Texas Governor Greg Abbott presented the Star of Texas award to two of Paris’ own — Trooper Timothy Keele, 40, and the late Trooper Jeffrey Nichols, 27 — along with 55 other first responders on Sept. 11.
“Today, Texas honors the extraordinary few – those who have demonstrated the character and the courage to repeatedly put their lives on the line to serve and protect their communities,” Abbott said in a release.
The Texas Legislature created the Star of Texas Award in 2003 to honor those men and women who were seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, and designated Sept. 11 as Texas First Responders Day.
“We recognize acts of uncommon valor – by first responders, firefighters and law enforcement officers – willing to put everything on the line to keep us safe. All of the men and women who protect and serve, and the families who stand by their sides, deserve our deepest respect. They represent the very best of Texas,” he said.
On Sept. 21, 2015, Keele suffered a dislocated shoulder during an altercation with 21-year-old Garrett McKinney, who was experiencing a mental health crisis outside Paris Regional Medical Center.
Nichols died in a single-car crash while patrolling FM 38 near Tigertown on March 26 earlier this year. Nichols was driving in the westbound lane when he lost control of his patrol car and struck a tree. He joined the DPS in 2011.
“He was such a smart kid,” said his father, Donnie Nichols, recalling the many awards his son received while in school.
Jeffrey Nichols loved hunting and fishing, his father said, and graduated from Detroit ISD in 2006 as class valedictorian. (Courtesy photo/Facebook)
“This is one he’ll never get to receive, but the whole family will appreciate this one for the rest of our lives,” he said.
Nichols’ family formed the Jeffrey Don Nichols Scholarship Foundation in his name, and will likely be offered to students of Red River County who choose a career in public service, according to his father.
“We wanted to help out the community and let Jeff’s legacy live on forever,” Donnie Nichols said.
In total, twenty awards were presented to the families of peace officers killed in the line of duty. Thirty-one peace officers, five firefighters, and one emergency medical first responder, who were all seriously injured, were also honored.
Donations to the scholarship can be made online or sent to:
State Bank of DeKalb
C/O Trooper Jeffrey Nichols Scholarship Fund
PO Box 1019
Clarksville, TX 75426