President Donald Trump will appoint Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor as United States marshal for the Southern District of Texas, according to a White House news release Friday.
O'Connor, a Republican, has served as Victoria County sheriff since 2005.
Previously, he filled various law enforcement positions in sheriff's offices for Refugio, Goliad and Victoria counties.
He also taught a class on law enforcement professionalism and ethics at Victoria College's Law Enforcement Academy from 2002 to 2004.
O'Connor has served as president of the South Texas Coastal Sheriff's Alliance, which includes 23 counties along the Coastal Bend, as a former President of the Coastal Bend Peace Officers Association, and board chair of the Law Enforcement Alliance Project.
He earned a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University, where he was also a former vice chairman of the university's board of regents.
In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry appointed him to the Texas Border Security Council, which creates performance standards, reporting requirements, audit methods and other procedures for the Homeland Security Fund.
This is a developing story and additional comments and details will be added as they come available.
Jon Wilcox reports on courts for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 361-580-6515.
INTERDICTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN is designed to make patrol officers aware of the variety of resources available to assist them in establishing the status of a child who may be missing, exploited, or at risk of exploitation and what courses of action are immediately available. • FREE two-day training course • Students are responsible for their own meals.
WHEN:October 8-9, 2019 (8a-5p each day)
WHERE:Coastal Bend CollegeRoom 162704 Coyote Trail, Alice, TX 78332
Hosted by 79th Judicial District Attorney's Office*Seating is limited*
*This Course is accepted as the equivalent of TCOLE Course 3275 *
GEORGE WEST – In an illustrious career that has spanned four decades, Live Oak County Sheriff Larry Busby recently received one of the highest awards given to Texas sheriffs.
“The Tom Tellepsen Award is named in honor of the late Tom Tellepsen, a native of Norway, who became a staunch and patriotic American,” according to the Sheriff’s Association of Texas.
“The Tellepsen Foundation, which was created to honor his lifelong support of law enforcement, provides this award.
“The foundation trustees unanimously approved the initial establishment of this award in 1975.
The award consists of a plaque and $2,500 from the Tellepsen family on behalf of the Tellepsen Foundation.
The recognition is highly esteemed by law enforcement, according to the association.
“The Tellepsen Award is the highest of tributes to the sheriff who is selected as its recipient.
“The selection criterion includes the recognition of outstanding contributions to the advancement of law enforcement and criminal justice and honors more than ability and performance.
“The recipient, who must possess these qualities, must additionally have demonstrated the human element that engraves his/her name in the hearts of all the law enforcement community, and a genuine love of the profession.”
Although he is the longest serving sheriff in Texas currently in office, the award is not given based on one’s longevity in office.
Busby, who began serving as Live Oak County’s sheriff on Jan. 1, 1981, said he was honored to receive the award. “This is a great honor, and I am thankful that my department and I have been recognized,” Busby said. “I’m thankful to be serving in this community.
“This is a once in a lifetime award, and it’s really a reflection of the great people we have working for the Live Oak County Sheriff’s Office.”
Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or email@example.com
Trooper Moises Sanchez
Retired San Patricio County Deputy Walter Loving
Retired Nueces County Constable Ronnie Polston
720 Interdiction Strategies was founded with a single goal; to provide an education in roadside behavior analysis and contraband concealment in a manner that places the student’s needs as their only priority. 720 Interdiction Strategies is a program built and taught by a full-time criminal interdiction officer for officers wishing to sharpen the tip of their observation spear.
To find out how to schedule a training go to www.720interdiction.com
GOLIAD – Coastal Bend Crime Stoppers is starting a tri-county – Bee, Goliad and Live Oak – awareness campaign.
The organization’s president, Judy Ranalli, outlined the outreach program to county commissioners June 25. “We want to put signs up on all the county roads,” she said, telling the court her organization needed help in understanding where the signs would be allowed. She also requested a county map showing all its roads.
The proposed signs would be two feet tall by 18 inches wide.
Crime Stoppers personnel would assist in erecting the signs.
Ranalli said once the locations were chosen for the signs, she hoped to have them in place within a month.
She said she also would be coordinating with the City of Goliad as well as the post office to place signs here.
Older signs, already in the county, may not reflect the tri-county emphasis, she said.
“I want to see us grow,” Ranalli explained after her presentation to the court. Many people do not understand that just because Crime Stoppers is based in Bee County, its responsibility covers three counties, not just Bee County.
