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A four-man FBI team rescued 150 as Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston

With first responders overwhelmed during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, a team of FBI SWAT team agents rallied to join in the rescue effort. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports.

Posted: Oct 1, 2019 5:10 PM
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 5:10 PM

The rain pounded the streets and neighborhoods of Houston for more than four days following the landfall of Category 4 Hurricane Harvey in late August 2017. The downpour caused historic flooding and triggered thousands of rescues. The situation became so dire and resources were so strapped, that the most unlikely law enforcement members were called to step up as first responders.

"We didn't have specific training, but we knew people needed help," said FBI Special Agent David Ko, part of the bureau's SWAT unit in Houston. "Part of being a SWAT team is when the call comes out you go out and help people ... and this is what we did."

As Harvey stalled over Houston, the FBI team received a desperate call from the Houston Police Department. Dozens of police officers, including the chief of police, were trapped at a substation in an inaccessible area. So FBI Special Agent Mike Walker sent out an email asking the 37 FBI agents to come in and help. Only four agents were able to circumvent the surging floodwaters to get in to where the high-water trucks, boats and equipment were stored.

The four-man team quickly formulated a rescue plan to reach the trapped Houston police officers and citizens. Since it was his first time driving the high-water vehicles into deep water, Agent Ko was concerned. "It's supposed to drive underwater but does it really? Or is it gonna flip over? Or are we going to hit a fire hydrant?"

But the team knew they had a mission to complete. They successfully navigated the fast-moving current and positioned the five-ton truck, anchoring themselves from being swept away. Then, they began the high-water rescue efforts.

"We had taken five or six loads and it's still pouring down rain," Agent Mike Walker said.

The team worked through the night, filling the truck to its 30-person capacity several times and bringing people to safety. These FBI agents didn't let up on their rescue efforts for nearly a week.

This summer, the four men were awarded the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

"Special Agents David Ko, Jack Walker, Michael Walker, and Justin Widup went above and beyond to rescue more than 150 Houstonians during Harvey's peak," Cornyn said at the July 26 ceremony. "In receiving the Congressional Badge of Bravery, they join an elite group of heroes whose acts of courage make our communities and country safer."

The agents lauded for their heroism and sacrifice are all assigned to the Houston field office's SWAT unit.

"They represent the helpful spirit of Houstonian people who wanted to put themselves at risk for the benefit of somebody else," Mayor Turner said.

The Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery was introduced in 2008 to honor exceptional acts of heroism by law enforcement officers at every level -- state, local, and federal -- while in the line of duty.

"It was definitely humbling," said Special Agent Justin Widup. "You never get into this job for awards. I've been in law enforcement 15 years and I've never done it to be recognized. You want to help people. I think we all would like to share with all the officers in this city that we're out there helping everybody because everybody is deserving of it."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 97638

Reported Deaths: 2067
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin27372932
Ramsey11088322
Dakota7635126
Anoka6238137
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Washington388355
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Olmsted251928
Nobles197716
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Chisago5131
Todd5042
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Beltrami4505
Martin43010
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Itasca34715
Pine3430
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Polk3224
Isanti3151
Becker2812
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Grant634
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Marshall531
Mahnomen491
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Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 86860

Reported Deaths: 1315
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk16010262
Woodbury555467
Johnson517027
Black Hawk450990
Linn4101113
Story346217
Dubuque333241
Scott304528
Dallas280738
Pottawattamie215939
Buena Vista199912
Marshall179134
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Wapello134057
Webster128014
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Clinton113021
Muscatine112155
Crawford11005
Cerro Gordo105921
Warren9666
Jasper86432
Des Moines8008
Marion7697
Henry7554
Tama73932
Carroll6855
Lee6437
Wright5961
Dickinson5306
Boone5178
Bremer5027
Washington47211
Louisa43115
Delaware4233
Mahaska41519
Floyd3543
Jackson3523
Franklin35118
Lyon3514
Winneshiek3406
Clay3344
Hamilton3323
Benton3281
Winnebago31713
Hardin3071
Poweshiek3078
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Jones2843
Kossuth2800
Butler2752
Emmet27010
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Sac2650
Clayton2633
Cherokee2552
Cedar2521
Guthrie2527
Harrison2523
Fayette2312
Madison2272
Grundy2243
Iowa2161
Palo Alto2050
Hancock1952
Howard1927
Humboldt1913
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Monona1601
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Jefferson1391
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