Detectives Nabors both fulfilling lifelong dream of solving homicide puzzles, running in the bad guys

Tom Kennedy, Editor
The detectives Nabors: Dylan the son and Bart the dad.

One needs no clues, for there is no puzzling mystery to this case. The facts are that Bart Nabors fulfilled his childhood goal of “catching the bad guys” and his son Dylan picked up on his dad’s life’s calling and followed his lead.

And so, today, HPD Homicide Division has two detectives Nabors, the father and the son. We believe them to be the first father-son detectives in this celebrated division of the department.

No, they don’t work the same cases as partners. The father works “gang murders,” the son the – well, we don’t want to say “the regular cases” but rather the whodunits that come down the pike for every detective in Homicide.

By policy, one blood kin can’t supervise another. But the 25-year veteran Bart admits that near the top of his bucket list is a desire to one day partner up with son Dylan.

“There’s nothing that says we can’t be partners,” Bart Nabors said. “You can’t supervise a relative. But it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that we could be partners down the road.”

The Rubbing-off

Both detectives are Houston natives who grew up in Spring Branch on the northwest side. The elder Nabors graduated from the old Spring Branch High School, knowing he was headed for a law enforcement calling.

How did he figure?

“I always wanted to be a police officer,” he explained. “Growing up playing cops and robbers. I was always wanting to catch the bad guy. I had a life-long dream of being the good guy.”

There was another lure for the self-styled “puzzle guy.” Bart Nabors always loved working puzzles, not just crosswords and the jumbled-up math quizzes but the logic dilemmas, like, whodunit? The cool dude in the suit walking away from the scene or the other one in a t-shirt speeding away in a blue car?

“I have always loved puzzles that make you think,” he said, “where you have to figure out stuff.”

Yep, sounds like the makings of a homicide detective for an individual who was the son of a Schlumberger engineer and a secretary for the Spring Branch Independent School District.

“Investigating these cases is like puzzles,” Nabors explained. “You have to keep putting the pieces together to figure out how to get the bad guys. You are trying to put things together based on clues.” Then there’s also finding key witnesses and interviewing them. Most of the time it’s not easy.

It won’t be a surprise to note that one of the longest-serving veterans in Homicide has always liked detective shows on television and movies spotlighting detectives who solve intriguing mysteries. One of his favorite detective role models is novelist Michael Connelly’s classic character, Harry Bosch.

Now what’s the story of the second generation, the HPD legacy Dylan Nabors?

You might say he wasn’t necessarily inspired by puzzles or fictional heroes like Bosch. No, for Dylan, it was the real people.

By the time he got to Spring Woods High School, Dylan was growing to believe that his dad’s profession was rubbing off on him.

“He would come home and tell me about the cases he was working,” the younger Detective Nabors recalled. He was careful to explain that Dad used caution about details, teaching his son the importance of close-to-the-vest information and anonymity on a regular basis.

“I never really talked about them (the cases) with anybody else,” Dylan said. “It was something we kept between ourselves when we were talking about the cases. He wouldn’t go into full detail, just kind of the basic stuff you would tell your child.

Similar HPD Paths

“He would give me the small details and wouldn’t go into much.”

There were other “rubs,” too.

At a young and impressionable age Dylan got to know his dad’s friends on HPD, particularly those in North Patrol, aka North Shepherd, and, of course, later in the HPD Homicide Division.

Starting at Blinn College in Brenham, Bart followed his two years there to work for the Texas Department of Corrections, aka TDCJ, while earning a criminal justice degree from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville.

He worked as a prison guard. When his mother passed away in 1987, Bart returned to Houston as a parole officer. He had a high school friend or two on HPD and finally decided to become what he thought he always wanted to be – a Houston police officer.

He graduated HPD Cadet Class No. 161 more than 25 years ago. He now wishes he’d “pulled the trigger” three years earlier.

He started at Beechnut and moved to North Shepherd Patrol before he “started working gangs,” gaining a spot on the Gang Task Force.

From there he achieved his ambition to be a Houston homicide detective in 2004. Now high on the seniority list, Bart Nabors has served under a growing number of captains (now commanders). And they were/are Richard Holland, Milton Brown, Steve Jett, David Gott, Dwayne Ready (a Spring Branch High School classmate) and Michael Skillern.

Dylan Nabors graduated Spring Woods High in 2010, got some college under his belt at both Sam and Lone Star College and graduated HPD Cadet Class No. 215 at the ripe young age of 21.

At this point in our story it’s no surprise where Dylan was headed. He did three years at North Shepherd Patrol, his dad’s old stomping ground, before coming to the night shift in Homicide with that familiar family hankering “to bring the bad guys to justice.”

“I knew I wanted to go to Homicide,” Dylan explained in between taking calls from sources in his latest case. “Dad was up here and there were a lot of people he had been on patrol with who were now in Homicide. I helped them when I was on patrol when they needed somebody to be picked up. I wanted to come here and join Homicide.

“Dad is on the gang murder squad and I work pretty much murders.”

Were this a TV series or a mystery movie, the father and son would perhaps work together all the time and maybe get at each other’s throat in the ever-present generation gap.

That is decidedly not the real-life case at 1200 Travis.

Bucket List Item

Reminded of his dad’s penchant to work puzzles, Dylan told the Badge & Gun, “I’m completely the opposite of my dad on that part. I enjoy doing something physical outside. I’ve never been the guy to do the puzzle.”

Example: Dylan played cornerback for the Spring Woods Tigers back in high school. Today this “difference” might mean the older Nabors detective approaches a case with a slightly different from the younger detective Nabors.

It makes no difference. They both want to keep giving it the best shot to reign in the bad guys who kill people.

“On a normal day we might get coffee together,” Bart Nabors explained. “He doesn’t live at home, of course. We might get lunch together. We still interact quite a bit.”

They might confer just like a younger detective confers with a more experienced one. Bart is definitely in the latter category since he currently teaches the “basic death investigation class” to cadets and is surely a wide source of information.

The elder Nabors said solving the whodunits has gotten more difficult because more potential witnesses “don’t want to get involved” like they used to. He firmly advocates “getting off your butt” and going to scenes to establish rapport with the people who can help get the bad guys off the streets.

Technology, as always, has a role to play in every case. In that regard, the proud papa said his other son, Dylan’s brother, Zachary, is a student at Sam Houston State, majoring in cyber security and digital forensics – “the smarter side of law enforcement.”

Same puzzles, one might say, different approach to solutions.

The detectives Nabors in HPD Homicide continue their work with Bart Nabors’ bucket list item staying in the backs of their minds. Maybe one day they will be partners!