The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is proud to recognize and honor First Responders. Thank you for your dedicated service to our community.
First Responder of the Year honorees are nominated by various law enforcement and fire-fighting agencies that represent the eight counties of the Houston metropolitan area. These agencies submit nominations for prospective candidates from their respective organizations. This year, we have the honor of recognizing 10 first responders who showed innovation, exhibited bravery and performed life-saving efforts.
Congratulations to these 10 Houston-area first responders on being named the First Responders of the Year!
Seabrook Volunteer Fire Department
On July 7, 2020, at 10 p.m., three-foot waves were crashing in the darkness in Galveston Bay. Above the sound of the water, police officers and bystanders saw a girl 300 yards from shore, clinging to a life jacket. Assistant Chief Andy Castiglione didn’t hesitate, he grabbed his water rescue gear and swam the length of three football fields to rescue the 13-year-old. As Assistant Chief Castiglione brought the child back to shore, he learned that she had been clinging to the life jacket for six hours, after her mother and stepfather had died in an earlier boating accident. Andy Castiglione’s bravery and quick thinking helped to prevent another tragedy. Castiglione saved this young girls’ life.
Harris County Precinct 4
On July 7, 2020, Constable Mark Herman’s office responded to a family disturbance call on Ella Blvd. Upon arrival, the deputies were able to speak with one of the involved parties, but they received a shocking response after knocking on the door to speak with the second individual. After opening the door, the deputies were met with gunfire, and one deputy was hit multiple times. Deputy Martinez drew his firearm to return fire at the shooting suspect, while he simultaneously grabbed the injured deputy to move him to a place of cover. Once they were out of the line of fire, Deputy Martinez began to administer lifesaving first aid treatment to his injured teammate, while still trying to keep both of them safe from harm. In the process of helping his injured colleague and defending them both from the suspect, Deputy Martinez suffered his own injury, but thanks to his quick thinking and swift actions, he and his injured teammate are alive today. And no other deputy was injured.
Houston Police Department
- Police Officer Jose H. Gutierrez
- Police Officer Patrick G. Michon
- Detective Hever A. Martinez
- Detective Antonio J. Otero
- Police Officer Zachary D. Gagner
On July 12, 2020, Officer Jose Gutierrez was out on patrol like any other shift. On this day, he was on W. Montgomery Road when he saw a dark cloud of smoke coming from a nearby house. He acted quickly, calling the fire into dispatch, but he didn’t stop there. While he waited for help to arrive, he used his personal fire extinguisher to knock on the front door, trying to alert any residents who were inside the building. He kept knocking and yelling that they needed to “get out, [the] house is on fire!” During this time, his call for help was answered as four more officers arrived. Officers Michon, Martinez, Otero and Gagner immediately jumped in to help Officer Gutierrez when they heard voices come from inside the burning building. Officer Gutierrez then used a shovel to pry off the burglar bars protecting the door, trying to reach the family inside. Officer Otero rushed over to help, and together, they were able to remove the bars and open the front door. Once inside, the officers saw two people were trapped in the burning house. They reacted swiftly, guiding the residents out of the home. While these two brave officers were in the building, Officer Martinez saved a dog that was hiding underneath a burning vehicle. Officers Gagner and Michon also saved two terrified dogs who were in the yard. HFD arrived, and the officers were shocked to realize it had only been six minutes since they’d initially gotten on scene. The quick actions taken by these officers saved these lives, as the residents had been fast sleep and were unaware the house was on fire. As a token of thank you, the station’s Hero Fund presented the officers with $100 gift cards, but Officer Gutierrez wasn’t done. He returned to the family to give them the gift card he’d received for his heroics.
Harris County Precinct 5
Sometimes, heroics are shown through acts of kindness, and Deputy Franklin Salas’ kindness saved a man’s life. Over time, Deputy Salas had built a friendship with a homeless Navy veteran named Christopher. One evening, Christopher was transported to the Houston VA hospital for substance abuse and treatment, but once he arrived at the facility, he found there were issues with his paperwork. After his service discharge, Christopher’s military papers had been filed incorrectly, but Deputy Salas stepped up. First, he assisted with getting Christopher’s VA paperwork filed correctly for his treatment, and he didn’t stop there. Deputy Salas then helped to reconnect Christopher with his estranged daughter and paid for a hotel room so the veteran could shower and sleep in comfort. Shortly after, thanks to Deputy Salas getting the paperwork corrected, Christopher was successfully admitted to the VA hospital for drug addiction treatment. Unfortunately, not too long after his detox release, Christopher was hit with another impossible challenge when he was robbed, assaulted and left along I-10. Deputy Salas contacted Christopher, found him along the busy highway, and helped get him to safety. At this point, Christopher broke down and told Deputy Salas that he wanted to go back home. After tracking down Christopher’s mother, Deputy Salas made arrangements to get him back home. He took Christopher to the bus station and purchased a one-way ticket so Christopher could be reunited with his family. Through his kindness and generosity, Deputy Salas showed true heroics.
University of Texas – Houston Campus
In May of 2020, several University of Texas police officers working at the Houston campus responded to a call at a parking garage. Once they reached the garage at the Professional Building, they found a man threatening to jump. He was on the outside of the building, holding on only to the external railing. Many officers tried to de-escalate the situation and bring the man back inside, but only Officer Raul Tenorio made a connection with him. Using skills he’d learned as a rookie officer, including verbal influence and de-escalation tactics, Officer Tenorio successfully formed a bond with this troubled individual. He showed this man patience, care and empathy. Through his calm response and genuine interaction, he succeeded in talking the man off the ledge and back to the safety of the garage. His patience, compassion and successful use of de-escalation tactics truly saved this man’s life.
Federal Taskforce Deputy Constable
Harris County Precinct 5 Drug Enforcement Administration
Throughout 2020, Harris County Constable Precinct 5 Deputy Jason Rogers was determined to track down violent, high-ranking members of a Houston-area gang and uncover their drug distribution process. After countless hours of work, Rogers successfully identified the gang’s supplier as a violent cartel. He executed 18 wire intercepts and five search warrants pursuing the gang and its supplier. Rogers successfully identified and located several ranking members of the gang’s drug distribution, as well as their storage locations. After learning that only a single leader of the gang received multiple kilograms of the dangerous drug fentanyl, Rogers quickly secured additional search warrants, as well as several arrest warrants. During the execution of these warrants, Rogers was able to bring down a Houston-based methamphetamine laboratory that was in the process of producing meth for gang distribution in Houston. Rogers’ hard work and dedication led to the arrest of 13 gang operatives, including several violent offenders suspected of attempted murder and homicide, as well as the gang’s leader. He also seized more than $850,000 in currency and assets, 11 guns, and hundreds of pounds of drugs, including meth, cocaine, heroin and gray death. Deputy Rogers tireless efforts and determination drove his mission to help dismantle the drug distribution chain infecting neighborhoods and destroying young lives in our city.