Crime Stoppers was organized in 2006 in Bee County; it expanded to Goliad and Live Oak counties four years later.
It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization funded by grants, public donations and two annual fundraisers – one in January which coincides with National Crime Week and a baked potato sale in September.
In addition to operating a tip line, coordinated by its law enforcement officer, Mike Showalter, the organization also operates a safe school program by which students can report instances of bullying and a scholarship program for high school seniors.
Crime Stoppers also is becoming active in social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Bill Clough is the Goliad editor at the Advance-Guard Press and can be reached at 361-645-2330, or at goliad@mySouTex.com
NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Porch pirates beware, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed House Bill 37 into law, making it a felony to steal mail and packages from someone’s property.
Now anyone convicted of package theft will face anywhere from 6 months to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. The severity of the punishment depends on how many times a theft was committed and the value of the stolen item/items.
Currently in Texas package theft is prosecuted similar to shoplifting, with a Class C Misdemeanor ticket or a Class B Misdemeanor charge.
Under the new law if a thief steals from less than 10 people they will face a state felony charge; steal from between 20 and 50 people it’s a second-degree felony; and people accused of stealing from more than 50 people will face first-degree felony charges.
The incidents of package theft have risen as more people do their shopping online and opt for home delivery. A survey estimated that more than 25 million Americans had a package stolen from their home during the 2018 holiday season.
State Representative Gene Wu of Houston authored the bill that goes into effect on September 1.
Throughout the centuries, soldiers and warriors have looked for better and better ways to fend off attacks and keep themselves safe from deadly weapons. From knights in shining armor to Japanese Shogun warriors, personal protection has always been a priority of those going into battle. Leather, chainmail and steel were the primary materials in armor, with conventional thinking falling on the idea that the harder the material the better the protection. Swords and knives were the most common weapon of choice.
Now that bladed combat is no longer as common today and bullets are the biggest threat, all those heavy, rigid, and bulky materials have been replaced with much lighter-weight synthetic fibers that can be sewn together into ballistic vests designed to be hidden under clothing or even made into the clothing itself, such as a windbreaker or a pair of pants. Erroneously called “bulletproof vests” when they first emerged, ballistic armor is really only bullet-resistant. Even the best body armor can be penetrated with a powerful enough bullet or repeated shots. It’s not indestructible.
But how much force does it take to stop a bullet, and how exactly does body armor work?
The interior of the armor is where the bullet stopping takes place. The outside carrier is mostly decorative, designed to either match a uniform or be neutral enough to go with anything. However, the inside consists of two different materials that work together to create the true stopping power of the vest.
Choosing the Right One
There are two basic categories of body armor: concealable and tactical. Which level is right for you? That depends on the situation. Types I through III-A are the most common levels worn by police officers during everyday patrol, as most of the armed criminals they are likely to encounter will carry small-to-medium caliber handguns. These vests tend to have the slimmest profiles, allowing for easy concealment under a uniform shirt or inside a uniform-matching outside carrier.
Type III and IV are often reserved for tactical/SWAT teams who are likely to face .223, .308, and other high-velocity rifle rounds. These vests are designed to be worn over a uniform or thrown on atop concealed armor at a moment’s notice, especially for first responders to a high-risk incident.
How do you know what type of armor will suit your needs? The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) sets the standards for body armor manufacturers, broken down by six protection levels:
Para-Aramid Weave Soft Armor
Bullets don’t bounce off body armor, of course. That would be extremely dangerous, as the bullet could ricochet off the vest and hit innocent bystanders. The vest itself would also be extremely heavy and cumbersome and therefore impractical for everyday use. Instead, today’s armor catches the projectile inside a tight weave of synthetic yarn known as para-aramid thread, a material that by itself is not strong enough to stop a bullet but gains tremendous grabbing power when woven into tight layers. The most widely-recognized brand of bullet-stopping para-aramid thread is Kevlar® by DuPont. However, many other manufacturers now make similar products that are used in armor around the world.
In addition to para-aramid weave, laminates such as ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) also make great bullet-stopping materials. Dyneema® is one brand of UHMWPE that is commonly found in ballistic armor because it is incredibly strong – up to 15 times stronger than steel, in application – extremely durable and up to 40% lighter-weight than para-aramids.
