Fallen Heroes: Officer Floyd T. Deloach Jr.

Nelson Zoch

June 30, 1965

Floyd Taylor Deloach Jr. was born in Houston on October 20, 1936. He attended Ben Milam Elementary School, Washington Junior High and Reagan High School, graduating from Reagan in 1955. After serving his country in the United States Army for two years, he joined the Houston Police Department on September 14, 1959, graduating from Police Cadet Class No. 22 on December 16, 1959.  He was elected by his classmates to be the class secretary. His first assignment was in the Accident Division.

The following chain of events was pieced together from newspaper accounts as well as with the able assistance of retired Homicide Lieutenant Chester Massey, a supervisor assigned to assist in the coordination of the Deloach investigation.

On Wednesday night, June 30, 1965, Officer Deloach reported to his extra job at the North Shepherd Bowling Lanes, 650 West Crosstimbers at North Shepherd. His hours there were from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. His duties were to patrol the parking lot and provide security for customers’ vehicles. There were no immediate eyewitnesses to what happened. About 11 p.m., a customer leaving the lanes found Officer Deloach lying on the deserted west side of the parking lot. He had been shot twice in the head, once in the abdomen and three times in his hands. An ambulance took him to Heights Hospital where he died at 11:20 p.m. He was twenty-eight.

The initial investigation determined that the officer’s service revolver and personal vehicle were missing. Investigators quickly obtained registration information and by 11:45 p.m. a statewide pickup bulletin was broadcast for the officer’s vehicle. Within an hour, Texas Highway Patrol put roadblocks in place on every major highway leading out of Houston.

About midnight, a hysterical woman with two small children ran to a farmer’s house on Rhodes Road near Spring Steubner Road in Northwest Harris County. The woman, Mary Davis, told the farmer that her husband had shot a policeman and had beaten her up. She further stated that her husband picked her up at the Houston Motor Inn at 5805 North Shepherd and told her that he “had to get out of here fast.” Mrs. Davis’ husband, Donald, in a fit of rage and covered with blood from the waist up, beat her and forced her and their children to get in a car she had never seen before. After driving aimlessly for nearly an hour, Davis got out of the car to relieve himself and when he did, Mary Davis drove off and left him. When the car quit running, she got out and ran to the farmhouse.

Houston police initiated a massive manhunt for Donald Davis, who was on foot. By midmorning the next day, two Piper Cub airplanes, ten bloodhounds and a dozen mounted officers were searching for this killer in an area between Tomball and Spring in the Jackrabbit Road/Spring Creek corridor. This part of Harris County was significantly different from the more thickly populated area it grew to be in the early years of the new century. In 1965, it was far away from the bright lights of even the Houston suburbs, consisting primarily of farms, oil fields and scattered farmhouses.

While the search for the killer was conducted, an investigation of the crime scene revealed that a witness had seen a red-haired man in the officer’s car about 10:35 p.m. A wallet with Davis’ identification was found at the scene. The description provided by this witness fit that of Donald Jay Davis (White Male, 21), who was found to be wanted on a robbery charge from Abilene. Throughout the evening and night of July 1 the search for Donald Davis intensified, but with no results. Then, on Friday, just after 7 a.m., the suspect walked into the Town and Country Beauty Salon in Huffsmith, just outside of Tomball. He asked Mrs. Berniece Jolly if he could use the phone. She recognized Davis, got scared but allowed him to call Houston.

Officer J. W. Haines in the City Jail took the call and immediately learned Davis’ location. Haines motioned for someone else to call Homicide and get some units en route. He kept Davis on the line with small talk and eventually the authorities got to Huffsmith and arrested him. Davis also surrendered his gun as well as Officer Deloach’s weapon.

Mrs. Jolly did her part in assisting law enforcement officers. At one point, when it seemed that Davis was getting antsy and might walk off, she offered to give him a haircut. When he accepted her offer, he calmed down. The beauty operator’s move bought HPD just enough time, too.

One newspaper account of this incident was particularly enlightening. This was one year before the infamous “Miranda ruling” that would have an everlasting effect on American policing. The article began, “For the first time that veteran law officers in Harris County can remember, an arrested crime suspect was taken ‘forthwith before the nearest magistrate’ Friday and was provided an attorney without being questioned.” It continued to say that this unprecedented procedure was carried out by the men working under Homicide Captain L. D. Morrison Jr. at the suggestion of District Attorney Frank Briscoe. Donald Davis was willing to place in writing his version of the events leading up to the death of Officer Deloach.

Captain Morrison assigned veteran Homicide Lieutenant Massey to personally interrogate the suspect. Under Massey’s intense questioning, the suspect stated that he left his pregnant wife and two small children at their motel to “rob something and get some money.” When Deloach halted him on the parking lot and asked him for some identification, he felt that the officer would soon find out about the Abilene robbery.

When Davis saw Deloach had a gun, he pulled out his own pistol with the intension of kidnapping the officer by taking his car and putting him in the trunk. However, Officer Deloach reacted to Davis’ gun in his face by pulling his own sidearm. The two men struggled over the gun before it went off “accidentally.” Davis’ account did not explain the number of shots that struck and killed the officer.

