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Trooper who saved boy’s life earns officer of year award

By Seth Burkett· 340-2355

HOOVER — The Alabama Retail Association named a state trooper from Decatur’s post the Law Enforcement Officer of 2006 on Tuesday.

Retailers recognized Trooper Dwight Thompson, 26, of Elkmont with the award for saving a five-year-old boy from drowning during a canoeing accident and for helping police uncover a series of auto thefts.

Thompson patrols Limestone County for the troopers.

On April 22, motorists told him some children were in trouble at a nearby pond. Thompson followed them to the irrigation pond of a nearby nursery, where a frantic mother pointed out the bodies of two children floating face down near a capsized canoe.

Thompson threw off his belt, uniform shirt and ballistic vest and jumped in the water to pull Sergio Sevastin Cortez of Tanner to safety. Emergency personnel arrived on the scene and took over, but the boy’s father and 8-year-old sister drowned in the accident.

Thompson received the Department of Public Safety’s Life Saving Medal for his heroic efforts at the scene.

“I was glad that I could help the family. I was in the right place at the right time,” Thompson said.

Vehicle thefts

On March 4, amid a series of thefts of disabled vehicles from roadsides in Limestone County, Thompson stopped a tow truck on Interstate 65 and discovered the driver did not have the vehicle owner’s permission to move the vehicle he was towing.

Thompson notified Athens police, who later discovered 25 stolen vehicles at the suspect’s home. For helping police solve 28 stolen vehicle cases, Thompson received the Director’s Citation for exceptional meritorious service.

Thompson also crossed into Madison County one night to aide SWAT team members in dealing with a domestic dispute that resulted in the stabbing of a sheriff’s deputy, and he visited schools to show students how troopers use math to investigate at accident scenes.

Thompson said he joined the state troopers after receiving an associate degree in criminal justice from Calhoun Community College. “I love it. I’m here to stay. As long as I’m a trooper, I’ll be happy,” he said.

Sgt. Tim White, assistant Decatur post commander, nominated Thompson, whom he described as a “model trooper,” for the Law Enforcement Officer award.

Thompson honored

“I was very honored, a little bit surprised (to receive it),” said Thompson, who was chosen by panel of officers, former LEO winners and retailers from 24 nominees throughout the state.

Among the nominees were Limestone Correctional Facility officers Darwin Halbrooks and Richard Stover, for saving a couple and their dog from a burning house in April on Nick Davis Road in Athens. Decatur Driver License Cpl. Christopher B. Robinson was also nominated for using training in immigrations and customs enforcement to ensure applicants are entitled to licenses.

The LEO Award was presented at the ARA board of directors meeting Tuesday at the Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Hoover. Thompson received a crystal trophy and a roster plaque to hang at the Decatur trooper post until the 2007 Officer of the Year is named. The ARA also made a $1,000 charity donation in his name.

Thompson, an Athens native, lives in Elkmont with his wife, Shanna.

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