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updated 3:04 AM, Nov 27, 2020 America/Chicago

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San Jacinto County law enforcement think fast in July stop

San Jac SheriffsCOURTESY PHOTO San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers (center) presented Life Saving Awards to Pct. 3 constable Sam Houston (far left), deputies Stephen Countz (second from left) and Jonathan Cortez (second from right), and Pct. 2 constable Ray Atchley for their bravery in a fiery rescue on July 23.

From Staff Reports

A quartet of San Jacinto County law enforcement officers were recently honored for their heroism and bravery during a traffic stop in July.

San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers gave Life Saving awards to a pair of his deputies and two of the county’s constables for their fast action in saving the life of a suspect who was on the run from several law enforcement agencies. San Jac Sheriff’s deputies Jonathan Cortez and Stephen Countz, Pct. 2 constable Ray Atchley and Pct. 3 constable Sam Houston all received the life-awards.

The suspect, who’s name was not released, had a known gang affiliation and was in pursuit of several agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Walker County Sheriff’s Office before he came into San Jacinto County while driving east on State Highway 150. The suspect was driving a stolen pickup truck and was suspected of human trafficking.

The pursuit started in Montgomery County on IH-45 before traveling east on SH 150 through New Waverly and crossing into San Jacinto County. Once the pursuit reached San Jacinto County, the chase went on for 4-5 miles before the suspect lost control of the vehicle, which overturned and hit a tree before bursting into flames.

Atchley and Cortez were first on the scene before Countz and Houston arrived, and the four officers devised a plan to get the suspect out of harm’s way and put the fire out of the vehicle. Countz held the suspect at gunpoint as he had a loaded weapon and Atchley, Cortez and Houston tried to open a door to the truck.

As flames grew while waiting on nearby volunteer fire departments to arrive, Atchley jumped in his truck and turned it around Houston and Cortez, with great risk to their own personal safety, began to tie a tow strap to the door of the suspect’s truck as Atchley jerked the window section of the door away from the post so they could remove the suspect from the interior of the flaming inferno while Countz held cover for officer safety. All of this was performed in a matter of a few seconds as the fire then engulfed the interior of the truck.

The suspect was taken to Conroe Regional Hospital for treatment before Homeland Security took him into custody.