Austin, tx — The Texas Public Safety Commission and Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw today presented two Medals of Merit, a Unit Citation and three Director’s Awards to individuals who helped target those who prey on children. Texas Rangers and other law enforcement officers were honored for their efforts in the 2008 raid and subsequent investigation into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ (FLDS) Yearning for Zion Ranch in Schleicher County that resulted in multiple convictions for sexual assault of children. Also, DPS Sgt. Derek Prestridge was honored for a groundbreaking program to teach patrol officers to identify missing and exploited children.
“The eyes of the nation were on Texas during the FLDS raid, and in the end, the rights of children to be free from sexual predators in Texas prevailed, and every defendant was convicted, including their ringleader, Warren Jeffs,” said Director McCraw. “Additionally, Sgt. Prestridge saw a need and filled a law enforcement void with a program to train officers to identify children in danger during traffic stops, including human trafficking. It is a program that will continue to yield results and protect innocent children.”
Sgt. Derek Prestridge, Training Academy Austin, received the prestigious Medal of Merit for development and implementation of the Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) training program. The program teaches troopers and officers how to identify, recognize, intervene and remove endangered children without obvious signs of abuse being present. Sgt. Prestridge coordinated and instructed the first IPC School for Highway Patrol In-Service Training at the DPS Training Academy. As a result of this initial and continued training, there have been 17 criminal arrests, 53 missing or exploited children recovered, and 90 reports submitted related to child endangerment. Due to the overwhelming success of the IPC, Sgt. Prestridge and the Texas Rangers have presented this program to FBI Child Abduction Response Team members. This presentation has led to discussions of how to coordinate IPC efforts through the National Intelligence Center.
Texas Ranger John “Nick” Hanna, Company E San Angelo, received a Medal of Merit for his efforts in the complex investigation into the illegal FLDS activities in Schleicher County beginning April 3, 2008. The purpose of the initial search warrant was to locate evidence related to allegations of sexual assault of a child. Ranger Hanna was assisted by the Texas Rangers Company E, as well as other members of DPS, Child Protective Services and other local law enforcement entities. As a result of this search warrant and investigation, in which thousands of hours were expended, 11 defendants were convicted for offenses including Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child and Bigamy. These convictions included the leader of FLDS, Warren Jeffs, who received a life sentence for his criminal activities.
Texas Rangers Company E received a Unit Citation for efforts related to the FLDS investigation. Major Brooks Long, Major Shawn Palmer, Captain Bob Bullock (retired), Captain Barry Caver (retired), Staff Captain Aaron Grigsby, Lieutenant Brian Burzynski, Lieutenant Dewayne Goll, Lieutenant Jesse Valdez, Staff Lieutenant Dave Duncan, Ranger Danny Crawford, Ranger John “Nick” Hanna, Ranger Philip Kemp, Ranger Burleigh Locklar, Ranger Mike Parker, Ranger Phil Vandygriff, Ranger Don Williams, Ranger Steve Boyd (retired) and Ranger Jess Malone (retired) were all recognized as part of the Unit Citation.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran received a Director’s Award related to the FLDS investigation. Sheriff Doran proved to be an indispensable resource during this investigation because of his previous experiences and knowledge of the FLDS ranch and its residents. His knowledge provided significant intelligence information utilized in the search warrant execution and subsequent search for evidence. Additionally, his logistical support of the initial search over the course of six days proved invaluable to the involved officers and investigators.
Sgt. Wesley Hensley, Office of the Attorney General, received a Director’s Award for his efforts related to the FLDS investigation. Sgt. Hensley’s assistance facilitated the successful prosecutions of the defendants at great personal sacrifice, including extended absence from his home and family. Sergeant Hensley’s efforts were critical to the successful outcome of the FLDS investigation.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Johnathan Broadway received a Director’s Award for his efforts related to the FLDS investigation. For more than three years, he contributed significantly in uncovering and identifying financial structuring, tax evasion and funding methods of the FLDS. This information and his courtroom testimony provided insight into their various financial activities, which was invaluable in providing an overall view for the jury to better understand the operation of the FLDS.