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II.  HB 1212 Related Articles - Ft. Worth Star Telegram   TOP

Slain officers' families say new DWI law honors their memories
By John Moritz
Star-Telegram Staff WriterJ
uly 18, 2007

AUSTIN
-- Gina Medlin cannot forgive, much less forget.

She is the widow of a Grapevine police officer who was killed three years ago by a drunken driver after stopping another motorist. She said she plans to make sure that the driver, Roy Alvin Adams Jr. of Bedford, serves all 12 1/2 years of his prison sentence.

If it were up to her, he would serve even longer. 

'He never admitted he was drunk, so it makes it hard for me to forgive him,' said Medlin, who was in Austin on Tuesday to attend the signing of legislation that metes out more prison time for drunken drivers who kill or injure on-duty police officers, firefighters and paramedics. 

The new law, House Bill 1212 by state Rep. Paula Pierson, D-Arlington, takes effect Sept. 1 and is named after Darren Medlin and Dwayne Freeto, a Fort Worth officer who was killed while helping a stranded motorist eight days before Christmas last year.

Gina Medlin, along with Freeto's wife, Karen, and relatives and friends from both families, huddled around Gov. Rick Perry in his Capitol office to witness the signing. Perry used multiple pens to sign the new law, then distributed them to the guests.

Richard Alpert, Tarrant County assistant district attorney, said the new law will give officials the opportunity to send a stronger message to those who drink and drive.

'We take these cases to trial, and we don't plea-bargain,' said Alpert, referring to the five cases he's brought against drunken drivers who have harmed Tarrant County police officers since 1992. He prosecuted Adams and is preparing to try Samuel Lee Hilburn, charged in Freeto's death, this year or early next year.

How the new law works

House Bill 1212 takes intoxication assault from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony if a police officer, firefighter or other public service worker is injured. The prison sentence, now two to 10 years, increases to two to 20 years. The maximum fine, $10,000, doesn't change.

Intoxication manslaughter involving a public worker goes from a second-degree felony to a first-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of five to 99 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Pierson said she supports increasing the penalties for all cases involving drunken drivers, but she said public safety officers deserve special protections.

'It's their job to put themselves in harm's way day in and day out so the rest of us can be safe,' she said."

Alpert said that Hilburn must be prosecuted under the law on the books at the time the offense took place but that he'll push for the maximum prison time of 20 years.

The officers who died
Darren Medlin, 34, a former Marine, was a four-year veteran of the Grapevine Police Department and a DWI patrol officer when he died on June 12, 2004. He was married to Gina and was the father of two young daughters and had two grown stepchildren.  A former Texas game warden, friends and colleagues remembered him during a memorial service three years ago for his can-do spirit and an unwavering moral compass.

Dwayne Freeto, also 34 and an Army veteran, had served on the Fort Worth Police Department just nine months when he was killed on Dec. 17, 2006, while helping a woman with a flat tire on Interstate 35W. He was remembered for his humor and devotion to his parents, grandparents, brother and his wife and their young daughters.

'I just want to make sure everyone knows [Freeto] was a great father, husband, brother and uncle,' Karen Freeto said two days after the fatal wreck. 'He loved our girls and played with them every moment he could.'

IN THE LINE OF DUTY

Tarrant County law enforcement officers who were killed in the past 15 years by drunken drivers or in cases involving drunken-driving charges:

Sept. 2, 1992:
Fort Worth officer Brent David Wisdom, 22, was killed when he was hit by a drunken driver while assisting a motorist.

Oct. 9, 1992:
Arlington patrol officers Jerry J. Crocker, 43, and Terry L. Lewis, 35, were killed when their patrol car was hit by a drunken driver in a tractor-trailer rig.

Dec. 27, 1993:
Fort Worth officer Alan Frederick Chick, 33, was hit by a vehicle while assisting a motorist.June 12, 2004: Grapevine officer Darren Medlin was hit by a car during a traffic stop on Texas 121.

Dec. 17, 2006:
Fort Worth officer Dwayne Freeto's patrol car was rear-ended and burst into flames along Interstate 35W.

Sources: Officer Down Memorial Page, www.odmp.org
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