JESSUP, Md. –- Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Woodrow Jones III today presented 2020 employee of the year and other outstanding performance awards to Department employees for actions above and beyond the call of duty.
During an abbreviated event with limited attendance that included appropriate health precautions, Sergeant Roger Schwarb of the Criminal Enforcement Division was named Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year. The Trooper of the Year is a criminal investigator also assigned to the Criminal Enforcement Division. PCO II Krystle Aull, of the North East Barrack, was awarded Police Communications Operator of the Year and PCS Bethany Richards, of the JFK Memorial Highway Barrack, won Police Communications Supervisor of the Year.
“Your actions made an impact, made a difference and made Maryland safer and stronger for our citizens and our families,” Maryland State Police Superintendent Colonel Woodrow Jones III said. “Each of you being honored today acted in an extraordinary way, displaying bravery in times of danger and relentless commitment in times of challenge. All of you performed with an outstanding sense of duty to the citizens of Maryland whom we serve. You represent the spirit of integrity, fairness and service that has guided the Maryland State Police for 100 years.”
Sergeant Roger Schwarb, the 2020 NCO of the Year, was acknowledged for his work as an investigator, a supervisor, a mentor, and someone always helping other troopers become more professional. During just one of his many investigations last year, Sgt. Schwarb was contacted by the Computer Crimes Unit and asked to investigate a fraud case involving an elderly man who had fallen victim to an internet scam. The victim had been defrauded of more than $5,000.
Sgt. Schwarb worked with the FBI to determine the IP addresses were from out of the country. Instead of giving up when confronted with that obstacle, he persevered. He worked with the Target department store at the corporate level and was able to obtain information surrounding the transactions, as well as video surveillance. Ultimately, he was able to develop a suspect, obtain a search warrant and identify multiple suspects in an international theft ring that was using telephone fraud, gift cards and other criminal means to obtain products that were then being shipped out of the country for sale in other parts of the world.
The 2020 Trooper of the Year is a trooper first class assigned to the Criminal Enforcement Division. He is not being identified due to the types of duties he is assigned, which can include working as an undercover investigator. The narrative of his work last year reads like a law enforcement highlight reel.
During a crime suppression initiative in Cecil County, he made a traffic stop that led to a probable cause search and the recovery of a firearm, ammunition, and crack cocaine. The two occupants of the vehicle were arrested and further investigation by the trooper identified the suspects as members of a violent street gang from Newcastle, Delaware. Additional information he developed led to the closure of a shooing in Delaware and the recovery of more ammunition and felony amounts of drugs.
During an investigation into a violent home invasion in Cecil County that led to the federal prosecution of seven suspects, the trooper obtained information regarding the identity of a suspect in a cold-case homicide in Harford County. The victim was murdered in Edgewood in February of 2019 while delivering food for a local restaurant.
The suspect was identified as a ranking member of the Bloods criminal gang. The trooper, assisted by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office and ATF, pursued additional investigative avenues to corroborate the information and, as a result of interviews, search warrants and a lot of investigative work, the trooper and allied investigators developed additional evidence of the suspect’s involvement in the victim’s murder. Two additional suspects identified as co-conspirators are also expected to be charged.
In another case, the trooper was off-duty when he made a traffic stop on I-95. A probable cause search uncovered $100,000 worth of ketamine. Two suspects were arrested, who were believed to be transporting the drugs from Brooklyn, New York, to Baltimore. They were identified as being involved in an elaborate trans-continental drug distribution organization.
Police Communications Operator of the Year Krystle Aull, of the North East Barrack, was commended for her professionalism and for making the safety of the troopers her main priority. She ranked number one at the barrack for the entry and clearance of warrants and is known for her ability to multitask even during stressful and demanding situations.
One example of her work occurred in July when, during a busy shift, she took a call from someone who said they had just watched their neighbor stab and kill someone. PCO Aull immediately dispatched troopers, took down additional information, and called for EMS, all while keeping the caller calm and on the line during the chaotic event. She was recognized by the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit for her work during this incident.
Police Communications Supervisor of the Year Bethany Richards is described by her colleagues as ‘the best supervisor anyone could hope for,’ ‘the best of the best,’ and ‘a hard-working supervisor who is honest, fair and willing to do anything she asks of her PCOs.’ She oversees the warrant program at the JFK Barrack and is an instructor in multiple areas related to police communication work.
In August, PCS Richards was the communications operator when troopers from the JFK Barrack were involved in a multi-state vehicle pursuit of a felony suspect. She maintained communications, while answering incoming calls on the phone and radio. She updated locations so troopers could deploy stop sticks on the pursuit route. During the pursuit, a trooper was severely injured in a crash. Without hesitation, PCS Richards contacted EMS and assigned troopers to remain at the crash scene while coordinating troopers who were still involved in the pursuit. As the pursuit moved out of state, she coordinated with allied law enforcement. The suspect was ultimately arrested in Pennsylvania.
Trooper First Class Matthew McWilliams was presented a Governor’s Citation for bravery. On December 10, 2019, Trooper First Class Matthew McWilliams was working the stationary post at the Parkton scale house, when a truck driver stopped and reported that a vehicle was on fire just north of the scale house. TFC McWilliams responded and found a tractor trailer off the roadway with the truck tractor fully engulfed in fire. He ran to the burning vehicle and located the driver, who was partially ejected from the cab of the truck. The driver’s feet were pinned under a portion of the cab and his lower body was on fire.
TFC McWilliams used a fire extinguisher to spray down the driver. Someone stopped with additional extinguishers and the trooper continued to fight the fire. He was able to suppress the fire to the point that the driver was no longer on fire, but attempts to pull the driver free had been unsuccessful.
During the rescue attempt, the diesel fuel tank exploded, covering TFC McWilliams with fuel, but he continued trying to save the driver. When fire department personnel arrived, TFC McWilliams continued assisting with rescue efforts until the driver was freed and transported to the hospital.
During his heroic actions to rescue the driver, TFC McWilliams suffered 1st degree burns to both of his arms. He also injured both his legs, with lacerations, bruising, swelling, and a knee injury. In addition to these injuries, TFC McWilliams was also treated for smoke inhalation. He was transported to a hospital for treatment of his injuries.
A letter of thanks received afterwards described TFC McWilliams as a true hero who risked his own life to save the driver from the fiery hell that was his truck cab. It went on to say that words could not express how grateful the writer was that TFC McWilliams and others did not hesitate to save their loved one that day.
Additional awards were presented for lifesaving, being injured in the line-of-duty, and for outstanding performance in assigned duties.