MADISONVILLE, TEXAS: The first time I met Hector Camarillo, he was dressed in his police uniform, and getting out of his Madisonville Police Department police car. A little shy, Sgt. Hector Camarillo greeted me as most law enforcement officers would greet a newspaper reporter – with some reserve.
It took a little bit, but soon I became a familiar, non-threatening face around the department, and Camarillo and I shared some friendly greetings and laughs in passing. He was always smiling and had a sparkle in his eyes, and smelled good – he loved his cologne.
And then, I heard his hero story, and had a chance to tell it. While on duty as a road deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Camarillo almost lost his life.
Let me set the scene … It was June 22, 2010, and he was on duty at a call, when what was called “an officer’s worst nightmare” happened. Camarillo, in his patrol vehicle, was driving up a hill, when a large pickup truck struck him … head on.
The reports I saw in 2013 from the incident three years prior showed that the truck was driving way beyond the speed limit, and in the wrong lane of traffic. The driver was operating the vehicle on a suspended license. Camarillo told me his life flew before him as his vehicle went straight into the median. Somehow, Camarillo was able to use his radio to call for help before losing consciousness.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (Texas DPS) trooper who was first on the scene thought that Camarillo had been killed. But, he had not been. Camarillo survived, and underwent numerous surgeries. He had closed head trauma, a broken shoulder, a broken left arm with bone exposure, broken left hip, broken left knee, a shattered left leg with bone exposure and a broken right foot.
Yeah. That was not all. His rib cage was also broken in several places, causing his stomach and spleen to be punctured. Doctors put permanent titanium implants and rods in his left shoulder, left arm, left hip, left knee and left leg. Camarillo was bedridden for four months, and then went through several months of hard physical therapy.
It was most certainly a nightmare.
In spite of the injuries and scars, and physical limitations, Camarillo fought hard to get back into the career he loved – helping people in their times of need. He became the head field training officer with the Madisonville Police Department, almost two years after his incident. He was a walking miracle with a ‘strong will to live.’
His former police Lt. Jonathan Zitzmann nominated Camarillo for the Star of Texas Award, which former Gov. Rick Perry gave to him in 2013.
Zitzmann gave me a quote that just described Hector Camarillo to a T. “Not only do I believe Hector Camarillo is worthy of a fine award like this due to the serious injury he received in the line of duty, but because he returned to law enforcement caring even more, trying even harder, and giving everything he has to benefit the department and its future.”
After I left Madisonville, I heard that Hector Camarillo was honored for helping to save a life of a Madisonville resident about three years ago.
April 5, 2020, Sgt. Hector Camarillo died at his home, it was reported by the Madisonville Police Department. A cause was not known at the time of the announcement.
He died just two months and five days short of it being a decade since his almost fatal accident.
Camarillo was a good cop … he was good people. He will be missed.
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*Note: Some information was received from past articles I wrote while serving as the managing editor for The Madisonville Meteor.