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Three Denton police officers recognized at UNT during annual police banquet

Three Denton police officers recognized at UNT during annual police banquet

Members of the Denton Police Department and the Hundred Club of Denton pose for a picture in the Union at UNT. The Hundred Club of Denton donated $20,000 to Denton Police Department for new lightweight bulletproof vests.

Three Denton police officers recognized at UNT during annual police banquet
May 20
13:26 2016

Adalberto Toledo | Staff Writer

 @adaltoledo29

Two cold and wet spring nights will forever stay with three Denton Police officers decorated with the Denton Police Department’s medal of valor Thursday night.

More than 200 people packed a ballroom in the University Union Thursday for the 18th annual Denton Police Department awards and appreciation banquet in recognition of National Police Week, presented by the Hundred Club of Denton. At the end of the night, officers Hunter Gay, Tony Fletcher and Jared Stevenson had medals pinned to uniforms as they recalled their life-changing evenings.

“We did what we had to do,” Gay said. “It feels good, but it feels good that we could have been there.”

A life-saving plunge 

On May 14, 2016, Gay and Fletcher received a notice that two people had fallen into a drainage ditch and were being carried by the rushing waters as heavy rain poured down on them.

Both officers immediately began the search, and after hearing a woman’s cry, they jumped into the chest-deep waters and rescued her. The other victim was deceased and found further downstream.

Fletcher acknowledged he and Gay were lucky to have been in the right place at the right time, saying the floodwaters could have easily carried her further away.

“We were already soaking wet from the rain, so we didn’t notice how cold it was,” Fletcher said. “When we found her she was under the bridge, and she was moving pretty fast.”

Gay said if it wasn’t for her location, they may not have found her.

“We got really lucky circumstance-wise, where she was and when she was,” Gay said. “We were lucky we got to her.”

Hunter Gay (Right) and Tony Fletcher (Left) receive medals of valor May 19th in the Union at UNT during the 18th annual Denton Police Department Awards and Appreciation Banquet hosted by the Hundred Club of Denton. Fletcher and Gay were recognized for their response to two drowning victims who fell in a drainage ditch in March of this year. They were able to save the female victim, however the male victim died.

Hunter Gay (Right) and Tony Fletcher (Left) receive medals of valor May 19th in the Union at UNT during the 18th annual Denton Police Department Awards and Appreciation Banquet hosted by the Hundred Club of Denton. Fletcher and Gay were recognized for their response to two drowning victims who fell in a drainage ditch in March of this year. They were able to save the female victim, however the male victim died. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor 

A not-so-happy ending 

For Officer Stevenson, the story behind his medal was much more tragic.

On his way home from dropping his kids off at his in-laws’ house, Stevenson saw an accident on Lewisville bridge, which involved a man’s car that had fallen into the lake along with a man who tried to rescue him. Off-duty, Stevenson jumped into the freezing waters, swam toward the man, grabbed him and swam toward the shore where others awaited.

Unfortunately, he was too late. The man had died from the impact of the crash.

“I feel honored, but at the same time humbled because somebody lost their life,” Stevenson said. “The end goal wasn’t this.”

Stevenson said it’s difficult to remember certain parts of the night, but he does remember being cold and wet while seeing the man through the murky water. The next memory he said he has is pulling the man up to the shore and realizing there were four other good samaritans around him.

“There’s good people out there,” Stevenson said. “We [the police] are supposed to do that, but these were just average citizens. It was a big learning lesson for me.”

Erin Stevenson, Stevenson’s wife, said she was worried when her husband had not gotten home, but it was when she got a call from an unknown number and heard his voice when she really knew something was wrong.

She said not being able to save the man’s life has haunted her husband.

“I’m worried since then about his mental state. I guess you could say it was traumatic,” Erin said. “I know that he’s beating himself up because he thinks he could’ve done something different. I’m humbled by his bravery.”

Jared said he couldn’t sleep that night and routinely thought of things he could’ve done differently.

“Should I have jumped off the bridge? Should I have not let him go for a second because I was tired from swimming?” he said. “It comforts me that I didn’t fail, but at the same time, I would rather have met him the weekend after and met his family rather than go to his funeral.”

Jared Stevenson received a medal of valor May 19th in the Union at UNT during the 18th Annual Denton Police Department Awards and Appreciation Banquet. Stevenson was recognized for his off-duty response to a drowning victim who's vehicle had fallen off a bridge into Lewisville Lake. He was able to pull the victim onto shore, however the victim had died from the impact of the crash.

Jared Stevenson received a medal of valor May 19th in the Union at UNT during the 18th Annual Denton Police Department Awards and Appreciation Banquet. Stevenson was recognized for his off-duty response to a drowning victim who’s vehicle had fallen off a bridge into Lewisville Lake. He was able to pull the victim onto shore, however the victim had died from the impact of the crash. Tomas Gonzalez | Visuals Editor

Denton PD receives contribution from Hundred Club

The remainder of the banquet consisted of giveaways, other awards, a silent auction and speeches from Hundred Club of Denton board members.

Since being founded in 1954 in Detroit to help a police officer recover from his wounds, the Hundred Club has raised over $80 million to help educate new officers, provide financial help for families of deceased officers and provide life-protecting equipment.

The club gave the Denton Police Department a check for $20,000 to buy lightweight bulletproof vests that are not as cumbersome and hot for the officers.

“If someone is injured in the line of duty, or if they just plain need help with something, we’re here for them,” Hundred Club of Denton chapter vice president Frank Dudowicz said. “We ask what they need, and we provide it for them.”

Chapter president Janey Howell emphasized the immediacy of the financial help, which she said is made possible by the support of local business, citizens and officers who support the Denton chapter.

On Thursday night alone, they estimated $60,000 in funds raised for the department.

“We’ve never had this many people before,” Howell said during her speech. “This is a perfect way for officers to acknowledge each other’s achievements and for the community to show support and encouragement to them.”

As attendees exited the ballroom, many stopped by to shake the hands of the three newly decorated officers. Members of the public, city council members, Denton mayor Chris Watts and congressman Michael Burgess of the Texas 26th congressional district all attended the banquet and extended their congratulations to the officers.

“It means a lot that you do what you do,” Burgess said to the trio. “I try to do what I can for you when I can. We truly appreciate all your hard work.”


Other award recipients from the evening:

Patrol Officer of the Year — Chris Plank

Medal of valor — Hunter Gay, Tony Fletcher, and Jared Stevenson

Special Assignment officer of the Year — Derek Bradford

Supervisor of the Year — Lt. Frank Padgett

Rookie of the Year — Marqui Kilson

Communications officer of the year — Saul Dominguez

Civilian of the Year — Tiffany Wei

Volunteer of the Year — Diane Dunn

Featured Image: Members of the Denton Police Department and the Hundred Club of Denton pose for a picture in the Union at UNT. The Hundred Club of Denton donated $20,000 to Denton Police Department for new lightweight bulletproof vests. Tomas GonzalezVisuals Editor

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