Exceptional Public Servants Recognized with 2023 Director's Award of Valor
JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI - At an Oct. 3 ceremony, 13 members of the Missouri Department of Corrections team were presented with the Director's Award of Valor, an honor bestowed on corrections staff who act in a heroic or courageous manner on or off duty despite personal risk.
The 2023 award recipients include people who have physically placed themselves between a weapon-wielding assailant and a colleague, who have walked into a room literally engulfed in flames to usher someone to safety, who have stayed at the center of an ongoing catastrophe to help a stranger in need, and who have shown the fortitude, focus, and strength of character to stay calm in the face of tremendous danger and bring about best possible resolution.
Maryville Treatment Center
Shawna O’Brien was traveling with family members on I-435 in Platte County when a group of eight motorcycles approached from behind and passed her, cutting off O’Brien’s vehicle and forcing her to brake. The motorcycles then lined up in front of her vehicle and took off at a high rate of speed. Two crashed into each other, ejecting the riders as the motorcycles rolled off the road.
O’Brien stopped her vehicle on the shoulder, and she and her mother jumped out to help the injured riders. As they rendered assistance, a semi-truck crashed into a nearby vehicle that had stopped for the accident, but O’Brien persisted in performing CPR on an unresponsive rider until emergency personnel arrived. One rider was pronounced deceased at the scene while the other was taken by helicopter to a hospital for treatment of serious injuries.
The act of heroism performed by Ms. O’Brien demonstrates her profound compassion and her willingness to place herself in harm’s way in the interest of helping someone in need.
Dara Lechman, Kelly Laymon, Richard Brown, Daniel Koch, Brad Clark
Southeast Correctional Center
Officer Dara Lechman was working in the infirmary at Southeast Correctional Center when she saw smoke and flames emanating from an occupied cell. She immediately called a Code 70 and instructed the occupant to exit the cell, which was open. The offender refused to leave.Officer Kelly Laymon then arrived on the scene, grabbed a fire extinguisher, entered the cell, and doused the burning mattress, putting out the fire. Overcome by smoke, Lechman began having an asthma attack and exited the cell, followed by Laymon. Still the offender refused to leave.
At that point, Officer Richard Brown, Sergeant Daniel Koch and Lieutenant Brad Clark entered the cell through thick smoke and repeatedly directed the offender to submit to restraints. He refused. Clark and Koch then each held one of the offender’s arms and escorted him from the cell and to the medical lobby, where he was assessed by medical staff.
The act of heroism performed by these officers prevented a larger fire, including a possible explosion, as well as potential serious injuries. They risked their own safety to ensure the wellbeing of patients and staff in the infirmary.
Macey Dasaire, Gregory Varner
Potosi Correctional Center
Officer Nita Dunn was entering the control room of a housing unit at Potosi Correctional Center when an offender sitting outside on a security bench freed himself, charged toward Dunn, gained access to the control room, and closed the door behind him. He then grabbed Dunn, held a prison-made weapon to her face, and demanded that Officer Macey Dasaire, the other staff member in the control room, open all of the cell doors. Dasaire tried to radio for help, but the offender threatened to kill Dunn if Dasaire didn’t comply.
Hoping to de-escalate the situation and buy time for other staff to respond, Dasaire maintained composure and asked the offender a series of questions. Eventually the frustrated offender removed the weapon from Dunn’s face, and Dunn broke loose and accessed the control panel, opening the control room door. Sergeant Gregory Varner then rushed into the room and tried to secure the offender, who repeatedly stabbed at Varner. Together, the three officers disarmed and restrained the offender. Varner sustained a superficial neck wound.
The act of heroism performed by these officers prevented serious injury and loss of life. Officer Varner, Officer Dasaire and Officer Dunn risked their own safety to protect not only one another but also everyone else in living and working in the housing unit.
Bradley Lilley, Fedrick Wilson, Angela Dobbins
Jefferson City Correctional Center
A Code 16 was called at a housing unit at Jefferson City Correctional Center when an offender was seen apparently hanging in his cell. Sergeant Timothy Bade, Case Manager Bradley Lilley, and officers Fedrick Wilson and Angela Dobbins immediately responded.
When Bade and Wilson entered the cell, the offender jumped to the floor, revealing a prison-made weapon tied to each hand, and stabbed Bade in the ribs. Bade deployed pepper spray and attempted to exit the cell with the other officers, but the offender attacked Bade, whose vision was impaired by pepper spray. Wilson tackled the offender and attempted to take him to the floor, at which point the offender began assaulting Wilson, stabbing him six times in the face, neck and head. Officer Dobbins and Case Manager Lilley pulled the offender off Wilson and restrained him.
The act of heroism performed by these courageous staff members prevented more serious injury and loss of life.
Chyna Taylor, Louis Jegede
Jefferson City Correctional Center
When a fight broke out in a cell at Jefferson City Correctional Center, officers Chyna Taylor and Louis Jegede quickly intervened, inserting themselves between the two offenders and separating them. Officer Taylor had placed one offender in handcuffs and begun to escort him out of the housing wing when the second offender ran toward Taylor and her charge with a prison-made knife. Officer Jegede thwarted the attack on Taylor by grabbing and spinning the knife-wielding assailant, placing himself in harm’s way. As Taylor removed and secured the offender in her charge, the second offender thrust his weapon at Jegede’s abdomen until Taylor returned to help. Together, the two officers were able to disarm and restrain the attacker. To their great relief, Jedege’s only injury was a bruise to his ribs.
The act of heroism performed by these officers prevented serious injury and loss of life. Officer Jegede and Officer Taylor protected not only one another but also everyone else in living and working in the housing unit.