Lawrence police officer receives special honor for going above and beyond to fight drunk driving

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Lawrence Police Officer Shawn Gross is honored Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, with the Golden Achievement Award for his work with Kansas' Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. Nov. 29

A Lawrence police officer on Tuesday was honored with the Golden Achievement Award for his work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Kansas.

Officer Shawn Gross has been involved with MADD for six years, and the organization gave him the award for “going above and beyond” in his efforts to prevent impaired driving and in training fellow officers on the importance of enforcement.

The award was presented by Lori Marshall, the director of Kansas’ chapter of MADD, in a surprise ceremony during the police department’s command staff meeting Tuesday morning. She said that Gross was chosen for his collective work with the organization, including teaching classes about impaired driving at the Lawrence training academy and serving as a member of MADD’s state advisory board.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Lori Marshall, program director with Kansas MADD, hugs Officer Shawn Gross as he receives the Golden Achievement Award for his work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2022.

“He is at every event we have,” Marshall said. “He’s at every candlelight vigil we have. He’s there to support victims. He talks to victims and their families. If there (are) officers that have been injured or have worked a difficult crash, he will reach out to them. There’s nothing he won’t do when it comes to impaired driving enforcement, whether it’s supporting MADD or supporting victims and family members and law enforcement officers.”

Gross has also been part of efforts to raise money for MADD by creating the “Douglas County Cares” team that participates in the annual Walk Like MADD 5K event; he has raised close to $10,000 since he started the team in 2017. He has established one of the largest teams that participate in the 5K run, with more than 30 members, said Marshall, who has been working with MADD for 11 years and has been director for the last seven.

She said that she and two other victim advocates provide emotional support services and legal guidance to people who have been affected by an impaired-driving crash. Because they provide these services at no cost to the victims, they rely on events like the 5K run for funding.

The Golden Achievement Award is not one of MADD’s annual awards and has been awarded only one other time. The last recipient of the Golden Achievement Award was a group of Kansas State Highway Patrol troopers in 2018, Marshall said.

Gross said he was caught by surprise Tuesday. His fellow officers worked together to keep it a surprise, but he said he became a bit suspicious when he saw his good friend and MADD colleague Marshall attending the morning briefing.

“I am at a loss for words as far as the award. I never did any of this for recognition. I did it because I experienced the trauma of drunk driving fatalities,” Gross said. ” I just do everything in my power to make sure that no one else has to suffer the trauma that comes with losing a loved one or you yourself being injured.”

Gross, who has been an officer in Lawrence for 14 years, said he was first touched by the effects of drunk driving on Oct. 14, 2010. He said he encountered a vehicle crash near the intersection of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive involving an impaired driver. He said the crash was originally reported as a noninjury accident, but when he approached the scene, it became clear that the crash was a lot more serious.

“When checking the driver, she was in bad shape. I did what I could to try to save her, but unfortunately there was too much,” Gross said. “She had sustained far too great of injuries to save her life, and it’s what’s motivated me really passionately with making sure that we eliminate drunk driving.”

photo by: Contributed

Officer Shawn Gross, left, wearing a weighted vest during a Mothers Against Drunk Driving 5K run with the names of two drunk driving crash victims over his heart. Gross attempted to save the life of Mary Paez after she was involved in a crash in 2010, and Gross served alongside Lawrence Police Officer Matthew Klock before Klock died in a crash in 2013.

When Gross runs the annual MADD 5K, he wears a 20-pound weighted vest with a patch over his heart bearing the name of the woman who died that night — Mary Paez, 19 — and of a fellow Lawrence police officer — Matthew Klock, 29 — who died in 2013 in an impaired driving crash, he said.

Gross started working with MADD to foster a relationship between the organization and the Lawrence Police Department.

“I didn’t know everything that MADD did or what I could do in helping out until I met Lori Marshall when she was teaching a death notification training for officers. I just got to know her and became more aware of MADD, and that’s when I looked on social media and saw that they were doing a 5K, and the rest is history,” Gross said.

The mission of eliminating drunk driving is bolstered with every event he attends, he said, as new names and faces are added to the list of victims, and their families join the vigils and events.

“I’ve met a number of people whose lives have been significantly changed. Either they’ve lost a loved one or their quality of life has changed due to injuries that were from drunk driving. It has just inspired me and motivated me to keep on going out there and pushing hard to pursue MADD’s mission of no more victims of impaired driving,” Gross said.


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