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October 05, 2010

LITTLE ROCK -- Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today recognized Wildlife Officer Michael K. Neal of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as the Officer of the Year at the Attorney General's 2010 Outstanding Law Enforcement Officers of the Year awards ceremony.

Neal, of Moro, received the award at the annual Statewide Law Enforcement Summit sponsored by the Attorney General's Office and the Arkansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Other recipients, representing each congressional district, were Cpl. Ronnie Stewart of the Arkansas State Police, District 1; Sgt. Willie Davis of the Little Rock Police Department, District 2; Cpl. Barney Parsons of the Fort Smith Police Department, District 3; and Sgt. Brady Gore of the Arkansas State Police, District 4.

"Each of these men has demonstrated a selfless devotion to duty that exceeds the type of bravery and commitment that, frankly, we see every day from our outstanding law enforcement officers in Arkansas," McDaniel said. "My office is proud to recognize them for their heroic acts. I'm grateful for any opportunity to honor our deserving men and women who serve in our state's law enforcement agencies."

Neal was named Officer of the Year for his heroic actions on May 20, when he received a call for assistance after West Memphis Police officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans were killed during a traffic stop on Interstate 40. Neal used his pickup truck to ram and immobilize a van holding two suspects in the officers' deaths.

At the time Neal arrived on the scene in a West Memphis parking lot, the two suspects in the van were engaged in a firefight with Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby and Chief Deputy W.A. Wren. When Neal rammed the van with his vehicle, the suspects directed fire toward his truck and away from Busby and Wren, who both had been wounded.

Neal returned fire, disabling one and possibly both suspects before placing his truck in reverse and backing out of the line of fire. His actions saved the lives of Busby and Wren. Neal sustained shrapnel wounds during the incident.

"Officer Neal was one of several heroes on that tragic day in West Memphis, and we are humbled and honored by his actions," McDaniel said.

"As a former police officer, nothing strikes closer to my heart than the death of an officer in the line of duty. We continue to remember in our prayers the families of Officers Evans and Paudert," he added.

The 2010 Outstanding Law Enforcement Officers of the Year awards were chosen by a panel of Arkansas law enforcement officials. Nominations were solicited from law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Stewart, of Mammoth Spring, was named the District 1 recipient for rescuing two men from a burning home in Fulton County in July. Stewart, responding to the scene to assist the local volunteer fire department, crawled into the house to save the two men. After pulling them from the residence, Stewart performed life-saving CPR on one of the men.

Davis, the District 2 recipient, is the director of the Little Rock Police Our Kids Program. More than 300 young men are enrolled in the OK Program at Dunbar Middle School. The program is designed to offer guidance and support to those enrolled, and Davis is available at all hours for students. He works with the children's parents to help keep them involved. Sgt. Davis encourages the young men in the program to be better community members and leaders in their families.

Parsons, the District 3 recipient, recently retired from the Fort Smith Police Department. On Nov. 1, 2009, a suspect at a traffic stop began shooting at Parsons before the officer could call police dispatchers about the stop. Under extreme duress and despite having been shot in the chest, right leg and both feet, Parsons managed to calmly notify dispatchers about the shooting. The suspect was later arrested in New Mexico and transferred to Arkansas to face attempted capital murder charges.

Gore, the District 4 recipient, was at his family's cabin at Camp Albert Pike on June 10 when he awoke at 3:30 a.m. to find that the Little Missouri River had toppled its banks, causing catastrophic flash flooding. Though communications were nearly nonexistent, Gore was able to send out the initial call for help from his state police vehicle. He led other campers to higher ground; he encouraged one camper for hours as she clung to a light pole, and then rescued her when the waters subsided; and he opened his cabin to rescuers and survivors. He remained at the scene throughout the night and into the next day. Gore, of Stamps, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant last month and is Assistant Commander of State Police Troop G.