By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (July 10, 2016) – Friends of the Erath County Sheriff’s Department have just released additional details on efforts to assist the families of two law enforcement officials facing medical issues.
The organization includes fellow officials as well as community members, family, friends of law enforcement and police officers themselves. The event, which will be held 6-10 p.m. Saturday, August 6, at City Hall at City Limits, benefits Sgt. Cody Keith and Deputy Dustin Paulsen and their families. Keith is battling an aggressive cancer while Paulsen is recovering from serious injuries received in the line of duty.
According to organizer Judith Roila, the event committee is actively seeking table sponsors and promoting tickets sales.
“A total of 500 dinner tickets will be sold,” she said, adding the total includes tables and individuals ticket sales. “Three hundred will be sold to the public (general admission tickets) and 200 will be available for sponsor tables.”
Seating for 10 is available for $1,000, and eight-person tables are $500 each. Individual tickets are currently on sale for $10 per person.
“Attendees must present their tickets at the meal line to be guaranteed a plate,” Riola said.
The barbecue dinner, which also includes live and silent auctions and live music from the Mark Trimmier Band, is being made possible by contributions from a long list of donors and supporters.
Riola said meat and beans for the barbecue dinner are being donated by Stephenville Fire Department. A ladies’ auxiliary out of Hood County is donating potato salad. Mayfield Paper Company has offered to supply all of the paper goods. School teachers from Dublin will furnish desserts, and City Limits will provide iced tea. Saddle Bags BBQ will cook and help cater the meal.
Meanwhile, a team of fundraisers has reached out the Friends of Erath County Sheriff’s Department and offered to collect big ticket items for the auction and supply an auctioneer and manpower for the auction. But Riola said additional items will be needed.
Five firearms have been purchased and raffle tickets are being sold across the state, according to Riola.
“We will sell 1,000 tickets – two chances for $30 each or one $50,” she said, adding tickets are available locally as well.
Paulsen and Keith were both forced to take a leave of absence from their duties more than three months ago.
Just after midnight on Friday, April 22, Paulsen’s patrol unit was decimated in a head-on collision. Paulsen was enroute to provide backup to a fellow law enforcement official when the wreck occurred south of Stephenville.
The driver of the vehicle that struck Paulsen’s patrol unit, Luis Alberto Garcia, 30, of Stephenville was pronounced dead at the scene. Garcia’s autopsy confirmed he had recently consumed elicit drugs and officials said his blood alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit.
“Dustin recently had his second surgery – of many to come – on his (crushed) foot,” Riola said. “While he has already had an initial surgery on his knee, recent x-rays show one, possibly more surgeries, will be necessary to correct the damage. His hip surgery went well and hopefully no further surgeries will be required in that area. His spirits are good, however the constant pain sometimes gets the best of him.”
The deputy sustained multiple serious injuries, including a crushed foot, compound fracture to his femur, broken pelvis, multiple fractures to his hip, torn ACL, PCL and MCL ligaments in his knee, separated ribs, bruised lungs, a lacerated spleen and more.
It took first responders almost an hour to pry his mangled body from the wreckage of his demolished police cruiser.
Keith was diagnosed with stage 4 Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma. It is a rare type of cancer of the head and neck. Doctors are optimistic the sergeant will defeat the disease.
Keith is currently hospitalized, according to his wife, Belinda. She said he was admitted July 1 due to an infection and weakened immune system.
He has undergone more than 30 radiation treatments and weekly chemotherapy. Doctors will reevaluate his condition in about three months to determine the next step in the treatment process.
Both men are married with children. The funds being raised are intended to help the families make ends meet during the treatment and recovery process. Bills already piling up for both families, but the Friends of the Erath County Sheriff’s Department hope community support will help with expenses not covered by medical insurance and Paulsen’s worker compensation coverage.
The law enforcement officials will remain on medical leave for an indefinite period of time.
Individuals who would like to donate items to the live and silent auctions or serve as an event volunteer are asked to contact Riola at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3338.
Tickets for the August 6 dinner and auction are available at the sheriff’s office, located at 1043 Glen Rose Road in Stephenville.
T-shirts are also available for purchase at the sheriff’s office or by emailing email@example.com and benefit bank accounts are setup – in each man’s name – at First Financial Bank.