While soft body armor with para-aramid thread is designed primarily to prevent penetration from handgun bullets, such as 9mm, .40, and .357, for example, sometimes additional protection is needed in high-risk situations. That’s where a second component in the bullet-stopping world comes into play. Typically made from metallic or ceramic materials, ballistic plates (also called trauma plates) can be inserted into the front and back of a vest to add a second layer of protection to stop higher-velocity rounds, such as those fired from a rifle or certain higher-powered handguns.
While bullets are now the primary threat to armor wearers, sometimes they do still face edged weapons. Today, the NIJ rates armor not just for ballistic stopping power but also its ability to protect against blades. Stab resistance is broken down into “edged blade” and “spike” designations. Certain body armor is an excellent barrier for knife attacks. Level 1 and Level 2 protection are typically found on concealable bests while Level 3 is more commonly found in external vests. Propper currently provides Level 1 and Level 2 “spike” certified packages and is working on a Level 3 option.
For body armor to perform the most effectively, it must cover the wearer’s vital organs and other important areas, so it needs to fit properly. There are two basic designs for body armor: 2-panel “clamshell” and 4-panel wraparound. The 2-panel configuration offers good front and back protection but can be a bit uncomfortable and doesn’t provide the same level of side intrusion protection as a 4-panel design, which includes dedicated side panels that work independently from the front and back and reduce the potential gap between the front and back of a 2-panel vest. Every person is slightly different in height and girth, so to assure the maximum protection and to make it as comfortable as possible to wear, each vest should be custom fit to the individual wearer. Men and women have different fit needs, as well.
Whichever body armor you choose, make sure it is appropriate for the level of protection you need and that it fits right.
AVID_CREATIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES
The estimated number of law enforcement officers who died by suicide outnumbered those who died in the line of duty for the third straight year in 2018, a newly released study shows.
According to the organization, at least 159 officers took their own lives in 2018 — the same number of suicide fatalities it tracked in 2017 and 19 more than in 2016.
By contrast, the estimated number of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty last year was 145, according to an annual report released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
In December alone, 20 officers died by suicide, whereas only 10 line-of-duty deaths were reported.
“The single greatest cause of death for law enforcement officers each year is suicide,” said Jeff McGill, vice president of Blue H.E.L.P.
The suicide fatalities include 151 men and eight women. The average age was 41, with an average length of service of 15 years.
Four states – California, Florida, New York, and Texas – had the highest number of officer suicides, with each state reporting at least 10 fatalities in 2018.
Because the federal government does not mandate the reporting of officer suicides, Blue H.E.L.P. must obtain and verify raw data from a number of sources, including individual law enforcement agencies and surviving family members.
“We know there are other tragic deaths by suicide that we don’t know about,” said Steven Hough, co-founder of Blue H.E.L.P. “So as bad a number as we have this year, we’re saddened by the fact that we know in reality the number is higher.”
According to experts, law enforcement officers die by suicide at a higher rate than those in other occupations, aside from the military. Common threads between suicides have been cited, including pressures of the job.
The Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic institution, also found that first responders die by suicide at a higher rate than people in the general population, according to an April 2018 report.
Blue H.E.L.P. advocates for increased availability of mental health resources for law enforcement. The organization also seeks to normalize the treatment of post-traumatic stress symptoms.
“There is very little money being spent to reduce the numbers of officer suicides,” said Karen Solomon, president and co-founder of Blue H.E.L.P. “We hope that by raising awareness about the scope of this problem — and shining a light on the need for increased mental health resources directed to officers approaching crisis — we can ultimately reduce the number of officers who die by suicide.”
The organization said the number of deaths could change as it tabulates incidents from the end of the year.
As for 2019, on New Year’s Day at least one officer has already reportedly died by suicide.
“Taking a real stance on officer safety will require us to address the elephant in the room,” Solomon said. “Addressing officer wellness which includes spiritual, mental, social, and physical health should be the number one priority for each agency head in 2019.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
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Vehicle pursuits, drug trafficking, and dead bodies cast out by human smugglers are common occurrences in Refugio County
BY CHARLOTTE CUTHBERTSONDecember 17, 2018 Updated: December 17, 2018
REFUGIO, Texas—An illegal alien must travel through at least five counties beyond the U.S.–Mexico border to reach Refugio, Texas, population around 7,300.
