Fallen Heroes: Officer Dawn Erickson

Nelson Zoch

Christmas Eve 1995

Dawn Suzanne Erickson was born in Belleville, Illinois, on January 15, 1973.  Her parents were David and Beth Erickson.  She graduated from Westbury High School in southwest Houston in 1992, finishing in the top five percent of her class.


Continuing her education at the Houston Community College, she received an Associates of Arts Degree in 1993.  On August 29, 1994, she joined the Houston Police Department by entering Academy Class No. 160.  Upon graduation on March 3, 1995, she entered her Probationary training period, which she successfully completed on August 28, 1995.


Dawn’s first and only assignment was to the South Central Division of Central Patrol.  She had completed only four months of a promising career when on the night of December 24, Christmas Eve, 1995, she was on a voluntary extra-job assignment of her choice at a church in southwest Houston.


Working an extra job


At approximately 6:45pm in this most joyous of seasons, Officer Dawn Erickson was directing traffic for the Christmas Eve service at the Unity Church of Christianity, 2900 Unity Drive.  Officer Erickson was wearing a reflective jacket and using an orange-tipped flashlight.  At this time, a motorist was eastbound on Unity in a 1987 Honda Accord.  The motorist later reported that she only saw a red light flickering in the street.


It was at this point that Officer Erickson was struck by the passing motorist with the left front of the vehicle.  This impact caused the Officer to be thrown into the vehicle’s windshield and then be thrown an additional twelve feet into the air and onto the pavement.    Officer Erickson suffered head and leg injuries as a result of the impact.  She was loaded by HFD Ambulance and immediately transported to Ben Taub Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:50pm. She was only 22 years old.


An Officer Fatality Investigation


This accident was professionally investigated by the HPD Accident Division.  While Officer Maurer and R. S. Cedeno were the first units on the scene, Officers J. W. Nickell and R. Hernandez were the primary investigators on this Officer fatality from the Accident Division’s Hit and Run Detail. Sergeant D. Hurd supervised as well as participated in the investigation. Officer R. Saenz was later assigned to assist in the investigative follow-up on this case.    Officer D. E. Henry, who was working this departmentally approved extra job with the complainant, was also on the scene to assist the responding officers.


The suspect driving the Honda Accord was quickly determined at the scene to have not had any major culpability in this offense.  She was taken into custody and tested for any and all chemical substances in her body, all of which proved to be negative.


An extensive and thorough investigation was conducted into this fatality by the Accident Division.  While it was determined that the driver of the Honda was likely exceeding the speed limit at the time of the impact into Officer Erickson, a Grand Jury declined to authorize any criminal charges in this case.


A tragedy on Christmas Eve followed by a funeral


Officer Erickson was survived by her father David Erickson of Harlingen, Texas, and her mother and step-father, Beth and Scott Green of Richmond, Texas.  Also, her brother Christopher Erickson as well as her sisters Deanna Nixon and husband Brent and Nicole Erickson


The Earthman Company  was in charge of arrangements for Officer Erickson.  Visitation was held from 8:30am to 9:00pm at their facility at 12555 South Kirkwood on Wednesday, December 27, 1995.  Funeral services were conducted at the Sugar Creek Baptist Church, 13213 Southwest Freeway, at 10:00am on Thursday, December 28, 1995.  The Reverend Gene A. Moore and Police Chaplain Edwin Davis co-officiated at the Christian service.  Burial followed at the Forest Park-Westheimer Cemetery.


What a tragedy!  A young life and career ended so quickly on Christmas Eve.  While I have been unsuccessful in locating Officer Erickson’s family, I feel that they have not forgotten this young lady with such a bright future ahead of her.  We should not forget either.