On the morning of October 22, 2013, Melton Truck Lines driver Harry Welker and a trainee (who is not currently employed with Melton) stopped at a rest area on I-70 in Kannapolis, Kansas. As Welker and the trainee walked across the parking lot and entering the restroom, they noticed a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper had pulled over a van. At the time, it appeared to be like a routine encounter, however, things quickly changed.
While Welker and his trainee were in the restroom, the trooper tried to identify the occupant of the van but the man was being evasive and provided several different names– the man was acting suspiciously. The trooper then asked the man to get out of his vehicle and place his hands on the hood of the trooper’s vehicle. Initially, the man complied, but as the trooper was placing cuffs on the man’s wrists, the man became hostile and uncooperative and attacked the trooper. The man placed the trooper in a chokehold.
According to a a report by the superintendent of the Kansas Highway Patrol, “a life and death struggle then ensued” and the man punched the trooper several times in the face and tried to grab the trooper’s gun.
Welker and his trainee finished using the facilities and began walking back to the truck just as the incident was escallating and the man and trooper were violently fighting on the ground. The man reportedly got on top of the trooper and was beginning to overpower the trooper.
Welker and his former trainee, both former U.S. Marine Corps veterans, sprang into action and ran to help the trooper. Welker and the trainee tackled the man and attempted to subdue him, but the suspect resisted. The trooper used a stun gun in an attempt to subdue the man. Eventually, Welker, the trainee and the trooper were able to subdue the man enough to handcuff him.
“It was my natural reaction to go over there and help. I didn’t give it a second thought,” said Welker, who also spent eight years as a Missouri state corrections officer who also used to escort prisoners for the Marines. “I’m not out to get recognition … I’m a concerned citizen who took action when action needed to be taken.”
The man was placed under arrest. He turned out to be wanted for parole violations in another state.
The Kansas Highway Patrol awarded Welker a plaque for his selfless actions on that morning. “Mr. Welker, you exhibited a great deal of bravery when you, unselfishly and without regard to your own safety, responded to help [our trooper],” states the letter of thanks. “You put yourself in harm’s way for a State Trooper who you did not know. Your actions undoubtedly saved [the trooper] from further injury and possibly death.”
For his efforts and act of bravery, Welker was awarded a TCA Highway Angel and has presented with a Highway Angel with a certificate patch, and lapel pin. Melton Truck Lines Inc. also received a certificate acknowledging that one of its drivers is a Highway Angel.
Since the program’s inception in August 1997, hundreds of drivers have been recognized as Highway Angels for the unusual kindness, courtesy, and courage they have shown others while on the job.
To nominate a driver or learn more about the program and its honorees, visit the Highway Angel Web page at http://www.truckload.org/Highway-Angel or their Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/tcanews. For additional information, contact TCA at (703) 838-1950 or [email protected].