JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sgt. Roger Thomas Jr. was one of the first FHP troopers to respond to the scene when a 17-year-old girl was hit by a car while trying to cross Philips Highway in June.
What he did in the hours following the crash earned him recognition Wednesday from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.
"It was a bad crash," Thomas, a 17-year FHP veteran, recounted to News4Jax on Wednesday.
The teenager had life-threatening injuries, but Thomas wasn't sure how to contact her family. She had no ID on her.
Thomas tried to run her fingerprints through the system, but there was no match, so he and another trooper returned to the scene of the crash. It was there they caught a break -- her cellphone.
With the cellphone in hand, Thomas went to the service provider and was able to track down her aunt who had raised her since she was a child. She told him the girl had been missing for two months and may be involved in a sex trafficking ring.
Thomas reached out to the Lake County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families, who were collectively investigating the case. Thomas then made sure to put them in contact with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to coordinate the safety of the victim while she was in the hospital.
"I am just extremely humbled by what has taken place. I didn't know that little small thing that I did turned out to be such a big thing behind the scenes," Thomas said. "I took ownership of it and dug a little bit deeper. That's all I did."
Thomas said he heard the girl is doing OK and currently going to rehab.
Moody presented Thomas with a Back the Blue Award for "his persistent efforts to safeguard a potential sex trafficking victim."
"Sgt. Roger Thomas' dedication to the citizens he serves is moving. He could have responded to this accident and let others finish the investigative work after his shift concluded, but Sgt. Thomas is a true public servant," Moody said. "He was a guardian and protector of this young woman and I am so thankful to have a trooper like him serve our state, help us fight human trafficking and rescue victims."