Most illegal aliens nabbed by local law enforcement were on their way to Houston, just 165 miles northeast, said Sheriff Raul “Pinky” Gonzales.
“Houston is like a staging area for them. And from there, some of them go to California, some go to New York, a lot of them go up north to Boston,” he said in an interview on Nov. 8. Vehicle pursuits are a common occurrence in Refugio County, which is just one of 254 counties in the state.
Just that morning, two different groups of illegal aliens were captured. In one instance, a vigilant driver saw a hand sticking out of the bed of a pickup truck and called authorities.
Nine illegal aliens and the smuggler, or “coyote,” were subsequently arrested.
In a second incident on the same morning, a vehicle pursuit from a neighboring county entered Refugio. The chase ended when the vehicle, carrying nine illegal aliens and their coyote, stopped and all 10 tried to flee on foot. Law enforcement scooped them all up.
Gonzales said he also has found the bodies of illegal immigrants dumped by smugglers.
“They put them in trunks in cars, they put them in trucks—where the temperature gets to 130, 120 something degrees—no water, no food, no air. And they die. And they’ll just throw them out on the side of the road,” he said.
On patrol, Sheriff’s Deputy Luis Flores aims for making two vehicle stops per hour—24 in a shift.
With 276 possible traffic violations in Texas, he has a lot to work with. Over several hours, he stopped vehicles that didn’t have a license plate light, or were missing a tail light, or whose plates were partially obscured, as well as drivers who were speeding, and more.
“I look for small violations, which gives probable cause for stopping,” he said. “I have a conversation—see where they’re going and what they’re up to. I look for cues and indications of other activity.”
But his goal isn’t to hand out tickets—most of the time, drivers get a simple warning or citation. The goal is to find the bigger crime—drugs, illegal aliens, warrants out for arrest, and so on.
“I love picking apart people’s stories,” Flores said. He listens for too much or too little detail in their explanations. Flores is ex-military and has spent two years as a deputy in Refugio. One of his most satisfying finds was during a traffic stop of an elderly women driving an old Nissan.
“I felt very victorious when we found $500,000 hidden in her bumper,” he said. “Money is super hard to find—it doesn’t have an odor and it’s easy to hide.”
The deputies patrol alone, but there are usually at least two vehicles out, as well as the local police officer. They back each other up constantly.
Flores said he calls for backup at the first sign of trouble, “ever since a group of aliens that I stopped told me that if my backup didn’t arrive so quickly, they would’ve got in a gun fight with me,” he said.
What the deputies do in Refugio might seem like small potatoes, but considering three of the 19 terrorists involved in 9/11 were pulled over in four separate incidents in the months prior to the terror attacks, a traffic stop could turn into something significant.
Gonzales said that if he wanted to, he could probably round up hundreds of illegal immigrants living in his county, but as a law enforcement officer, he concentrates on illegal activity.
“I don’t care if you come from Mars, if you’re committing a crime here in my state or my county, I’m going to tend to you accordingly,” he said.
On Nov. 8, local Refugio City police officer Tammy Gregory picked up a man for going 50 miles per hour in a 35 zone.
She discovered the man, Jose Carrasco Leon, was from Mexico. He didn’t have a U.S. driver’s license, but had lived in the United States for 16 years and was married to a U.S. citizen.
Gregory said it’s likely the man had not legalized his status, because Border Patrol contacted her to request custody of him once the police had finished processing him.
Gonzales said drug trafficking was common in his county. “We catch a lot of illegals with drugs,” he said. “We caught the cartel No. 2 drug runner here in my county. He was on a train smuggling drugs.”
In May last year, deputies seized 500 pounds of marijuana and a cartel member, after railroad officials noticed three people traveling on a Southern Pacific freight train that had originated at the border.
“They loaded up in Brownsville, heading to Houston. How much of that goes on and how much do we miss?” Gonzales said.
Recently, the sheriff had to deal with the slaying of two of his dogs by illegal aliens trying to evade law enforcement.
The two tracking dogs were trained to find lost children or Alzheimer’s patients, and they would bark once they located the person.
But this time, when the dogs found the group of illegal aliens in the brush and barked to alert the deputies where they were, they were killed.
“They strangled two of our dogs for no reason. These guys that killed these dogs, they could have very well killed one of my deputies or any other law enforcement,” Gonzales said.
