Partnership Chair Terry Vaughn asked for a moment of silence to honor two Houston firefighters lost in the line of duty from COVID-19, Leroy Lucia and Jerry Pacheco. Photo by Tom Broad

It was a somber moment during the celebration of Lake Houston’s finest peace officers and firefighters when Terry Vaughn, 2021 chair of Partnership Lake Houston, asked for a moment of silence to honor two fallen firefighters from the Houston Fire Department Kingwood Division, Captain Leroy Lucio and firefighter Jerry Pacheco.

Lucio was a 29-year Houston Fire Department veteran who died from COVID in the line of duty July 20. Pacheco was a 17-year veteran of the Houston Fire Department who died from COVID in the line of duty Aug. 3.

Lucio and Pacheco were among 14 peace officers and firefighters saluted at Partnership Lake Houston’s annual Salute to Our Hometown Heroes held virtually Jan. 26.

“Each week, our congregation spends time praying for all of our peace officers and firefighters. We ask God to protect them as they protect us,” said Jerry Martin, pastor of Light of the World Christian Fellowship Church in Humble, as the program began.

Keynote speaker and Humble Police Chief Ken Theis gave an inspiring example of the selfless dedication that police officers and firefighters demonstrate every day.

“A fire was totally engulfing a home recently,” Theis recalled. “The crew were told there were people inside. They found a man and his daughter, got them out of the house and to the hospital. There would have been no chance for that man and his daughter without the bravery of those firefighters.”

It has been a difficult year, Theis said, yet first responders continue to be on the front line without hesitation showing selflessness and stepping up to the challenge.

“You are heroes,” Theis said of the honorees. “Every day you show great courage. Most of the people you serve would not, could not do what you do every day. God bless each one of you.”

Because the celebration was held virtually, Partnership volunteers delivered awards and Chick-fil-A Wilson Road lunches to each of the honorees. The honorees also received proclamations or certificates from Congressman Dan Crenshaw, State Senator Brandon Creighton, Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle, Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin and State Representative Dan Huberty.

In addition to Lucio and Pancheco who were honored posthumously, the honorees were:

Atascocita Fire Department

Captain Paul Schoenemann

He created a tracking list of all COVID positive patients for staff and assisted in protocols and PPE procedures and rapid response plans. He also earned his fourth LifeSaver award, this time for his efforts with a person in cardiac arrest.

Humble Fire Department

Firefighter/Paramedic Emile Haley

He was featured on KRIV-FOX 26 for treating Lakeland Elementary students to a pizza party on his day off because of the students’ warm reception during an event earlier in the year.

Harris County Constable Precinct 4

Deputy Kevin Tran

During 2020, he responded to more than 850 calls for service, wrote more than 800 citations, made 39 felony and 41 misdemeanor warrants, filed 41 criminal charges, and cleared 46 felony and 6 and misdemeanor warrants.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office

Lieutenant William L. Gray

As the senior lieutenant in patrol, he oversees 190 square miles in Northeast Harris County serving 400,000 residents. He coordinates training, video reviews, station inspections, all contracts, compliance issues, the Crime Reduction Unit and District Traffic Enforcement Unit.

Houston Police Department – Kingwood

Sergeant Robert Hunter

Activated as part of the Departments Special Response Group during protests, he took extraordinary measures to engage citizens in both friendly and hostile environments and effectively abated serious injuries and loss of life during this time. He also led other members of the Kingwood Division in providing special training.

Humble ISD Police

Senior Officer Jeffrey Vadzemnieks

He assisted a fellow officer in identifying a male found unresponsive outside one of the campuses after hours, contacted school officials and then contacted the family.

Humble Police Department

Officer Joseph Bisset and Officer Ariel Olvera

They encountered an armed male suspect who shot a civilian and by acting quickly, showing great restraint and poise under pressure, discharged their duty weapons to stop the suspect and then rendered medical aid. They showed courage and professionalism during a difficult and stressful situation.

Humble Police Department

Sergeant Travis Vaughn

He assisted the Humble Rescue unit with a combative patient, wasforced to use lethal force, was able to detain the patient and assisted in rendering medical aid and provided safety for the emergency personnel, the patient’s spouse and child.

Lone Star College Kingwood Police Department

Sergeant Hue Billings

He earned an excellence citation for responding to a call regarding possible shots fired. He also earned a leadership citation for his work during the pandemic period and additional citations for his supervisorial role.

Montgomery County Constable

Sergeant Robert Buchanan

He supervised the newly formed DWI and Traffic Enforcement Division and, with his team, issued more than 100 DWI arrests in 2020.

Splendora Police Department

Office Henri Mestizo

He is a member of the Strategic Response Team, Swift Water Rescue Team, Highway Interdiction Team and is a certified field training officer. He led the department in arrests, 189 in a year, including 108, which were felonies.

The Hometown Heroes virtual luncheon can be viewed on the Partnership Lake Houston Facebook page. Partnership events are listed at

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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