Band of brothers and sisters: Community steps up for officer

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
From left, Early police Sgt. Steven Means, sheriff's investigator Leighton Wyatt, Early Director of Public Works Nathan Land and Early Police Chief David Mercer help serve brisket plate lunches.
Andres Contreras

EARLY — “In this family, no one fights alone.”

Those words are emblazoned on “Team Contreras” T-shirts worn by a large number of people at a brisket lunch fundraiser, held Friday in the Early Police Department parking lot.

The Chiptster’s Grill plates raised funds to help Early police Sgt. Andres Contreras, who is battling leukemia and has been off work for about six weeks. Contreras, an Army veteran, has been with the Early Police Department since 2013.

Law enforcement officers were among those manning the serving line and keeping the food and drinks coming for the several hundred people who attended the come-and-go lunch.

“He’s doing well,” Early Police Chief David Mercer said of Contreras. “He’s reported to us that the doctors have said the chemo is doing good. It is doing it’s job, so we have a very optimistic outlook. He’s fighting his way through and doing a good job.”

Mercer said there is no word on when Contreras can come back to work.

“We all came together — the sheriff’s office, Brownwood PD —  everybody worked together to make this happen, and it was a very successful outcome, I believe,” Mercer said of the lunch.

Contreras is “very well liked,” Mercer said. “He’s a very good officer, very good leader. He’s very good on the streets with the public and doing his job. We have a very good supportive community. We’re just thrilled with the turnout.”

Early officer Tasha Tabias helps serve brisket plate lunches.

Early police officer Tasha Tobias said the community is standing behind Contreras and helping him with medical and travel expenses. Contreras travels frequently to Dallas for treatment, Tobias said.

“He is a big pillar of our community,” Tobias said. “He’s been with the Early Police Department for a long time and he’s just a good teacher and a good role model to follow. He’s very knowledgable of what he does.

“We’re all pitching in to cover shifts, and we had to manipulate our schedules just a little bit. We’re pretty close-knit. We’re family. This is our other family besides our families at home. He’s part of our family so we’re doing everything we can.”

Early City Administrator Tony Aaron said many of those who attended the lunch know Contreras, while others don’t know him but wanted to support him. 

Aaron said Contreras is “very well liked in the community, very proactive, not just in enforcing the law but in community policing, and being present for the community

“A lot of his co-workers are here, people he works for, but there’s business owners coming in, people bringing their kids in. It’s just get behind a good cause. It’s really nice to see an opportunity where you see some good in the world. And yes, this is a bad thing for him to go through, but he’s got a lot of support.”

Several raffles are also being held to benefit Contreras. 

An article by Ricky Ray, executive assistant/marketing and communication specialist for the City of Early, is posted on the Early Police Department’s Facebook page and gives additional details about Contreras. 

Numerous "Team Contreras" T-shirts were worn at the brisket fundraiser lunch.

The article states:

Contreras has an 11-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

Contreras served in the military from 2001 to 2005 and fought in Iraq from 2003 to 2004. In 2005 he left the Army and moved to Brownwood, where he worked at Kohler for five years. He later went through a police academy and became an Early police officer.

“He was a new officer and had been a jailer for a little while but he was eager to learn," Mercer said. "And it was like just one day he made this switch from a rookie officer to the best officer you could hope for, and he’s been that way since."

The Facebook article continues:

However, things took an unexpected turn when Mercer received a text message from Contreras stating that he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia

“We were devastated when we found out,” Mercer said. “It scared us all at first because he’s our brother. I mean I may be his boss but I’m still an officer with him.” 

Contreras said he has been spending a lot of time in Dallas going to a clinic twice a week for three weeks and then on his fourth week of each month, he spends the entirety of that week in the hospital in Brownwood.

“The fact that he has pushed through and now they are telling him that the chemo is working, we are looking forward to him coming back to work,” Mercer said.