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Exemplary officers recognized at annual Denton police banquet

Denton police Officer Hunter Gay likely wasn't thinking of an award when he jumped into fast-moving waters to save a homeless woman last year.

But after he and another officer rescued her from a flooded drainage ditch near McKinney Street and Bell Avenue, his supervisors and colleagues noticed.

Gay received the Patrol Officer of the Year award at the Denton Police Department's 19th annual awards banquet Thursday evening at the University of North Texas Union. More than 200 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the Hundred Club of Denton, a support group for police officers and their families.

Like all the award recipients, Gay was nominated by his peers.

"[Gay] is known for having a positive attitude and beginning every shift prepared to be the best officer he can be," according to his nomination letter, which was read aloud to the audience. "He has a strong work ethic, often taking calls prior to being dispatched."

Before presenting the awards, Denton police Chief Lee Howell emphasized the significance of daily police work. He mentioned the July 7 attack on Dallas Police Officers, the death of Little Elm Detective Jerry Walker and other local and national police shootings to highlight the dangers of being an officer. 

"It helps set the stage to show just how remarkable and heroic it is for police officers and law enforcement personnel to come to work every day and do what they do in light of those sort of events," he said.

As the country celebrates National Police Week, two Denton officers received department's life saving award. Officer April McDonough was recognized for moving a man, who had been unable to move on his own, away from a large house fire before firefighters arrived on the scene last year.

"Your actions on this call are directly responsible for saving the victims' life," Howell said as he presented the award.

Officer Roopak Nair was recognized for performing chest compression on a man who lost consciousness as police tried to restrain him last year. Nair had been responding to a call of a suspicious person jumping on cars. The 21-year-old suspect struggled with officers as they attempted to restrain him, and Nair noticed he lost consciousness during the incident, Howell said during his presentation. 

Several other officers, civilians and dispatchers were honored during the roughly two-hour ceremony.

Officer Craig Fitzgearald won Special Assignment Officer of the Year award for his vital role in confiscating more than 6,300 grams of marijuana and 854 grams of methamphetamine last year. He assisted in seizing more than $25,000 in cash and 15 firearms from felons last year.

Fitzgearald, who got a reputation for his dependability as a street cop, assisted with 335 arrests last year, 235 of which were felony arrests, his nomination letter said. 

Lt. Frank Padgett won the Supervisor of the Year award for the second straight year. Padgett oversees Denton's growing downtown district and has been an integral part of the Denton's homeless support community. By collaborating with local businesses and social service organizations that support area homeless, Padgett has taken a measured approach to dealing with transients in the city.

Lt. Frank Padgett, left, shakes hands with Deputy Chief Lenn Carter after winning the supervisor of the year award during the Nineteenth Annual Denton Police Department Awards and Appreciation Banquet at the UNT Student Union, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRCDRC
Lt. Frank Padgett, left, shakes hands with Deputy Chief Lenn Carter after winning the supervisor of the year award during the Nineteenth Annual Denton Police Department Awards and Appreciation Banquet at the UNT Student Union, Thursday, May 18, 2017, in Denton, Texas, Jeff Woo/DRC
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Dispatcher Dana Mays, who her colleagues said is known for keeping calm during stressful calls, won the award for Communications Officer of the Year. And Sandi Richardson, described in her nomination letter as the "unsung hero" of the department, won Civilian Officer of the Year.

Wayne Grissom received the Volunteer of the Year award for his continued service to the department. Grissom graduated from the citizen's police academy two years ago and currently serves as president for the academy's alumni association.

"[Grissom] regularly serves in the police department's training center three to four days a week assisting in whatever capacity he is needed," according to Grissom's nomination letter.

Officer Jared Raye won Rookie of the Year. Raye helped raise money and for a recently widowed mother and her three children last year. He was able to help raise money for the family's living expenses without the widow's knowledge.

To round out the award recipients, Officer Dustin Meyers won Reserve Officer of the Year. His 814 volunteer hours in 2016 accounted for 30 percent of all reserve hours worked in the department.

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.