Awards

Deputy Amber Lewis and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez

Deputy Amber Lewis

On Wednesday, August 16, 2017, Deputy Amber Lewis of the Mental Health and Jail Diversion Bureau received the Lifesaving Award. This is the third highest honor that the Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez can bestow upon a deputy. Deputy Lewis, along with Deputy Jenkins and Sergeant Hilborn, responded to an in-progress suicidal male with a long gun.

Upon arrival, they found the male inside of a Toyota Prius with a 20-gauge shotgun attempting to put the gun to his head. A plan was immediately formed and executed where the passenger window was broken out while the male was distracted. After breaching the window, deputies successfully deployed a Taser and physical tactics allowing them to enter the vehicle, wrest the shotgun from his hands, and placed him safely in handcuffs.

Deputy Lewis and the other two responding members of this office acted swiftly and courageously. Had it not been for the valorous acts of these members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, we would certainly not have had such a positive outcome.

Deputy Jose Gomez

Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) Deputy Jose Gomez received the Life Saving Award on August 9, 2017. Deputy Gomez was called by patrol deputies to check by on a family violence call. Upon arriving, Deputy Gomez was met by the patrol deputies who were outside the residence. Deputy Gomez could hear a male inside the residence yelling and throwing household items around. The owner of the residence came out and explained that the male was his son (in his thirties), had serious mental illness, and was in a psychotic episode. The father went on to say his wife was in the house and he feared for her safety. His wife was bedridden due to injuries sustained months ago by the son. Deputy Gomez could hear a window breaking and saw the son with blood on his hands and arms. Deputy Gomez made the decision to enter the house due to exigent circumstances.

Upon entering the house the son picked up chairs and threw them at the deputies. He showed extraordinary strength, opening a refrigerator door with one arm and slinging the refrigerator across the kitchen trying to hit the deputies. Deputy Gomez observed the son had turned the gas stove on causing all burners to freely spew un-ignited gas into the kitchen. Deputy Gomez went to grab the son but the son turned and slapped Deputy Gomez in his left eye, smearing a large amount of blood onto Deputy Gomez's face. During this apprehension the son was able to grasp Deputy Keller by the neck. Another deputy tried to taser the son but was unable to. The son was safely brought to the ground by the deputies and restrained. He was safely transported to Ben Taub Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

(Above left to right) Assistant Chief Debra Schmidt, Criminal Justice Command; Detention Officer Frank Spicher, Mental Health Unit; Major John Martin, 1200 Justice Housing Bureau.

Detention Officer Frank Spicher

The first-ever Joseph A. Trapolino award was presented to Detention Officer Frank A. Spicher on Thursday, July 13, 2017. Officer Spicher is a four-year HCSO veteran currently assigned to the Mental Health Unit in the 1200 Baker Street Jail. Spicher is also assigned to the jail Crisis Intervention Response Team.

Named for slain Deputy Joseph A. Trapolino (the seventh deputy to die in the line of duty at the HCSO), this award recognizes the outstanding performance of a Harris County Sheriff's Office mental health team member working within the county jail.

In 1936, Deputy Trapolino was attempting to serve what was then known as a "lunacy" warrant at a residence off Pease Street, about 15 blocks from the HCSO's current headquarters. The suspect confronted Deputy Trapolino and his partner with a shotgun. As the two deputies retreated, Trapolino was mortally wounded in the back. Due to Deputy Trapolino’s popularity within the community, the suspect had to be protected from a mob of some 2,500 citizens armed with guns and clubs.

Trapolino was survived by his wife, Della Grace Trapolino, and his eight-year-old daughter.

Now 90 years young, Deputy Trapolino's daughter Della Grace Trapolino Guarino, attended this morning's ceremony along with her children and other family members.

Congratulations to Detention Officer Spicher. We are grateful to him and the entire Mental Health team for their care and commitment to those in custody at the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Sergeant David Hilborn,

Deputy Amber Lewis,

Deputy David Jenkins

On Monday, January 23, 2017 District One Sergeant David Hilborn, Deputy David Jenkins, and Deputy Amber Lewis responded to a call involving a suicidal male. Upon arrival they found the male inside of a Toyota Prius with a 20-gauge shotgun, attempting to put the gun to his head. A plan was immediately formed and executed where the passenger window was broken distracting the male. After breaking the window, the deputies successfully entered the vehicle, wrested the shotgun from the male's hands, and placed him safely in handcuffs. He was taken to the Neuropsychiatric Center for emergency psychiatric evaluation.

Sergeant Hilborn and Deputies Jenkins and Lewis acted swiftly and courageously, putting their lives at risk to help a person in need. Had it not been for the valorous acts of these three members of the Harris County Sheriff's Office the male very well may have committed suicide. The Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion applauds their actions. Job well done!

The trio received the CIT Deputy/Supervisor of the Quarter Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Houston.

(left to right) Deputy Amber Lewis, Sergeant David Hilborn,

and Deputy David Jenkins

Ms. Alice Brink, Executive Director, NAMI Greater Houston and Deputy Michael Elizondo

Deputy Michael Elizondo

Deputy Elizondo was credited with taking a despondent man down from the ledge of State Highway 99 ramp and Interstate 10 west in west Harris County. On Wednesday, August 24, 2016 at around9:20 a.m., deputy Elizondo responded to a 911 call of a 25-year-old man who was found sitting with his legs over the side of State Highway 99 entrance ramp. That part of the ramp is well over 100 feet above the ground.

Deputy Elizondo made contact with the male who was in a mental health crisis and threatening to jump to his death. Deputy Elizondo, along with other personnel on the scene, engaged the male in conversation and encouraged him telling him that people cared for him and loved him. They stated they would get him help for his problems. After about 30 minutes Deputy Elizondo asked the man if he wanted some water. The male stated he did and started to climb down to get the water. Deputy Elizondo and a Harris County emergency medical technician escorted the male safely from the ledge.

The male was evaluated by medical personnel on the scene and taken to the Neuropsychiatric Center for emergency mental health evaluation.

Deputy Elizondo was compassionate and professional in his interaction with this suicidal individual. His actions helped resolve this potentially fatal situation safely. The Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion applauds the actions of Deputy Elizondo. A job well done!

Jail Mental Health Unit

 Program of the Year for 2013

 

 

The Harris County Downtown Central Jail Mental Health and Medical Security Unit was honored as the Program of the Year for 2013 by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. The award recognizes programs of excellence among the thousands provided by accredited prisons, jails and juvenile facilities. In the program, deputies receive special training and assignments for working with inmates with mental illness. Six sergeants and 124 deputies are assigned to the medical and mental health units, which are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To be eligible to join this elite team, the officers must undergo rigorous training in skills such as crisis intervention, use of force, de-escalation techniques and suicide detection, and must obtain certification as a mental health peace officer. This approach has decreased use-of-force incidents and has eliminated any need in the past two years for clinical or custody-ordered restraints. The deputies work with medical personnel employed by the Sheriff’s office and the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County.

“The Harris County jail functions as the largest mental health institution in Texas. We are delighted to honor them for their innovation, compassion and understanding of the unique challenges of mental illness in the justice system,” said Edward Harrison, CCHP, NCCHC president and CEO.