Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Remembering Our Fallen Peace Officers

Every year, communities across our state and nation pause to pay tribute to those who gave their lives in duty and service to their community through memorial services, ceremonies, and candlelight vigils. Tied to National Police Week, it’s a time for us as neighbors to collectively honor the courage and legacy of these fallen heroes.

Over the weekend, we joined dozens of law enforcement agencies for the Texas Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony in Austin, a few blocks from our state capitol grounds. Gov. Abbott presented medals to the families of those who died in 2019 and 2020 during the tribute, including the family of our fallen brother Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal. As Deputy Dhaliwal’s name was added to the memorial monument, we stood by his father. He would have turned 44 years old on Monday.

On Thursday evening, we hosted the 2021 Harris County Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at Crime Stoppers of Houston’s headquarters, along with our partners at the Harris County Constable Offices and Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation. County Judge Lina Hidalgo delivered a heartfelt keynote address.

These fallen heroes received a special honor during the memorial:

  • Deputy Omar Diaz | End of Watch: July 6, 2019
  • Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal | End of Watch: Sept. 27, 2019
  • Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski | End of Watch: May 6, 2020
  • Deputy Juan Menchaca | End of Watch: June 13, 2020
  • Honorary Deputy Cornelius Anderson | End of Watch: July 12, 2020
  • Precinct 5 Constable Deputy Mark Brown | End of Watch: July 25, 2020
  • Deputy Johnny Tunches | End of Watch: Nov. 2, 2020
  • Detention Officer Robert Perez | End of Watch: Feb. 2, 2021
  • Deputy Alexander Gwosdz | End of Watch: April 22, 2021

Their names are now engraved on the granite tribute towers at the Harris County Fallen Peace Officers Memorial Garden.

It’s an annual remembrance with Harris County law enforcement leaders, peace officers, public officials, and the family members of the fallen Harris County deputies. The memorial is a solemn reminder of the duty that peace officers carry out and the sacrifices they and their loved ones make.

During the ceremony, members of our Honor Guard and our county’s law enforcement leaders read the names of those who had died, offering yellow roses to the survivors. The ceremony included a memorial roll call, Taps, rider-less horse, 21-gun salute, and flyover.

Our agency has recorded 51 in the line of duty deaths since its formation in 1837. We were truly blessed to have each of them in our Sheriff’s Office family. An additional 19 Harris County peace officers have also given everything in service to our profession.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has added a layer of risk to our jobs. It’s taken the lives of five of our colleagues and friends.

Our fallen brothers in blue rose to the occasion and answered the call, day in and day out. It’s the oath they swore and the promise they made to Harris County residents. They served with dignity and distinction until their final days.

As peace officers, we are a part of a big family of public servants. This includes the loved ones behind our badges and our extended family in blue at partner agencies. Every single shift, their family served with them.

Wearing this badge is a crucial undertaking. It’s a symbol of public faith and trust.

Whether it’s patrolling a neighborhood, finding a lost child, investigating a fatal crash, ensuring the safety of those in our jail facilities, or any of our other countless duties, protecting communities is what we do.

What unites us is so much more than a uniform, a badge, or a patch; It’s an unwavering commitment to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live.

Our fallen deputies did just that.

This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and thank those currently protecting our community. They must now carry on this important work. We value their service and continued dedication to public safety.

We encourage you to visit our memorial page to learn more about our fallen heroes. Their love for the job inspires so many of us to press on. We miss them dearly.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – In Loving Memory of Deputy Alexander Gwosdz

Our entire Sheriff’s Office family is saddened by the heartbreaking loss of our brother, Deputy Alexander Gwosdz. We came together on Wednesday with his close circle of loved ones to pay tribute to a beloved son, brother, and remarkable public servant.

