Washington, DC — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Wildlife Officer Michael K. Neal of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as its Officer of the Month for October 2010.
One week after the names of 116 officers killed in the line of duty in 2009 were formally dedicated on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during National Police Week, West Memphis (AR) Police officers responded to an “officer down” report. Two of their own, Sergeant Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans, had been brutally shot and killed while conducting a traffic stop. An immense manhunt for the killers who had taken the lives of the son and the nephew of Bob Paudert, West Memphis Police Department’s Chief of Police immediately ensued.
Within hours of the initial call, the suspects’ white van was spotted in a shopping center parking lot. Crittenden County (AR) Sheriff Dick Busby and Chief Deputy W.A. Wren were in the area and used their patrol car to blockade the suspects’ van. Wielding AK-47 assault rifles, the suspects exited the van and engaged the officers in a firefight.
Officer Neal was the first backup to arrive at the scene where Sheriff Busby and Deputy Wren, armed with only handguns, had both been shot. To draw the suspects’ attention away from his injured colleagues, he drove his department issued truck toward the gunmen and rammed it into their vehicle.
The suspects fired nearly 18 rounds from their AK 47’s at Officer Neal. Over a dozen rounds went through the officer’s windshield, dashboard, and grill. Returning fire with his AR 15, Officer Neal emptied 30 rounds into the suspects’ van, disabling both the driver and passenger, at which point he was able to back out of the line of fire. Other officers arrived on scene, and Officer Neal made room for the additional responding officers. As quickly as it began, the gunfight ended with both suspects pronounced dead at the scene. Although the gunfight took place in a busy parking lot, remarkably no civilians were caught in the crossfire. Sheriff Bubsy and Deputy Wren recovered from their injuries and credited Officer Neal with saving their lives. Officer Neal remarked, “I will tell you at one point during the shootout, I didn’t know if I was going to get to come home. It got that close.”
Officer Neal has been praised by fellow law enforcement officers from around the state and across the nation. He received the Medal of Valor from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Medal of Valor from the City of West Memphis, and the Governor’s Life Saving Award. When asked about his heroic actions Officer Neal stated “I’m just a country boy from eastern Arkansas. Sergeant Brandon Paudert and Officer Bill Evans, who never made it home that day, are the true heroes.”
Officer Neal has served with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for three years; previously he served as a deputy sheriff for ten years and has another ten years experience as a firefighter, which he states helped him stay calm under the enormous pressure of that day. He is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Arkansas Wildlife Officers Association.
Located in the nation’s capital, the NLEOMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers.The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer Neal, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2010, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2011 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s 2012 calendar.