to secure the scene as evidence.
As the driver was absconding in the hijacked big rig there was an exchange of gunfire with Border Patrol Agent Reyes Fimbres on the Exit 17 off-ramp.
Blythe ITT Border Patrol Agents Victor Herrera, Erik Herrera, Juan Zuniga, and Felix Ortiz experienced a further exchange of gunfire with the subject on Main Street in Quartzsite, Arizona. At this time the subject was driving the big-rig in reckless regard for public safety, creating the potential of injury, death and significant property destruction. Blythe ITT agents Rafael De Leon and Alberto Lorona arrived on scene to assist. After the final exchange of gunfire, the subject was in custody. Agents rendered first aid on the scene and Emergency Medical Service responded shortly thereafter. Despite their life-saving efforts, the subject succumbed to his injuries while in route to the hospital.
2018 No Awards
Tony Miranda Assistant Chief Washington D.C. Past Event On November 1, 2007, in Wellton, AZ, Agent Miranda observed a house almost completely engulfed in flames. Without regard for his personal safety, he entered the structure through the front door and assisted a woman in a wheelchair to safety. He immediately reentered the house, located a double amputee elderly man, and led him to safety. At that point, Agent Miranda was informed that a mother and two children were still in the house. A third time, he entered through the front door only to find that the ceiling was fully engulfed and that fiery debris was falling on him. As he retreated outside, he was told that the room in which the mother and children were believed to be was on the rear, right side of the house. With the help of a neighbor, Agent Miranda dislodged an air-conditioning unit from the wall, creating an entry point into the room. For a fourth time, Agent Miranda entered the house to save people. He found the room to be full of black smoke, with such intense heat that breathing was nearly impossible. Again, he was forced to retreat. Once outside, Agent Miranda instructed the neighbor to use a nearby garden hose and to douse his uniform with water. For a fifth time, Agent Miranda entered the house. He found the room to be engulfed in flame, full of choking smoke and raining debris from the ceiling that was on fire. Over the next week, Agent Miranda would lose his eyelashes, eyebrows and much of his hair. The heat that he experienced inside the house was so intense that it cause the hair to become brittle and to break off. For his conspicuous heroism and extraordinary courage, he was awarded the Commissioner’s Meritorious Service Award for Valor and the Secretary’s Valor Award. Agent Miranda’s actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
Clifford A. Gill - photo, award set Assistant Chief Washington D.C. Past Event On July 24, 2000, Agent Gill attempted to apprehend a person who had just illegally entered the United States near Laredo, Texas. The person fled, jumped into the flooded Rio Grande and immediately began screaming for help. Facing grave danger and beyond the call of duty, Agent Gill entered the turbulent water. Swimming in his uniform and boots, he approached the victim. Before he could reach the victim, the victim disappeared under the murky water. Agent Gill saw a large air bubble break the surface of the water. Believing the bubble to have come from the victim, Agent Gill dove approximately 5’ below the surface of the water and grabbed the victim. Due to the turbulence and the victim’s struggles, Agent Gill was unable to establish a secure hold on the victim. For the remainder of the rescue, Agent Gill struggled to keep the victim above water, which pushed Agent Gill below the surface. Agent Gill was only able to take gasping breaths as he swam them to shore. Agent Gill’s actions brought great credit upon himself and United States Border Patrol.
Kent L. Carroll Border Patrol Agent San Diego, CA In the early morning hours of April 26, 2020, Border Patrol Agent Kent Carroll was in a carpool travelling on Interstate 15 with two other agents when they witnessed a major two vehicle accident. One car had struck a guardrail and erupted into flames. Without hesitation, the agents jumped into action. Agent Carroll and a third agent jumped over the center divider and ran across the interstate. Agent Carroll utilized his emergency medical technician skills and checked on the driver of one car to evaluate potential injuries. The third agent was at the second vehicle which was completely engulfed in flames. Beyond the call of duty and facing grave danger, Agent Carroll approached the vehicle to assist as one of the victims attempted to escape the inferno. As the victim began to collapse, Agent Carroll and a third agent caught him and assisted him to safety. Agent Carroll’s actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
Francisco F. Gonzales Border Patrol Agent San Diego, CA In the early morning hours of April 26, 2020, Border Patrol Agent Francisco Gonzales was in a carpool travelling on Interstate 15 with two other agents when they witnessed a major vehicle accident. One car had struck a guardrail and erupted into flames. Without hesitation, the agents jumped into action. Agent Gonzales instructed another agent to call 911. Agent Gonzales and a third agent then jumped over the center divider and ran across the interstate to the flaming vehicle. Agent Gonzales saw that the driver and passenger were on fire. Beyond the call of duty and facing grave danger, Agent Gonzales approached the vehicle and opened the door. The sudden burst of heat forced Agent Gonzales back but allowed one of the victims to escape the inferno. As the victim began to collapse, Agent Gonzales and a third agent caught him and assisted him to safety. Agent Gonzales’ actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
