RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Rio Grande County Sheriff Anne Robinson gave two awards to two deputies and presented the Purple Heart to Undersheriff Heath Hart during the commissioner meeting on Dec. 28. Robinson will also be presenting Hart with the Medal of Valor in coming days for his heroism during an active shooting incident on Nov. 7, 2022.
Sheriff Robinson began her presentation of awards by recognizing Patrol Deputy Taylor Weber for his exceptional performance of duties while serving Rio Grande County.
“This first award is a letter of commendation for an act of kindness he performed for a member of our community who was a little down on their luck,” said Robinson.
During his patrol earlier in year, Deputy Weber came across a family stranded at the South Fork truck stop located along Highway 160 and with the help of the local victim advocate was able to get the family into a hotel room for the night and after transporting the family to the hotel, went to the store and purchased food with his personal funds to give to the family.
“Deputy Weber demonstrated compassion and caring not often seen in law enforcement professionals. Because of his actions, the family had food and shelter for the night. Deputy Weber positively represented this agency as well as the law enforcement profession as a whole,” said Robinson.
Next, Undersheriff Hart presented Deputy Louise Pierce with an award commending her for her work while on dispatch during the active shooter incident on Nov. 7, 2022.
“On Nov. 7, at 10:27 a.m. I was doing a follow up on a stolen vehicle and I ended up locating the vehicle and the driver tried to allude me. It was then after the vehicle came to a stop that the driver opened fire on me. During that time, I was communicating with Communications Deputy Louise Pierce. She was able to coordinate resources and send multiple agencies to the location during that chaotic time as well as keep a detailed record of the events that were occurring. She stayed calm and collected on the radio, which enabled the responding officers to do the same. She was also performing the daily operations of the communications area and acted above and beyond during a very stressful situation. She performed her duties to the highest standard, bringing credit to herself and the Rio Grande County Sheriff’s Office as well as law enforcement as a profession,” said Hart.
Pierce was presented with a letter of commendation and a certificate for her work performed during the incident.
Robinson then presented Undersheriff Hart with a Purple Heart award for his service to the community during the same incident.
“With the negative press law enforcement has been getting across the country, I think it is important to recognize these good acts that there have been some conversation about whether law enforcement should be referred to as guardians or warriors and I really don’t care about the verbiage, we’re protectors but I do think there comes a time when we have to be warriors and I think this situation on Nov. 7 we had a fantastic warrior on our side working for the Rio Grande Sheriff’s Office,” said Robinson.
The letter of commendation written to Undersheriff Hart for his service to the community outlined the events of Nov. 7, all of which were the reason behind receiving the Purple Heart award. Robinson read the letter to the public, highlighting the brave acts of Undersheriff Hart and the injury he sustained during the incident.
“Upon stopping, the driver got out of the stolen vehicle with a pistol in hand, shooting at Undersheriff Hart while he was still in his patrol vehicle. The Undersheriff practiced sound judgement and tactical skills diving for cover behind his dashboard. At the first available opportunity, Undersheriff Hart got out of his vehicle and pursued his assailant, who had ran up the road and was attempting to get into another vehicle. The assailant was shot in the exchange of gun fire and was ultimately taken into custody,” Robinson said.
Undersheriff Hart was injured during the incident, he was shot under his left arm.
“Undersheriff Hart displayed bravery, determination and heroism in pursuing and apprehending a violent offender at great risk to his own life,” said Robinson.
Undersheriff Hart has been cleared to return to active duty.