Funeral services were held at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 3, 1965 at the Forest Park Funeral Home with burial following at the Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery. Officer Deloach was survived by his wife of nine years, JoAnn Deloach, and two daughters, five-year-old Terri Lynn and twenty-three-month-old Tracey Lee. Also surviving were his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Deloach, Sr., sisters Beulah Pittman, Ethel Petersen, Alta Wells and Evelyn Bearden, as well as one brother, Gilbert Nelson.

Donald Jay Davis went on trial in September 1966 for murder in the death of Officer Deloach. The state sought the death penalty. However, the jury of ten men and two women were not allowed to hear evidence in connection with the Abilene robbery. Newspaper accounts of the trial revealed that the jury was deadlocked, as there was one woman who would not vote for the death penalty under any circumstances. She felt that “Davis was a good boy who had just chanced to get into trouble.” Finally, the rest of the jury gave in to her wishes and convicted Davis of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Luck was on the cop killer’s side. The “overcrowding” conditions during this period in Texas history along with the resulting rules inflicted upon the Texas Department of Corrections by U. S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, Davis was allowed an early parole. On July 26, 1983, he was paroled to Coleman County, near Abilene, having been in custody just over eighteen years. No evidence existed to indicate that Davis had had further problems with the law. Without an offense report, it was impossible to identify the primary investigators in this offense. Quite likely the entire Homicide Division participated in some aspect of the investigation and stayed on the case until it was brought together and wrapped up.

While Donald Davis was seemingly “free,” Officer Floyd Deloach’s family lived on with the memories of their loved one taken from them at such a young age. Jo Ann Deloach resided and worked in the Houston area in 2000 as did both daughters, Terri Lynn and Tracey Lee. Floyd’s parents both died as did his sisters Beulah, Ethel and Alta and his brother, Gilbert. Sister Evelyn also resided in the Houston area.

 

Nelson J. Zoch

ADDED INFORMATION TO THE LINE OF DUTY DEATH OF OFFICER FLOYD DELOACH

 

Mrs. Jo Ann Deloach passed away on July 18, 2018 at the age of 79.  She was the widow of HPD Officer Floyd Taylor Deloach, who was shot and KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY on June 30, 1965.  She is survived by her daughters Terri Lynn and Tracey Lee, who were five years old and 23 months old respectively when their father was killed.  Also, by son-in-law Wade Jones and a brother Donnie Smith and his family.

 

Services were held at the Christ Church Baptist Fellowship, 12501 Champion Forest Drive in northwest Harris County on Wednesday, July 25.  Burial took place later that day next to her deceased husband at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery.

 

This writer was contacted on Monday, July 23 by Tracey.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Deloach and Terri and Tracy a number of years ago.  Fine folks.  Tracy and Terri had already made all of the necessary arrangements but were at a loss as to who to call with HPD.  I am very glad she thought of me.  She indicated to me that their Mom had no grandchildren nor any other close relatives and requested if I could arrange some HPD pallbearers.  I immediately told her Yes, I would work on it.

 

My first phone calls were to Jorge Lucero in HPD Family Assistance and then to Nelson Foehner with HPROA Family Assistance.  Neither were aware of Mrs. Deloach’s death.  They both took care of their respective duties.  Our thanks to both.  One of my next phone calls was to Retired Lieutenant E.J. Smith, whom I felt would have possibly known Officer Deloach.  E.J. did know him.  I did not have the pleasure of knowing the slain Officer as he was killed in 1965, nearly three years to my arriving at HPD. With several phone calls between us and with the tremendous assistance of E.J., contact was made on very short notice and we had six retired Officers committed to help carry this fine lady to her final resting place next to her dear husband.

 

With the help of Jim Ashby, two notifications were made via the HPROA website of the service times.  Even with short notice, we were able to get this information out.  E.J., Roger Dickson, Doug Hudson, J.W. Williams, Charlie Berryman, and Nelson Zoch were given this honor.  Also attending the service were Jim St.John, John Harlan, Retired Sgt. Bickel, and two more retired Officers both of whom knew Officer Deloach-Fred Walschburger and Doug Bostock.  If I missed anyone, I sincerely apologize as this HPD turnout meant very much to Terri and Tracey.

 

One retired Officer at the church was not able to attend the graveside service at Forest Park Lawndale.  However, retired HPD Honor Guard Sergeant Bruce Johnson arrived and filled in.

 

There were several items of information learned from this experience that I feel should be passed on for general information:

 

I: I learned from HPD Honor Guard Sergeant Jim Armstrong that the HPD Standard Operating Procedures calls for an Honor Guard presence (nothing ceremonial) at the service (if requested) of a LINE OF DUTY SPOUSE.  It is likely that very few knew of this procedure.  The HPD Honor Guard sent one uniformed Officer to attend the church service.

 

II:  Also, Terri and Tracey very much desired to have an HPD escorted procession to honor their MOM after what she endured after the loss of her loved one in 1965.  Unfortunately, the funeral home handling this matter would not allow such a request.  It was their position that due to injuries suffered during previous processions, they do not allow such for any procession inside the Beltway 8.  The family could not persuade this funeral home to provide this service.  So be it.

 

May God bless Terri and Tracey and their loved ones.

 

Nelson Zoch