Robert S. Holmes - photo Border Patrol Agent Grand Forks, ND On October 3, 2020 at 9:00 PM, Bottineau Station Border Patrol Agent Robert Holmes assisted local law enforcement with a call regarding a suicidal man who was on top of a 144-foot structure. Beyond the call of duty while facing grave danger, Agent Holmes went to the top of the structure to search for the man. Upon reaching the top, Agent Holmes began searching the massive area which was riddled with shafts, pipes and other industrial hazards. Under the cover of night, Agent Holmes was able to locate the man, who was armed with a knife, near the edge of a grain elevator. Agent Holmes began a tactful conversation with the man and ultimately talked him into storing the knife in his pocket and moving away from the edge to safety. Agent Holmes’ actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
Carlos A. Lara - photo Border Patrol Agent El Centro, CA On February 18, 2019, Border Patrol Agent Carlos Lara was assigned to the Calexico Station’s area of responsibility when, beyond the call of duty and facing grave danger he entered the All-American Canal to rescue a man in distress. Before entering the water, several attempts to assist the drowning man were made using a rescue disc. Once it was determined that the rescue disc was ineffective, Agent Lara disregarded the danger of the swift current and entered the frigid and treacherous water. Agent Lara swam to the victim, took control of him and pulled him back to the canal bank and to safety. Agent Lara’s quick and selfless response at the risk of his own life prevented the loss of another life. Agent Lara’s actions brought great credit upon himself and United States Border Patrol.
John P. Marquissee - photo, award set, certificate Border Patrol Agent Westmore, VT Past Event On January 5, 2012 at approximately 4:00 PM, off-duty Border Patrol Agent John Marquissee saw a vehicle accident in which a car was overturned and partially submerged in Lake Willoughby near Westmore, VT. Knowing a person was in dire need of help, Agent Marquissee, beyond the call of duty while facing grave danger, entered the partially frozen lake. Once at the vehicle, Agent Marquissee saw that a female victim was trapped in the car. Agent Marquissee then broke out the rear window of the car and helped the victim escape the vehicle. Agent Marquissee took the victim to shore saving her life. Agent Marquissee’s actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
Gregory M. Stecher - photo Border Patrol Agent Swanton, VT Past Event In the morning hours of February 11, 2005, Agent Stecher responded to a call to support a Coast Guard rescue mission involving a partially submerged vehicle on the thin ice of Lake Champlain. Two men had become stranded on the snow-covered ice when their vehicle broke through the ice. The USCG Rescue team became exhausted with the onset of hypothermia and requested assistance. Agent Stecher was aware that recent weather conditions were conducive to thin ice and that another rescue snowmobile had already broken through the ice. Beyond the call of duty and facing grave danger, Agent Stecher operated his snowmobile on the thin ice and rescued one of the fishermen while his partner and Vermont Fish and Game units rescued the Coast Guardsmen. While speeding to shore with a victim onboard, Agent Stecher’s snowmobile began to break through the ice. Only by maintaining very high speed was he able to stay afloat and complete the rescue. Agent Stecher’s actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
George P. Woodward - photo Border Patrol Agent Swanton, VT Past Event In the morning hours of February 11, 2005, Agent Woodward responded to a call to support a Coast Guard rescue mission involving a partially submerged vehicle on the thin ice of Lake Champlain. Two men had become stranded on the snow-covered ice when their vehicle broke through the ice. The USCG Rescue team became exhausted with the onset of hypothermia and requested assistance. Agent Woodward was aware that recent weather conditions were conducive to thin ice and that another rescue snowmobile had already broken through the ice. Beyond the call of duty and facing grave danger, Agent Woodward operated his snowmobile on the thin ice and rescued one of the fishermen while his partner and Vermont Fish and Game units rescued the Coast Guardsmen. While speeding to shore with a victim onboard, Agent Woodward's snowmobile began to break through the ice. Only by maintaining very high speed was he able to stay afloat and complete the rescue. Agent Woodward's actions brought great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol.
Jason S. Weatherby - photo Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Spokane, WA On July 9, 2019, Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jason Weatherby responded to assist a 70-year woman whose kayak had capsized in the swift, frigid current of the Kettle River. The women was ejected from her kayak, causing her to be swept underwater for an extended length of time. She eventually emerged and ultimately became entangled with a fallen tree in a fast moving, turbulent region of the water. Due to the extended length of time that had passed, paired with the extremely hazardous environment, and the women’s increasing physical exhaustion, she was unable to make it to shore. Determining that the woman would not be able to save herself, Agent Weatherby, beyond the call of duty and facing grave danger, entered the fast moving waters and swam to her. As he freed the victim from the log jam, the branches snapped and both were swept further down the river in the fast current. At great effort, Agent Weatherby maneuvered into a rescue arm position and swan across the current to the adjacent shoreline saving both of their lives. Agent Weatherby’s actions brought great credit upon himself and United States Border Patrol.
