In Trooper Martin Kriz’s eyes, he only did what any other fellow trooper would have done when he responded to a single vehicle crash in November of 2012. But according to Louisa County Crime Solvers and Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire, what he did was nothing short of extraordinary.
Named 2014 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, it was Kriz’s powers of observation – doing what he was trained to do – and his quick thinking that made him the clear leader in this year’s award process. But for Kriz, he would have preferred that the incident that led to his being honored had never happened at all.
That November night, Kriz was working the midnight shift when he was dispatched from his patrol duties on I-64 to an accident on Yanceyville Road in the western end of Louisa County. When he arrived at the scene, three men were already being treated by emergency services personnel. The driver was conscious, but the two passengers were not. One man was in such serious condition that he had to be flown to the hospital.
When Kriz talked to driver Lawrence Hawk he noticed signs of intoxication, so immediately placed him under arrest and started going through the usual DUI process. Kriz learned the next day that one of the passengers, Darone Johnson, had not survived and the third, Justin Sprouse, will suffer from his injuries the rest of his life.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” Kriz said. “The worst thing is nobody can give life back to Mr. Johnson. I’m glad justice was done. I wish Mr. Johnson didn’t die and Mr. Sprouse and Mr. Hawk hadn’t suffered bad injuries. It’s just unfortunate.”
During the investigation, Kriz and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office interviewed several people to tie all the threads together while they worked on the case. Hawk, who had initially admitted he was the driver at the time of the wreck, later backtracked on his story claiming it was Johnson, who was found in the back seat, who was actually behind the wheel.
“The case was basically airtight,” Kriz said.
The case is now closed and Hawk is serving eight years behind bars for manslaughter, maiming and driving under the influence.
“In this profession, you see a lot of things and experience a lot of things,” Kriz said. “It goes without saying, you never know what will happen. You always have to be ready.”
In his nomination of Kriz, McGuire credited the successful prosecution of Hawk to the trooper’s thorough investigation.
Becoming a law enforcement officer was something that the Czech Republic native had dreamed of as a young boy. In fact, when he graduated high school, he tried to realize that dream – but it is a difficult profession to get into in his home country.
In the Czech Republic, law enforcement is a high-status line of work that requires a master’s degree program. The field of applicants vying for a slot in the program of study is brutal. When Kriz applied, only 100 applicants were chosen from among 3,200. He was not selected.
To read the entire story, see the May 8 edition of The Central Virginian.