Game Warden Named “State Officer of the Year” by NASBLA

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HOUSTON — Texas Game Warden John Thorne has been selected as the “State Officer of the Year” and the “Southern States Officer of the Year” by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Executive Director Carter Smith presented the award to Thorne at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting Thursday in Houston.

Thorne holds a Master Peace Officers Certificate, issued through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. He also received his masters’ degree in fisheries and wildlife science from Texas A&M University- College Station in 1999.

Stationed in Freestone County, Thorne’s area includes a portion of the Richland-Chambers Reservoir, covering about 41,000 acres. He is also responsible for enforcement activities along 50 miles of the Trinity River.

As a state game warden, Thorne has encountered a variety of law enforcement scenarios since graduating from the department’s training academy in 2002.

He has been involved in about 80 boating while intoxicated and boating under the influence arrests in his 12-year career. Two years into his career, Thorne filed 11 BWI’s in one summer. This past summer, he and a less-tenured warden filed five BWI’s in one day.

He has also worked with local prosecutors to streamline a protocol for the issuance of search warrants to draw blood from those who refuse to provide a specimen.

Thorne is one of the few trained drug recognition experts in the department. He is also a member of the newly formed TPWD K-9 team, where he has assumed a team lead role.

He has attended boat accident investigation training, which has helped him handle more than 15 boat accidents, two of which involved fatalities with alcohol as a factor and several other non-fatalities that involved drugs and alcohol.

Thorne became a member of the TPWD Law Enforcement Division’s Critical Incident Team in 2004 and has used his training numerous times during drowning incidents, boat accidents, officer-involved shootings and most recently to aid first responders following the fertilizer plant explosion in West.

An active member of his community, Thorne continually looks for ways to educate the public about water safety as well as other educational programs offered by TPWD. He routinely takes kids boating, hunting, and fishing in an effort to promote safety and expose them to the outdoors. Thorne is a district leader in offering educational programs at schools, civic clubs, and outdoor oriented organizations.

He was instrumental in coordinating the rescue of two men, a woman and a small child on cedar Creek Lake when their boat capsized in a storm. In wind blowing more than 40 miles per hour, Thorne positioned the patrol boat so that two other wardens could get to those in need.

On another occasion, he helped save the life of a father of a Texas state trooper. The man and a friend became stranded on Lake Palestine after their boat capsized in a storm. The trooper’s father tied himself to a stump where he remained for 12 hours. Sadly, his fishing companion had perished before help could come, but one life was saved due to the response of Thorne and the other present game wardens.

Most recently, Thorne and his partner launched a boat into a rain-swollen creek and rescued an elderly couple whose pickup had been washed from the roadway as they were trying to make an early morning doctor’s appointment. Due to their age and surroundings, neither could help themselves as the water continued to rise so they sat in the truck seats in chest high water. The two wardens risked life and limb to fight the current and rescue the couple.

Thorne will be competing against two other officers for the “National Officer of the Year” award that will be announced in Bar Harbor, Maine at the October NASBLA Conference.