Trooper Wilson Honored with National Citation

Story by Jeannie Stone

“Daddy, you’re hurting me!” a four-year-old girl cried out as her father, high on crystal meth, pressed his knife into her chest. Cpl. Blake Wilson of Russellville cringed as he pleaded with the father to release the girl. Wilson did not leave the side of the truck until the situation ended peacefully ten hours later, with no serious injuries and the perpetrator in custody.

Because of his heroism, Trooper Wilson received the 2007 Arkansas State Trooper of the Year Award and the Valor Award. Nominated by his department, his actions have been heralded by the American Association of State Troopers who voted him the 2008 Trooper of the Year at its annual convention held recently in Charleston, South Carolina.

Wilson credited the team who worked on the scene that day with the successful outcome.

“The guy that went and got the ice water, the guys putting up the road blocks, the snipers waiting for hours, the Van Buren County Sheriff who tried to resolve the situation and decided he needed trained negotiators, the policeman from Damascus who tried reasoning with the man before I got on the scene, the family members who tried to influence the guy to give up — every one of those people and more were doing their part so I could do mine,” he said. “It was truly a team effort.”

Sgt. Brian Davis of Ft. Smith also played an active part in the situation. When Wilson lunged into the cab of the truck and grabbed the man’s wrist, Davis, who had crawled on all fours to the side of the truck, leapt over Blake and an adult hostage and shocked the assailant in the neck with a Taser (a stun gun which fires electrified darts to stun and immobilize a person). For his actions, Davis received the 2007 Arkansas State Troopers’ Cross Award.

Wilson, fifth generation born and raised in Pope County, was always interested in law enforcement and knew he wanted to become a state trooper by the time he was 15 years old.

“I knew I wanted to be a state trooper because I was impressed by the local troopers who looked so prestigious in their uniforms and cars,” he said.

Sherry Wilson, a teacher at Pottsville Middle School, is proud of her husband’s achievements. “We’ve been married 19 years, and I support him 100 percent. He works for a very professional organization, and he is very well trained. That makes me feel so much better.

“When I married him, I married into a huge family. We are very blessed in this community. There is a lot of support. We have people, out of the blue, that come up to him and tell him that they appreciate what he does for them. That type of support is getting more unusual in these times,” she said.

Blake Wilson, Jr., 15, is Wilson’s only child. Blake, a student at Pottsville High School, has never known anything other than the law enforcement family he was raised with.

His mother said, “When he was about two years ago, we had a heart to heart about why his daddy carried a gun every day. It used to be cool for him to ride to school in his father’s car, but he’s getting to the age when it’s not as cool as it used to be. But he’s really proud of his dad, and we are blessed he has some good friends.”

Wilson loves the variety in his day. “I like the excitement,” he said. “I’m actually witnessing headlines news a lot of times.”

Wilson explained that if there is a natural emergency, such as a tornado, state troopers are called from around the state to help.

“Imaygotoworkat8a.m.andbein Little Rock at noon, and then be called to a different part of the state,” he said.

On the other hand, police work has more than its share of challenges.

“I don’t think the general public has a complete grasp as far as what police officers do,” Wilson said. “It’s not like on TV when you arrest a bank officer every day. Two things are certain. My job is never the same as the day before, and police officers never see people at their best. Most of society doesn’t know about and doesn’t want to deal with the rough part of life we have to face every day.

“We’re dealing with wife beaters, drug addicts, hard core criminals; it’s hard to turn that off and have a normal family life,” he said. “That’s why there’s such a high rate of divorce in this line of work. It’s more stressful than it is physical.”

Wilson was attending a negotiations training when he received the call to respond last October.

“I went straight from the barracks in Little Rock,” he said. As Team Leader for the Hostage and Negotiations Team, Wilson has completed 300 hours of classroom and scenario training taught by the FBI, the US Army and on the state level and remains at the ready with monthly drills. In a word, he was prepared.

Even so, “I prayed as I was driving to the scene,” he said. “I knew it could turn out really good or really bad. It was a calculated risk I felt I must take.”

Every situation presents unique challenges, and the thing that struck Wilson was the demeanor of the assailant.

“That guy only talked about going to jail one time during that whole episode. Jail wasn’t what was on his mind. He had every little thing planned out. He was definitely suicidal.”

Wilson added, “People have the luxury of sitting in an air conditioned room deciding whether our actions, made in a split second, are justified. You know, police officers don’t have that luxury of hitting the rewind. We have to live by the decisions we make. From what I see, we are all trying to do the right thing. We’re not supernatural; we’re just human.”

Three days after the hostage situation, the mother of the child who was also in the cab of that sweltering truck, apologized for not getting out of the car when her ex- husband tried to release her.

“I told her I respected her for her decision

to stay and try and comfort the child,” he said. “Sure, for me, it would have been better when I dove into the cab of that truck to not have her in the way, but for the child, the fact that her mother stayed and didn’t abandon her will help her heal I’m sure. We all have to live by our decisions, and who can fault a mother for loving her child?”

“Our goal is to have the conflict end in a peaceful resolution,” Wilson said. “We don’t go there to kill somebody.”

A police officer faces his own death many times in his career, and a hero chooses to wear the uniform another day.

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