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Wesley D. Hilton, nominated by Clinton Police Department

2018 Class
Awarded on: 10/07/2019
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On the night of March 6, 2018, Wesley D. Hilton was participating in a citizen ride-along with Clinton Police Officer Nathan Bettencourt. Officer Bettencourt and other officers were dispatched to an unknown disturbance at a residence based on a 911 call. All that could be heard on the call was women yelling at one another, and then line went dead. Upon arriving at the residence, a woman in the front yard said there had been no disturbance, no 911 call, and that no one was inside. Officers initiated a protective safety sweep to confirm no one was injured or in distress. Once inside the residence, officers were ambushed by a man hiding in a bathroom with multiple firearms, including a rifle. Officer Bettencourt and two other Clinton Police officers were struck by gunfire. Bettencourt and another officer returned fire and retreated from the residence. Only later would they learn that Officer Christopher Ryan Morton could not get out of the residence and had been mortally wounded. Officer Bettencourt had been shot twice in the right arm. His wounds were so severe he could not hold his pistol. Officer Bettencourt headed to his patrol car, where Mr. Hilton, without regard for his own safety, left the cover of the vehicle and approached Bettencourt. Hilton applied a tourniquet to Bettencourt’s upper arm, which was bleeding profusely. Officer Bettencourt borrowed a weapon from another officer and joined other officers who engaged the gunman in a firefight as they attempted to reenter the residence to extract Officer Morton, who was no longer responding on his radio. Pinned down by heavy gunfire, the officers were ordered to hold ground until a fully equipped officer rescue team arrived. Mr. Hilton rode with Officer Bettencourt when he was transported by EMS to a local hospital, assisting in removing his body armor so his wounds could be treated. Mr. Hilton stayed with Officer Bettencourt at the hospital and contacted his wife by phone to explain what had occurred. He remained with Officer Bettencourt until he was transferred to a trauma center in Kansas City and continued to visit and support Officer Bettencourt throughout his months-long recovery. After the shooting, it was learned that the 911 system software had misidentified the location of the original call. It has originated 15 miles away from the residence to which the officers had been sent. Of Mr. Hilton’s actions, Officer Bettencourt said, “Wes displayed the calm and bravery of a seasoned combat veteran in the heat of a gunfight and showed thoughtful care for me.” On a tragic night of terrible violence and the loss of Officer Morton, Mr. Hilton’s fast and courageous action helped save the life of Officer Bettencourt.

Catherine J. Stepps, nominated by St. Louis Fire Department

2018 Class
Awarded on: 10/07/2019
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On March 30, 2018, the St. Louis Fire Department responded to a report of a residential structure fire. Smoke was coming from a one-story brick building, which firefighters quickly entered. They conducted a primary search and extinguished a very smoky cooking fire. They found the elderly resident safe outside the home. As firefighters investigated, they discovered that a neighbor, Catherine Stepps, had smelled smoke from inside her neighboring home. She ran toward the residence, jumped a fence, and entered the home. The fire was coming from the kitchen in the rear of the smoky home, so Ms. Stepps covered her face with her shirt to fight the thick smoke. With no firefighting training or protective equipment and without consideration of her own safety, she searched the house and found her elderly neighbor asleep on a couch. Ms. Stepps awakened him and led him out of the house through the smoke. He would tell his rescuer, “Thank you, baby. You’re a life saver.” The responding St. Louis firefighters are convinced that without Ms. Stepps’ fast, heroic response, the man would have been seriously injured or killed.

Tyler Preston, Gabriel Gowen, and Jordan Lambay, nominated by Kirksville Police Department

2018 Class
Awarded on: 10/07/2019
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On the night of June 29, 2018, Kirksville Police officers were dispatched to a domestic assault involving an axe. When officers arrived, they found a woman face down in the street surrounded by blood. She had life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to a hospital for treatment. The officers noticed a civilian holding down another man who was covered in blood. Jordan Lambay, a Truman State University student, was restraining the man who had been wielding the axe. Lambay and fellow Truman State students Gabriel Gowen and Tyler Preston had all helped end the attack and get the victim medical attention. The three students had been in Gowen’s apartment when they heard yelling and screams outside. They saw a man brandishing an axe and the victim trying to defend herself. There were also children screaming for help. While Preston called 911, Gowen and Lambay left the apartment to help the victim. Lambay quickly grabbed the axe and tripped the attacker. Gowen joined the struggle, pulled the axe away, and got it out of the immediate area. Lambay then held the attacker on the ground until police arrived. Kirksville Police believe had Preston, Gowen, and Lambay not responded, the attack would have continued and the victim would have died from her injuries.

Marlin V. Matchett, nominated by Taney County Ambulance District

2018 Class
Awarded on: 10/07/2019
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On July 19, 2018, Mr. Matchett was on the Showboat Branson Belle working as part of the first aid team when a severe storm with high winds and heavy waves sank a tourist duck boat near the showboat. Mr. Matchett, a trained paramedic with decades of EMS experience, quickly called for additional help. He then began rescuing victims by pulling them from the water onto the showboat. Using his extensive EMS experience, he helped triage the injured and also coordinated and directed other civilians who were working to assist the terrified victims. When a young victim was in cardiac arrest, Mr. Matchett performed CPR until ambulance personnel arrived and took over the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful effort. During a catastrophic event, Mr. Matchett heroically worked to help save multiple lives.