Deputy Gwosdz was looking forward to dedicating his life to protecting and serving our communities. He knew early on he wanted to earn the badge and wear this uniform. He came from a family of public servants. His father, Deputy Chris Gwosdz, who was an auto theft investigator, retired from the Sheriff’s Office last year after 34 years of service. His sister, Catherine, serves as a jailer with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Gwosdz joined our agency in 2012 as a detention officer in the Harris County Jail. Two years later, he took a leap in fulfilling his dreams by graduating from our training academy. He served as a patrol deputy in northwest Harris County, patrolling the very neighborhoods where he grew up and lived.

He also was a member of our High-Water Rescue Team. These critical team members respond to rescue calls during flooding events and have completed rigorous swift water training. They monitor and prepare for the worst-case scenario and encourage our residents to do the same.

In 2017, during Hurricane Harvey, Deputy Gwosdz was in our communities on a high-water rescue vehicle. For those of us who lived through it, we’ll never forget Hurricane Harvey’s destruction and devastation. He was there for his neighbors and teammates through it all.

Deputy Gwosdz’s profound impact on those who knew him was evident in the many stories and memories shared over the past week. He was remembered for his endless love for his job and immense pride in helping others.

His Patrol District 5 teammates described their relationship as a close-knit family and brotherhood. They always looked out for each other.

Deputy Aguilar and Deputy Ticas, who were his training academy classmates, recalled a time when they responded to a call for service involving an armed suspect inside a residence. Together, the deputies safely made their way into the home and deescalated the situation without any incident. They trusted each other with their lives.

Deputy Gwosdz never hesitated to take appropriate action. Reserve Deputy Wilson, who also graduated from the training academy with him, will never forget his partner helping a shooting victim stay calm. He applied pressure to her gunshot wound until EMS arrived, and Deputy Wilson worked to clear the house.

Deputy Gwosdz was the type of person who continuously challenged himself. In 2019, he and Deputy Wilson completed the Spartan Race, one of the most grueling stretches of obstacle courses an athlete can take on. It’s as much a mental feat as it is a physical one.

Deputy Gwosdz represented the very best among us. He possessed all the values you could want in a peace officer: compassionate, hardworking, honest, and kind. People cared for him well beyond his work here at the Sheriff’s Office.

His passing reminds us of the dangers of this virus and the importance of banding together to do everything we can to fight it. Deputy Gwosdz had his whole life ahead of him. Our law enforcement personnel in our communities and inside the jail are at risk of being exposed every day. They’re on the front lines. This marks the fifth teammate to die after contracting the virus.

We will keep Deputy Gwosdz and his family in our hearts. Your brothers and sisters in blue have the watch from here.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Volunteering to Serve

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’re saying thank you to the more than 200 volunteer reservists who work in all areas of our agency and give their time to make our communities safer.

Our Reserve Command is an integral part of our agency, and the significant contributions of these deputies are visible in nearly every bureau and unit, from patrol and criminal warrants to high tech crimes and crime scene investigations.

Our Reserve Command is the largest sheriff’s office reserve organization in Texas and the second largest in the nation. The Command has served as a model reserve program in policing across the state and country. It’s an effective way to diversify and expand our ranks without increasing the burden on taxpayers.

Reserve deputies are duly sworn, certified peace officers who receive the same extensive training and licensing as full-time deputies. They are members of our community who have a passion for public service and want to make a difference in the field of law enforcement. They represent various professions and backgrounds, including business owners, dentists, teachers, and physicians. Many deputies began their journey with the Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy.

Reserve deputies wear the same uniform and Pride of Texas patch, answer the same calls for service, and have the same duty and expectations as full-time deputies to always honor the badge they wear as a symbol of public faith and trust.

The responsibilities of a reserve deputy are rewarding, challenging, and diverse. Reserve deputies also support special operations and task forces, such as multi-agency DWI initiatives that combat impaired drivers on Harris County roadways.

We’re highlighting only a few of the many dedicated men and women who generously gift us their time, love for our community, and expertise every day as volunteer reservists.

