Arkansas State Trooper named American Association of State Troopers 2021 Trooper of the Year

Trooper James O. Ray, of the Arkansas State Police has been recognized nationally for his extremely selfless act of bravery that saved a motorist on the highway.

The American Association of State Troopers recognized Trooper James O. Ray’s heroic actions by naming him the 2021 Trooper of the Year for his pursuit of a fleeing suspect preventing a catastrophic collision between the suspect and an innocent motorist.

On December 4, 2020, at 10:37 a.m., Trooper James Ray was assisting Officer Matt Young with the Arkansas Highway Police with a vehicle that was parked on the shoulder of Interstate 40 near the town of Ozark. Officer Young had stopped with the vehicle to check on the welfare of the driver and had learned that the driver's license was suspended. The side windows on the vehicle were spray painted black preventing Officer Young from seeing through anything other than the driver's window. Knowing that Trooper James Ray was in the area, Officer Young called him to assist with the unusual encounter. When Trooper Ray arrived and he Officer Young began to contact the subject again, the subject placed his vehicle in drive and sped away from the scene traveling westbound on Interstate 40.

During the ensuing pursuit, the suspect fled at speeds over 100 mph and passed several vehicles on the shoulder as he drove very erratically. When given the opportunity to safely end the pursuit, Trooper Ray performed a Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) on the fleeing suspect vehicle. The suspect vehicle was forced into a clockwise rotation in the westbound lanes. Unfortunately, the suspect was able to regain control of his vehicle and began driving eastbound in the westbound lanes, posing an extreme danger to other motorists who were now meeting the fleeing suspect head-on. The suspect traveled a short distance before he crossed the median and began traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes, again driving head-on into the unsuspecting eastbound traffic traveling at interstate speeds.

Trooper Ray, realizing he was running out of options to stop an extremely dangerous driver, drove west in the westbound lanes to get ahead of the fleeing driver who was westbound in the eastbound lanes.

Trooper Ray was able to get ahead of the fleeing driver and crossed the median into the eastbound lanes, now facing the direction he knew the suspect vehicle was coming from. With quick thinking, Trp. Ray stopped eastbound traffic, and began slowly driving eastbound as the suspect vehicle approached him traveling westbound. Trp. Ray knew that the next unit to be in a position on the eastbound side of the interstate was miles behind him.

Trooper Ray aimed his vehicle at the oncoming suspect and waited. He timed it perfectly, and at just the right moment, when the vehicle was passing in front of him, Trooper Ray accelerated quickly and crashed his vehicle into the front left corner of the suspect vehicle. This action forced the suspect vehicle into the median and disabled both vehicles. Trooper Ray was able to safely place the suspect into custody, and miraculously, neither he nor the suspect had any major injuries. Trooper Ray briefly had the wind knocked out of him and was very sore the next few days.

AAST would like to acknowledge and congratulate the other worthy nominees for the 2021 AAST Trooper of the Year.

  • Trooper Mark Bartholomew
    Massachusetts State Police
  • Trooper Michael Berrera
    Massachusetts State Police
  • Trooper Chance Berry
    Missouri State Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Jason Brindle
    Pennsylvania State Police
  • Trooper James Conway
    Missouri State Highway Patrol
  • Corporal Joshua DiGiacomo
    Delaware State Police
  • Inv. Michael Grogan
    New York State Police
  • Detective Richard Hershey
    New Jersey State Police
  • Sergeant Chaz Kennedy
    Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol
  • Officer Verna Meenan
    California Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Matthew Morice
    Missouri State Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Tyler Oliphant
    Tennessee Highway Patrol
  • Trooper James Parr
    Kansas Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Ryan Poirier
    Arizona Department of Public Safety
  • Trooper Cody Rehder
    Oklahoma Highway Patrol
  • Sergeant Jerril Ren
    Montana Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Rafael Rodriguez
    Nevada Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Horlkins Saget
    Florida Highway Patrol
  • Trooper Leonzel Shavers
    Texas Department of Public Safety
  • Trooper Timothy Shield
    Massachusetts State Police
  • Corporal Paul Volker
    Missouri State Highway Patrol

The award will be presented to Trooper Ray, June 29, 2021 in Arkansas.
We would like to thank SIG-SAUER our sponsor for the Trooper of the Year event along with our other marquee sponsors; AT&T FirstNET, TREMCO Police Products, MARK43 and Searcy-Denny-Scarola-Barnhart & Shipley P.A.

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From Our Members


"Your gift helped further my education and allowed me to follow in the footsteps of family members before me. My grandfather, Captain Joe F. Dixon (retired), served the Florida Highway Patrol for 39 years and my father. Major Jeffrey S. Dixon, has been on patrol for the past 25 years. My family has been in FHP for several decades and I graduated in the 137th FHP Academy class in 2017.

I know AAST Supports the education of troopers and their dependants through scholarship opportunities, and I am truly grateful to be a recipient. Man's flight through life is supported by the power of his knowledge and your gift will certainly help me sustain my educational and professional goals. As a part of a trooper's family, this opportunity means a great deal to me and my family. Thank you to everyone at AAST and to my fellow troopers and retirees across the country who support the scholarship program."

- Wesley Dixon,
- Florida Highway Patrol Trooper
- AAST Scholarship Recipient