“And these are the type of illegals that we deal with. … Not all of them come here in good faith. A lot of them come here to do wrong, get in gangs, and get involved with sex trafficking—they’re not all good.”
Gonzales is all too familiar with illegal activity on the southwest border. Before coming to Refugio County, he spent years as a boat captain on the Rio Grande in Texas—the dividing line between the United States and Mexico.
“We picked up bodies. Like in a week, we’d pick up to 10 bodies,” he said. “A lot of times we’d see kids that had drowned, trying to swim across by themselves. The parents are the ones that sent them by themselves.”
He said he helped a lot of teenage girls and would ask them how they got across, and why they were there without parents.
He was often told, ‘Well, our parents told us to come here.’”
“And they’d tell me horror stories about what they had to go through to come here. They were raped, they were vandalized, a lot of them. They’re used as sex slaves. [The smugglers] bring them across and use them as sex slaves here in the United States,” Gonzales said.
“So a lot of time, these people are victimizing their own people for revenue, for money, and that’s what people don’t understand.”
Gonzales said he would often stop at the grocery store before a shift to buy extra drinks and food for the illegal aliens he would undoubtedly encounter.
“I feel very sorry” for them, he said. “They’re human beings, you know. We’re supposed to love them. But we as law enforcement, we took an oath that we would abide by the law and protect and serve our people.”
He said it’s very hard to do that when you can’t track people who cross illegally and evade law enforcement.
“You know once they blend in with the population, they’re gone,” he said. “They can commit serious crimes, [then] they can just pack up and go back home and we’ll never find them.”
Gonzales said 80 to 90 percent of the illegal aliens he picked up on the river were not from Mexico.
“They were from El Salvador, Honduras, from India, China—we’d catch a lot of Chinese—people from all over the world,” he said. Many said they traveled by boat to Brazil, where they met a smuggler who escorted them through Mexico and to the United States.
“Some people are here to better their lives—and it doesn’t make it right—but not all of them,” he said.
Gonzales said he has caught a lot of gang members, especially MS-13, as well as criminals who had been deported. In one case, two men who had been deported after serving prison sentences were back a week later, illegally, with a group of Hondurans.
“These Hondurans weren’t the type of guys that came to look for work. They were tattooed up, you know. One of them didn’t have an ear, they were just scar-faced. I mean, you could tell they weren’t good hombres,” he said.
Gonzales said he is glad President Donald Trump has enhanced border security and sent active-duty military to help stop illegal crossings.
“We can’t [have] this group of people come and invade our country. This caravan, the majority of them are males—flying their flag,” he said. “To me, that’s intimidating.”
He said he thinks many of the politicians who often side with illegal immigrants are looking for future votes.
“The difference between these [illegal] immigrants coming in now, they’re trying to bring their country into our country,” he said. “We are the United States of America, and I think this oughta be a Christian country the way our forefathers perceived it to be.”
However, Gonzales said the illegal immigrants he catches aren’t as confident as they were during the Obama era.
“When Obama was in office, these illegal immigrants were very cocky with us. They went on about ‘the Dream Act, Obama, the Dream Act,’” he said.
“They were very cocky. Like, ‘hey, we’ve got our rights and we’re going to become citizens because of the Dream Act Obama’s introducing.’”
Gonzales said most Americans don’t understand what law enforcement deals with as far as illegal alien crime.
“It’s very, very hard to do our job,” he said. “We already have thugs that are citizens here, we already have bad people—we don’t need any more.”
“As a sheriff, as a leader in law enforcement, I’m very concerned about my people’s safety. I’d feel horrible if somebody got injured, seriously injured, or killed, because [of]—I don’t care if they’re illegal or not, but especially—an illegal person. They shouldn’t have been here to begin with.”
The sheriff provided a snapshot of what it takes for law enforcement to deal with one vehicle pursuit of an illegal alien.
“It costs a lot of taxpayers’ money chasing these people, [it] costs a lot of man hours. When a county deputy or a DPS state trooper gets on the chase, you get all different law enforcement agencies involved in the chase—you know, we’re trying to back each other up. There could be 12 officers for one chase, for four or five hours. A lot of times, they’ll wreck their vehicles, damage their vehicles,” he said.
“It’s a burden to us, it’s a burden to the people of the United States.”
Follow Charlotte on Twitter: @charlottecuthbo
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