Meet Investigator O’Leary, Missing Persons Unit

Investigator O’Leary focuses on cold cases, gathering critical information to locate the missing person, interviewing witnesses, identifying the circumstances of the disappearance, and initiating the collection of DNA samples from the missing person’s family members. Investigator O’Leary works with a number of area law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI and Texas DPS.

O’Leary is the Emergency Alert Specialist at Texas Center for the Missing, a nonprofit dedicated to providing crisis intervention, prevention, and community education to the missing and their families. In this capacity, she issues Amber and Silver Alerts to the Houston-Galveston region and trains law enforcement personnel on how to issue missing person alerts. Before her role there, she was a stay-at-home mom and an office manager. She has 20 years of service as a reservist.

It’s a privilege to put this badge on every day and do what I do,” O’Leary said. “It’s amazing the opportunities we have as reservists. For me, staying in contact with the families of the missing, no matter how much time passes, lets them know someone still cares about finding their loved one.

Meet Reserve Sgt. Ramos, Criminal Warrants Unit

Arrest warrants are received regularly and assigned to our Criminal Warrants Unit for execution. Sgt. Ramos helps oversee the arrest warrant enforcement, researching the suspects and their offenses and briefing deputies on their assignments and safety goals.

Ramos, RRT/NPS, is the senior lead respiratory therapist at The Woman’s Hospital of Texas and an instructor at San Jacinto College, where he teaches respiratory care in a clinical setting. Sgt. Ramos says he knew he made the right decision to become a reserve deputy when his youngest daughter was born in 2005. For him, serving others has always been a part of his life and this was another way to be an example for his daughter by giving back to the community. He has 16 years of service as a reservist.

We’re just regular people who love our community and what we do,” Ramos said. “It takes a special person to be in law enforcement, and a more special person to volunteer their time to do this job.

Meet Reserve Major Heuszel, Special Operations Division

Reserve Major Heuszel helps oversee the Special Operations Division, which is made up of the Criminal Warrants Unit, High Tech Crimes Unit, Missing Persons Unit, Sex Offender Registration Task Force, and detention.

Dr. Heuszel is a practicing dentist in west Houston with more than 40 years of experience in dentistry. He was propelled to earn the badge in 1991 after wanting to learn more about neighborhood watch programs and ways to protect his neighborhood. He has since served in several reserve roles and divisions, including patrolling Harris County waterways in the Marine Division, as an instructor at the training academy, and as a mounted patrol deputy.

My reward for volunteering is knowing I am helping my community,” Heuszel said. “I hold my head high when I tell someone I am a Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy. It’s a blessing and second family.

If you’re looking to maintain your career or retirement while also fulfilling your call to serve, learn more about our Reserve Command here. To our volunteer reservists, thank you for contributing in every capacity within the Sheriff’s Office. Every day, you make Harris County a safer place to live and work.

We Mourn the Passing of Deputy Alexander Gwosdz

We mourn the death of Deputy Alexander Gwosdz, who died Thursday from COVID-19 complications. Our hearts, prayers, and condolences go out to his grieving family, loved ones, and colleagues.

Deputy Gwosdz, 32, was a 9-year agency veteran of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. He joined the agency in 2012 as a detention officer. Since graduating from the Sheriff’s Office Basic Peace Officer Course in 2014, he has served as a patrol deputy in northwest Harris County.

Deputy Gwosdz’s father, Chris Gwosdz, retired from the Sheriff’s Office in 2020 after 34 years of service.

He is the fourth Sheriff’s Office deputy, and the fifth employee agency-wide, to die after contracting the virus.

We are devastated and saddened by another loss of life and reminded again of the dangers of this terrible virus. Deputy Gwosdz loved his job. He had a servant’s heart. He came from a law enforcement family. His whole life was ahead of him.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Celebrating the First of the First Responders

In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, we celebrate the unsung heroes who are there for us when the unthinkable happens.

