Fallen Heroes: Officer Keith Dees

Nelson Zoch

March 7, 2002

Keith Alan Dees was born in Saudi Arabia in a United States Air Force Hospital on October 19, 1956.  His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ruby Harlon Dees, were in that country while his father was serving in the military at the time. Dee received his early education at Anderson Elementary School in Houston, Fondren and Johnston junior high schools, and graduated from Westbury High School in 1975.

Keith Dees attended the University of Houston for a time and began his employment with the City of Houston in 1978 as a fireman with the Houston Fire Department in Class 78-A. After four years of fighting fires, he applied for the Houston Police Department. He began his HPD career with Police Cadet Class No. 107 on August 9, 1982, graduating on December 10 of that year. His first assignment was to the South Radio Patrol Bureau out of the Southwest Patrol Station, night shift. He proudly wore Badge No. 3807.

Officer Dees, in the mid-1980s, began working on the Westside Traffic Enforcement Unit and in 1987 was selected to work in the Solo Motorcycle Unit of the Accident Division. He worked in that capacity until his death.

On the night of Thursday, March 7, 2002, Officer Keith Dees had nearly completed his tour of duty with the evening shift of the Solo Motorcycle Division.  Just shortly before 9 p.m., he received an assignment from his supervisor, Sergeant D. J. Culak, to initiate a final inspection of their assigned freeways prior to heading home for the night.

While on his last freeway patrol of the evening, he entered the North Freeway at the Walker Street entrance. As he entered the northbound lanes, he was changing lanes to his left in an attempt to pass a slower-moving vehicle. When he did so, he was confronted with a disabled Cadillac in that lane. This automobile had lost a wheel. In an obvious attempt to avoid a collision with the disabled vehicle, Dees veered to his right and went down with the motorcycle.

The officer skidded along the freeway pavement, sustaining massive body trauma that caused a number of internal injuries. A passing motorist who was a physician stopped to render aid while an ambulance was summoned. An HFD ambulance took Dees to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:30 p.m. He was forty-five years old, a nineteen-year HPD veteran.

Officer Keith Dees was survived by his wife Deborah, his son Derek Dees, age twelve, his daughter Grace Dees, twenty-one months old, and by a stepson, Trenton, age eight. Also mourning his sudden death were his mother, Mrs. Bettye Virginia Dees, sisters Marianne Cole and Leslie Hakkola, and his brother, Kevin Dees. His siblings’ spouses and their children also mourned his death, as did his inlaws, Woody Enloe and Virginia Enloe, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his father, Ruby Harlon Dees, as well as his grandfather, Ruben C. Dees.

George H. Lewis and Sons, 1010 Bering Drive, was in charge of arrangements.  Visitation was held from 6-8 p.m. Monday, March 11, 2002. Funeral services were held the next day at 11 a.m. at the Second Baptist Church, 6400 Woodway, with the Reverend Steve Seelig officiating. Burial followed at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery.

Officer J. E. Tippy of the Accident Division was assigned to conduct this on-duty officer fatality investigation. Tippy, the primary investigator on the case, was supervised at the scene and in his follow-up report by Lieutenants A. F. Bukowski and S. L. Broze. He was assisted by Sergeant E. B. Robinson and Officers R. Ontiveros, R. Palomo, I. M. Labdi, R. A. Narvaez, M. W. Potell and R. Saenz. They conducted a thorough investigation and after Officer Tippy followed through and compiled all of the details, the case  was presented to an Assistant District Attorney for review for possible charges. The investigation revealed no negligence or criminal intent on the part of the operator of the stalled Cadillac. After consultation with Officer Dees’ family, the department decided not to pursue the matter any further.

In 2007, son Derek Dees is seventeen years old and lives in Houston with his mother, Sherri. He will graduate from high school in 2007. Grace Dees, now nearly seven years old, lives in Houston with her mother, Deborah Dees, as does Trenton. Mrs. Bettye Virginia Dees also resides in Houston; she is eighty-three. Kevin Dees lives in Houston, the father of two daughters, Karen and Cynthia Dees. Sister Marianne Cole lives in Houston, the mother of Lisa and Michelle.  Sister Leslie Hakkola lives in Minnesota, the mother of three daughters, Susan, Catherine and Jennifer. As a result of this tragic accident, a daughter, two sons, and seven nieces are growing up without their father or uncle.