TPWD Honors Game Wardens, Citizen, Who Go Beyond Call of Duty

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AUSTIN, Texas — Game warden Michael Boone was off-duty when he heard about friend and fellow warden Wesley Wagstaff’s fatal car accident while en route to an ’Operation Game Thief’ call last November. Although shocked by what happened, he called his officers and Wagstaff’s family and notified them of the accident. Boone later responded to the OGT call himself and arrested a man for illegally shooting a white-tailed deer outside of the hunting season.

His professionalism in a time of grief has earned him recognition, along with four other game wardens and one civilian, from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s law enforcement division.

"It’s an honor, but I did what Wesley would have wanted me to do," Boone said. "He wouldn’t have wanted us to lay down, so we didn’t lay down. We’re still in forward motion here."

Boone received the Midwest Officer of the Year award April 13. Game Wardens Kevin Malonson and Susan Webb received the Humanitarian Award, which is awarded to those who give their time to comfort and support a fellow employee during a crisis. Malonson and Webb helped the family of Michael Pauling, a game warden who was killed in the line of duty Aug. 2, 2001. Webb also worked to fulfill the needs of Wagstaff’s family.

The division also honored warden Ernest Lerma and Joe Bill Powell, a private citizen, for their quick action administering first-aid to Game warden James Turner. The warden had a seizure while the men were patrolling for illegal hunting activities near Kirbyville Oct. 23, 2003. Lerma’s actions, which saved Turner’s life, earned him a Medal of Merit for services rendered beyond the normal course of duty. Powell received a Director’s Award given to private citizens who assist law enforcement employees.

"They’ve made outstanding accomplishments above and beyond the call of duty," said David Sinclair, TPWD’s Chief of Wildlife Enforcement. Sinclair is the chairman of the Awards Review Board, which receives nominations four times a year to honor hard-working game wardens.

Game wardens work every day to protect Texas wildlife and civilians, sometimes putting themselves in danger to help others. Although he is honored by the recognition, Boone said, "There are many, many game wardens in the state of Texas that deserve the same thing."