All week long, we say thank you to the first of the first responders, the calm voice navigating us through our most difficult moments by gathering essential information and determining the type of emergency service needed.

Our frontline communications personnel are the first voice you hear when you call our Emergency Dispatch Center, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They guide our deputies through critical situations around the clock and keep our county safe.

Our more than 160 dedicated call takers and dispatchers at our Emergency Dispatch Center are a critical part of our first responder community and form the vital link between callers in distress and our emergency response teams. On a typical day, they field 2,700 calls to 911 and 1,300 calls to our non-emergency line.

Our Incident Management Unit communications officers at Houston TranStar monitor Harris County freeways and dispatch Motor Assistance Program deputies for disabled vehicles and stranded motorists.

As our 911 dispatchers receive incoming calls, they prioritize them based on the nature of an emergency and help callers remain calm enough to provide the information first responders rely on to understand the full scope of an incident.

True Public Safety Heroes

They sit behind six glowing monitors that operate a variety of public safety communications equipment including a computer aided dispatch, a multi-channel radio, telephone, maps, cameras, and other specialized monitoring systems.

During these trying times, we’re especially grateful for their service. In February, during the massive winter storm and power outage crisis, our dispatchers fielded calls matching Hurricane Harvey’s historic call volume.
It’s a job where every second counts. Through efficient call handling, our 911 dispatchers reduce response times and help save lives.
They go into work not knowing what the shift ahead of them is going to bring. What they do know is that the more information first responders have when they arrive on the scene, the quicker they can assess a situation and take appropriate action.

Texas NENA 2020 Silent Hero Award

Communications Officer Shamlin

Communications Officer Marsha Shamlin was recognized as a 2020 Silent Hero by Texas NENA, a membership organization dedicated to ensuring all residents have immediate access to 911 and emergency safety services.

“Being able to help my community behind-the-scenes through kindness and exceptional customer service is the most rewarding part of my job,” Shamlin said.

Shamlin is an agency veteran with nearly 17 years of service. In 2012, she received a commendation letter for her active listening skills and de-escalation techniques that prevented a possible suicide from happening.

Four other teammates were nominated for Texas NENA awards: Reyna Zamora, Cristina DeLaTorre, Roy Flores, and April Sanchez. Congratulations to all!

Training

Our call takers complete a comprehensive training program that includes courses on a range of topics and extensive on-the-job training. The initial training totals 400 hours and covers areas such as crisis communication, cultural diversity, ethics in law enforcement, and incident management.

Our new telecommunicator teammates also complete an 80-hour Texas Basic Telecommunicator Course in preparation for their licensing exam administered by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. To maintain their license, they receive 20 hours of annual training.

Our teammates are familiar with state laws and the area they are serving, including neighborhoods, highways, and thoroughfares. Many dispatch in the area where they grew up. Most importantly, they serve with compassion and understanding.

Our call takers are challenged greatly but stand strong to protect our communities. You can reach them any time at 713-221-6000. We’re grateful for their significant contributions, which are an inspiration and example to everyone in our ranks.

Celebrating Our Detention Teammates of the Quarter

Records Specialist Lastrape

Records Specialist Lastrapes joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2003. She performs a wide range of duties in the Central Records Division, contributing greatly to our intake and release process.

Records Specialist Lastrapes demonstrates a high level of initiative in executing assignments, a testament to her dedication to her work.

She is known as a go-to teammate, always willing to lend a hand to others, especially in challenging situations.

Detention Officer Castillo

Detention Officer Castillo joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2019. Her first assignment was the night watch at 1200 Justice Housing Bureau. She currently serves as a processing location coordinator at the Joint Processing Center.

In just a short amount of time, she has acquired a vast amount of knowledge on the intake process and developed close relationships with our partner agencies.

Her dedication to efficiency during the COVID-19 pandemic supports our ongoing efforts to safeguard the health and safety of everyone inside the Harris County jail.

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