Wildlife Officer Michael K. Neal, Arkansas Game & Fish Commission
On Thursday, May 20, 2010, West Memphis Arkansas 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.
Approximately 90 minutes later, the suspects' minivan was spotted in a shopping center parking lot. Crittenden County Arkansas Sheriff Dick Busby and Chief Deputy Wren were first on-scene and used their patrol car to block the van from leaving the area. As the deputies began their approach the suspects opened fire on them with semi-automatic AK-47 rifles and handguns, wounding both the Sheriff and his Chief Deputy.
Arriving moments after Sheriff Busby, Arkansas Game & Fish Wildlife Officer Michael Neal saw the gunfight and immediately sped his agency pick-up truck towards the back of the gunman's vehicle to close the distance in order to aid the deputies and block the van. As he did so the suspects put their van in reverse and began backing up to try to flee the scene. Wildlife Officer Neal decided he needed to take immediate and decisive action to end their chance of escape by ramming their vehicle to disable it. In preparation, Wildlife Officer Neal had already placed his patrol carbine by his side for immediate use.
As soon as Wildlife Officer Neal rammed the side of the van he came under fire, with over a dozen rounds going through his windshield, dashboard, and grill. Placing his patrol rifle on the dash, he returned fire through the windshield, firing a full 30 round magazine from his rifle. His rifle now empty, Neal realized he needed to withdraw from immediate contact, so he backed his truck to a better position, bailed out and with his handgun took a firing position with other officers who had just arrived to engage the shooters.
Within minutes, over 30 officers had the criminals' van surrounded, more than 260 rounds were exchanged and the gunfight was over with both criminals dead. With the exception of the first officers shot by the gunmen, no other officers or bystanders were injured.
Without a doubt, the valorous acts of Wildlife Officer Neal helped ensure that the murderous crime spree of these criminals was brought to an end. His calmness, professionalism, and willingness to come to the aid of fellow officers without hesitation is a credit to his department, his fellow law enforcement officers, the State of Arkansas, and in keeping with the highest traditions of law enforcement. It is with great honor and pride that the National Rifle Association names Officer Michael Neal as the 2010 NRA Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.