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KSP Post 13 troopers cited for excellence; some of the work occured in Letcher Co.

Ten troopers and detectives at Kentucky State Police Post 13 in Hazard were recognized by the agency for excellence in service during a ceremony in Lexington.

The 10 were among 55 troopers and officers recognized statewide by the agency for acts of service. The awards to Post 13 troopers included citations for Trooper of the Year, Detective of the Year, Meritorious Conduct, and Bravery.

“Our troopers and officers put themselves in harm’s way every day, but these acts of heroism and service stand above the normal call of duty,” KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. said at the ceremony. “Each of these recipients has demonstrated both bravery and self-sacrifice in protecting the citizens of the commonwealth.”

Trooper Patrick Bailey, a two-year veteran of the force, was named Trooper of the Year for the post. Detective Eric Caldwell, who has served for 12 years, was named Detective of the Year for the post.

Detective Vicki Day, a 22-year veteran of the KSP who is assigned to the Drug Enforcement and Special Investigations East Unit (DESI East) but works out of the Hazard post, was named Detective of the Year for DESI East.

One trooper and one detective assigned to each post is awarded the Trooper of the Year and Detective of the Year award each year and recognized for general excellence. The Meritorious Service Citations and Bravery Citations are awarded for specific incidents.

Trooper Brandon Thomas, a 21-year veteran, and Trooper Isaac Whitaker, a 12-year veteran, each received the KSP Citation for Meritorious Service.

According to an official account, KSP was requested on October 14, 2020, to respond to a report that a man had shot two children at Montgomery Creek in Perry County.

Then-Detective Thomas responded and upon arrival, a woman ran out of her residence, which was next door to where the shooting occurred. She stated her daughter had fled with the children to her residence after their father had shot two of the children. She explained the shooter was still inside the residence next door.

Thomas went inside with the woman to render aid to the two children – while deputies set up a perimeter. One child, 12 years old, was shot in the neck and another, 2 years old, was shot in the head. Detective Thomas, who was a certified emergency medical technician before becoming a trooper, began CPR and rendered aid.

While Thomas was performing CPR, deputies outside of the house began yelling as the situation with the shooter escalated. Thomas instructed the woman to continue CPR while he went out to assist the other units. Trooper Whitaker arrived on the scene and Detective Thomas explained that the children inside needed immediate medical attention. Thomas provided cover for Whitaker to get the kids and the mother out safely to his cruiser and to an ambulance down the road. Their commander says both troopers stepped into a dangerous, active situation without hesitation and protected and saved the lives of a family.

One of the children later died from her wounds. The other survived after being airlifted to a Tennessee trauma center.

Trooper Christopher Collins, also a 21-year veteran, Trooper Joshua Huff, an eight-year veteran, Trooper Ora Moore, an eight-year veteran, Trooper Jerry Baker Jr., a four-year veteran, Trooper Bruce Kelley, a 25-year-veteran, Trooper Matthew Gayheart, an eight-year veteran, and Trooper Ronald Long, a 24-year veteran, all received the KSP Citation for Bravery.

The official citations for Collins, Huff, and Moore says the incident for which they were recognized was In May of 2016, when Detective Collins, and Troopers Huff and Moore were dispatched to a call reporting an intoxicated man arguing with family members.

Prior to arriving at the residence, dispatchers told troopers the domestic situation had intensified and the man was discharging a firearm outside of the residence and was threatening to shoot and kill anyone who would try to intervene.

Trooper Huff was first on the scene and as he was arriving at the residence he witnessed the man walk into his house. As Trooper Moore and Detective Collins arrived, they took cover behind their cruisers and established contact with the subject, requesting that he peacefully exit the home. On multiple occasions, the man stated he wanted the troopers to kill him while also making menacing movements toward them. The troopers talked with him trying to reach a peaceful outcome.

The incident took a turn when the man brandished a pistol, holding it under his own chin threatening to kill himself. The troopers continued a dialogue until the man turned his pistol and aimed it at the troopers on the scene. All three troopers discharged their weapons at the man, eliminating the direct threat to fellow troopers. Their commander said that their actions saved the lives of fellow troopers.

The citations for Baker, Kelley, Long, and Gayheart stem from an incident on May 21, 2019. Post 13 troopers were attempting to locate and serve arrest warrants on Christopher Brown in Letcher County. That day, the citation says, Baker conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle with a stolen license plate and learned the suspect had requested that the driver meet him and that the suspect was driving a gold SUV.

Baker got the suspect’s cell phone number and was able to “ping” his location. Troopers decided to check the parking lot at the Daniel Boone Motor Inn for the SUV – which they found. When the officers approached, the SUV accelerated, leading to a pursuit. After several miles, the suspect turned onto a roadway at Vicco with no exit and briefly stopped driving. Trooper Baker stopped his cruiser and began giving verbal commands. Trooper Kelley arrived in the area and the suspect drove the SUV into the passenger side of Trooper Baker’s cruiser. Both Trooper Baker and Kelley gave verbal commands – but the suspect did not comply.

The suspect backed the SUV toward Trooper Kelley’s cruiser, and then turned the steering wheel toward Kelley, who was standing at the rear of the car, attempting to strike him. Trooper Kelley discharged his weapon – but the SUV was still approaching. The SUV’s back tire made contact with Trooper Kelley’s left leg and as he tried to push his body away from the tire, the front of the SUV swung around and hit him. The SUV then continued toward Trooper Baker and hit his cruiser. Baker discharged his weapon as it approached, but the SUV did “doughnuts” striking both troopers’ cruisers several times before stopping, the citation says. At that time, Troopers Long and Gayheart arrived on the scene and began approaching the vehicle. Trooper Long was giving verbal commands when the suspect moved his hand toward an AR- 15. Troopers Long, Gayheart and Kelley discharged their weapons – putting an end to the incident. The troopers’ commander says they all took the necessary actions to save the lives of themselves and each other – “upholding the highest values of the Kentucky State Police.”

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