Charles Barney and Sandra Straw, nominated by Missouri State Highway Patrol

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On Feb. 7, 2017, during a traffic stop on Interstate 70 in Lafayette County, Trooper Beau Ryun, of Troop A, observed the driver he had stopped reach into his waistline as he approached Trooper Ryun’s patrol car as instructed. Trooper Ryun had the driver place his hands on the patrol car and frisked him, finding a pair of scissors in the driver’s waistline. The driver refused to follow Trooper Ryun’s instructions and began to fight with him. Trooper Ryun’s handcuffs fell to the ground and were out of reach as he struggled with the driver on the ground. He was unable to radio to inform headquarters of his situation. It was then that two motorists stopped along the interstate and approached. Sandra Straw was already on her cell phone with 911, requesting additional officers, as she approached. Ms. Straw lay on Timmons legs in an attempt to control him and wound up being kicked in the face. The second motorist, Charles Barney, was now on the scene and Trooper Ryun asked him to retrieve his handcuffs. Trooper Ryun also instructed Mr. Barney on how to use his radio to advise Troop A of the situation. Mr. Barney then helped with the effort to restrain the driver. This assistance allowed Trooper Ryun to reach and use his pepper spray on the driver. With the assistance of Ms. Straw and Mr. Barney, Trooper Ryun was able to handcuff the driver. Ms. Straw and Mr. Barney both could have kept driving on Interstate 70. Instead, they both chose to put themselves into a dangerous situation and came to the aid of a trooper, who was able to make an arrest with their assistance.

Raymond Rayford, nominated by the St. Louis Fire Department

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On April 22, 2017, a call went out for a structure fire with a person trapped in St. Louis’s Botanical Heights neighborhood. SSt. Louis Fire Department Captain Whitener, who was off duty, immediately responded. He found thick gray smoke pouring out of the two-story residential building. Residents outside the building told him a wheelchair-bound tenant was trapped on the second floor. Captain Whitener charged into the building and up the stairs without any protective equipment. He was followed by a tenant from another unit in the building, Raymond Rayford. The smoke was filling the hallway. Smoke billowed into the room where they found the woman in her wheelchair. She futilely covered her face to try to block out the smoke. Captain Whitener knew time was short because the smoke was building pressure in the room. They pushed the wheelchair to the apartment doorway but furniture blocked the exit. Mr. Rayford threw the furniture out of the apartment to clear a path. Whitener and Rayford then hoisted the wheelchair over the stair railing and down the stair, careful to protect the woman. Once outside, they heard glass shattering. The fire had grown tremendously and was now venting itself out of the room from which they had just rescued the woman. Mr. Rayford’s actions were selfless and his assistance to Captain Whitener critical in the heroic effort to save the life of a trapped wheelchair bound woman. Though an untrained civilian, Mr. Rayford not only displayed concern for human life and a willingness to help a neighbor, but fearlessness and skill during a rescue in which he put his own life at risk.

Cary Stewart, nominated by West Plains Fire Department

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On April 28, 2017, Cary Stewart, a West Plains resident and member of the West Plains City Council, participated along with a team of six West Plains Fire Department members who rescued 92 people. The department considers his participation essential to the team’s success and worthy of commendation. Stewart and the firefighters focused on potentially catastrophic flash flooding that was turning small creeks into rushing rivers. Hundreds of homes were inundated. Howell County 911 was overwhelmed with rescue calls. Swift water rescue boats were not available. The team of Captain Wilbanks, Engineers Bell, Hammon and Sholes and Firefighters Brower and Cockrum, along with West Plains City Councilman Cary Stewart, proceeded in a firetruck, using a pike pole to find the roadway. They would continue to improvise in terribly adverse conditions – outfitting a borrowed johnboat and single paddle with forcible entry tools and rope rigging. They made rescues using the firetruck, boat and on foot through waist deep floodwater. In all, 92 people were rescued, with four patients delivered to the hospital by boat. Those rescued included the elderly, injured, a homebound elderly woman on oxygen and about three dozen college students who sought refuge on the roof of a dormitory.

David Lyman, Building Rehabilitation Contractor, nominated by Kansas City Police Department

2016 Class
Awarded on: 10/28/2017
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On May 25, 2016, Mr. Lyman, a building contractor, was in his truck when he noticed a large group of people in the street. Mr. Lyman stopped to investigate. A female animal control officer was being attacked by a dog owner. Seeing that none of the bystanders were doing anything to stop the assault, Mr. Lyman wrapped his arms around the assailant and pulled him off the animal control officer. The assailant then pulled a metal rod and attempted to attack Mr. Lyman.

Kenneth R. Belew, UPS Driver, nominated by Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

2016 Class
Awarded on: 10/28/2017
Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award

On Dec. 9, 2016, while making his rounds in Union, Mo., a woman handed Kenneth R. Belew a package with a message on it that read simply “Call 911.” Belew took the package without showing any reaction, returned to his truck, drove down the street and immediately contacted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Upon the deputies’ arrival, Belew provided clear, detailed information about what he had observed. It was soon discovered that a woman and child were being held at gunpoint. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office responded with additional Patrol officers and the SWAT team. When deputies went to the door of the residence, the woman who was being held escaped. The gunman remained inside with a child. After negotiating with the gunman, he agreed to surrender without further incident. Belew’s calm and prompt action in a highly volatile hostage situation resulted in the release of a woman and child being held at gunpoint.