Trooper of the Year
Three troopers were honored at the 30th Annual Trooper of the Year awards luncheon on Wednesday, March 10 in Oklahoma City. Troopers Rocky Northcutt, Kent Martin and Patrick Mays have been chosen as 1998 recipients of the award.
Northcutt and Martin will be presented heroism awards for a 1997 incident that left Northcutt wounded and one man dead.
On Jan. 20, 1998, Martin was on routine patrol on US Highway 70 where he stopped a westbound vehicle with New Mexico license plates for speeding. When the driver could not produce a valid license, Martin radioed for a computer check.
Northcutt was also on patrol approximately five miles away and heard the return radio transmission that advised the driver was under suspension. Although license suspension is a routine occurrence, Northcutt sensed that Martin might need assistance and called him on the cellular phone. Martin consented to Northcutt's offer to stop by his location.
Upon arrival, Martin asked Northcutt to watch the driver while he checked on the passenger. Northcutt took the driver to the side of the vehicle to search him for a weapon. Martin opened the door, and asked the passenger to step out of the vehicle. The passenger came out with a gun pointed at him. Martin grabbed the weapon with both hands and they dropped to the ground struggling for the weapon. Northcutt pushed away from the driver and drew his weapon, moving to the front of the vehicle, positioning himself to assist his partner and watch the driver.
When Northcutt glanced back, the driver had a gun pointed at him. Northcutt fired several rounds striking the driver who dropped to his knees, raised his gun and shot Northcutt in the abdomen hitting him below his protective vest in his lower abdomen.
Northcutt fell to the ground, believing he sustained a fatal wound. He could see Martin still fighting the passenger for the weapon and knew he had to help his partner.
Northcutt yelled to the passenger to drop his gun. The passenger tried to shield himself behind Martin. Northcutt aimed and fired his gun shooting the passenger in the head, killing him instantly.
Martin fled to his patrol car and called for an ambulance. He saw the driver sit up and take aim at Northcutt. Martin ordered the driver to drop his weapon, but the driver swung his aim toward Martin. Martin fired twice at the driver who fell to the ground.
An off-duty deputy arrived to assist. He disarmed the driver as Martin returned to help Northcutt.
"Both troopers displayed exceptional acts of courage in what was literally a life and death fight with two career criminals. There is little doubt that they ultimately saved each other's lives," said Lieutenant Chris West.
The surviving driver was tried and convicted of crimes committed in this incident and was sentenced to 140 years in prison.
Northcutt and Martin both returned to duty just months after the incident. They are assigned to Troop F Headquarters in Ardmore and join three previous award recipients from that area.
Mays will receive the Trooper of the Year award for humanitarianism for his quick response in saving the lives of flood victims near Broken Arrow.
Mays waded and swam through flood waters to rescue the occupants of two vehicles stranded in water four to six feet deep. A Broken Arrow police officer witnessed the rescue and credited Mays with saving the victims' lives. The officer contacted the Highway Patrol with the story about Mays.
"Mays had little regard for his personal safety while initiating the rescue. It's this selfless devotion while on duty that keeps within the highest traditions of the Highway Patrol," said West.
Altus Television Productions and the video production unit of Cox Communications received the Highway Patrol's Jerry Marx Award for outstanding journalistic efforts.
"Here in the Public Information office we interact a tremendous amount with the media. So when we have an opportunity to honor those who report factual, accurate and timely stories or public service announcements, we look forward to commending their efforts," said West. "We appreciate media who share a genuine concern for public safety."
On March 15, Northcutt was named national Trooper of the Year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He and his wife Cheryl, daughter Marissa and son Gunner were flown to Alexandria, Virginia where Northcutt received a plaque at the IACP convention banquet.
"This was a first for an Oklahoman and we were thrilled when he received this prestigious national recognition," said Colonel Gary Adams, chief of the Highway Patrol.
A news conference was held at the Blue Room of the Oklahoma State Capitol and Gov. Frank Keating honored Northcutt with a proclamation and declaring March 18 "Rocky Northcutt Day."
Northcutt was one of four finalists selected according to region and was chosen from all state and provincial law enforcement officers by IACP members for his exemplary actions.