Michael G. Linder - photo Border Patrol Agent New Orleans, LA On December 31, 2020, while off duty, Agent Linder witnessed a vehicle skid to a stop after impacting a highway center-divider at high speed. Agent Linder immediately stopped and ran to the scene to render aid. Upon arrival at the vehicle, Agent Linder found it teetering precariously on the divider, still running, and with the engine compartment smoldering. Without regard for his own safety, Agent Linder took charge of the scene, supervising rescue effort and personally extracting the single male occupant from the burning vehicle. Agent Linder directed efforts to call 911 and extinguish the fire. Agent Linder's quick, decisive, and selfless actions ensured that the driver lived to fully recover from this harrowing event. Agent Linder's actions reflect great credit upon himself, New Orleans Sector, and the United States Border Patrol.
Ruben Gonzalez - photo, photo 2, award certificate, award set Border Patrol Agent San Diego, CA On September 1, 2021, at approximately 1:30 PM, beyond the call of duty, Border Patrol Agents Ruben Gonzalez and Christian Llamas entered a sewage contaminated area of the Pacific Ocean at great personal risk to save a swimmer facing certain death by drowning. After swimming approximately 50 yards through battering waves, BPA's Gonzalez and Llamas reached the exhausted swimmer and pulled him to shore, saving his life. BPA's Gonzalez's and Llamas' actions brought great credit upon themselves and the United States Border Patrol.
Christian Llamas - photo, award set Border Patrol Agent San Diego, CA On September 1, 2021, at approximately 1:30 PM, beyond the call of duty, Border Patrol Agents Ruben Gonzalez and Christian Llamas entered a sewage contaminated area of the Pacific Ocean at great personal risk to save a swimmer facing certain death by drowning. After swimming approximately 50 yards through battering waves, BPA's Gonzalez and Llamas reached the exhausted swimmer and pulled him to shore, saving his life. BPA's Gonzalez's and Llamas' actions brought great credit upon themselves and the United States Border Patrol.
Marco A. Perez Jr. - photo, award certificate Border Patrol Agent San Diego, CA On April 6, 2021, at approximately 6:58 A.M., beyond the call of duty, Border Patrol Agent Marco Perez put his own life at great personal risk and acted without hesitation to save a woman from certain death as she attempted to end her life. By leaning over the edge of the 459 foot Pine Valley Bridge and grabbing the suicidal victim that had just let go, Agent Perez placed himself in great personal danger. Agent Perez's conspicuous lifesaving actions brought great credit upon himself and the U.S. Border Patrol.
Raul A. Rodriguez - photo, award certificate, award set Border Patrol Agent Del Rio, TX On January 3, 2021, Border Patrol Agents (BPA) Ruben Castillo and Raul A. Rodriguez placed themselves in harm's way in pursuit of a black Chevy SUV. After and exhaustive pursuit including a deadly force encounter and search through multiple counties with various agencies, resources and personnel in tow, BPA Castillo and BPA Rodriguez were able to apprehend all of the subjects without further incident. BPA Castillo and BPA Rodriguez demonstrated heroism in the face of grave danger. The agents' actions brought great credit upon themselves and the United States Border Patrol.
Ruben Castillo Border Patrol Agent Del Rio, TX On January 3, 2021, Border Patrol Agents (BPA) Ruben Castillo and Raul A. Rodriguez placed themselves in harm's way in pursuit of a black Chevy SUV. After and exhaustive pursuit including a deadly force encounter and search through multiple counties with various agencies, resources and personnel in tow, BPA Castillo and BPA Rodriguez were able to apprehend all of the subjects without further incident. BPA Castillo and BPA Rodriguez demonstrated heroism in the face of grave danger. The agents' actions brought great credit upon themselves and the United States Border Patrol.
Joaquin Chavez - photo, award certificate Border Patrol Agent Eagle Pass North Station Eagle Pass, TX Border Patrol Agent Joaquin Chavez is recognized for heroic actions resulting in the rescue of three Haitian nationals from the Rio Grande River on February 12, 2022. Understanding the risks and disregarding his personal safety, Agent Chavez entered the Rio Grande River to rescue three subjects, which included an unresponsive adult male who would have otherwise drowned. The swift actions of Agent Chavez, a product of extensive training and experience, prevented a critical situation from resulting in certain fatal consequences. Agent Chavez's actions reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Border Patrol
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