Fallen Heroes: Officer Oscar Hope

Nelson Zoch

June 22, 1929

On Saturday night, at 8:30 p.m. one Felix Andres, a Negro male, came to Houston Police Headquarters complaining of threats on his life made by Henry Charles. Andres complained to Detective Sergeant Roy Young that Charles had come to his house at 408 Bayou, where Andres, his sister Laura Andres and a woman, Minerva Baptiste, resided along with Laura’s four children.

Henry Charles had at one time lived there with Minerva, but they had separated about a month before. Charles was boisterous and brandished a .45-caliber automatic pistol, saying he was “one mean n____r and couldn’t be took by any police officer.” Minerva worried that Henry Charles might cause trouble, so she enlisted Felix Andres to ask the police for protection.

At just about the time this walk-in complaint arrived at the station, Officers Oscar Hope and Ira Nix came on duty. Bayou Street being in their district, they volunteered to go out on the call. The story that followed exemplified the way several law enforcement families worked together right up until the end.

Officer Oscar Hope’s wife, Frankie Mae, was a supervisor at the Hadley telephone exchange who was almost through with her evening shift duties. It was normal practice for her to check in with her husband, who was just beginning his tour of duty. Upon her arrival at police headquarters, Officer Hope told his wife that she would have to wait until his call on Bayou was completed. Then he would follow her home. The officer told her that she and Edmund Nix, son of Officer Ira Nix, may as well accompany them to the call at the Bayou Street address.

While the officers and Mrs. Hope were en route to this location, Felix Andres supposedly told the officers once again the words that Henry Charles had related to them: “I’m  a bad n____r, boss, and no law was going to get me.”

Prior to arrival, Detective Nix told Andres to warn them before they reached the house so they could leave the car and approach Charles quietly to avoid trouble. But, as well might be expected, Andres forgot and as they rolled past the house, Officers Nix and Hope, accompanied by Felix Andres, Mrs. Hope and Edmund Nix, observed Henry Charles, Laura Andres and Minerva Baptiste all sitting on the front porch. Seeing the officers, Charles ran inside the house. The following chain of events then unfurled:

Officers Hope and Nix got out of their car. Hope told Nix to go to the rear, while he, Hope, followed Charles into the house. With his gun drawn, Hope entered through the front door as Nix went around to the rear. As Nix reached the rear door, shots rang out from inside the house. Nix battered down the locked door only to see Officer Hope as he fell. He also caught a glimpse of Charles’ leg as he darted into another room, where he tried to get out through another rear door.

Detective Nix then rushed outside and fired three times through the door the suspect was trying to open. The suspect went out that same door amid gunfire, which narrowly missed the detective’s head as boards from the door splintered. The suspect fled in the safest direction he knew, out the front door, with Detective Nix in close pursuit.

Henry Charles fired and Nix returned fire at the fleeing suspect. Nix returned to find his son, Edmund, kneeling over the body of Detective Oscar Hope. Edmund, holding his Uncle Oscar’s hand, handed Hope’s gun to his dad and said, “Here is Oscar’s gun, Dad. There are three shells left.” Charles fled from the house and Nix fired two more shots at him as he crossed a nearby vacant lot. Nix jumped into their car and drove down to the next corner, which was Cline and Bayou. He turned down Cline in pursuit. In the 3100 block, he found Charles collapsed in the street.

Nix returned to the Bayou street house and told his son, Edmund, to stay with Officer Hope’s body while he phoned to the police station. A squad of officers, headed by Senior Captain of Police Percy Heard, arrived just as the suspect, Henry Charles, died in the street.

Back at the scene, it was apparent that Officer Oscar Hope died instantly. In reconstructing the scene, officers believed that Charles had hidden behind the door connecting the front room with the kitchen and, as Officer Hope entered the kitchen, Charles opened fire. One bullet entered the rear of Hope’s head. Hope’s pistol was fired three times.

An inquest was held with Justice of the Peace Campbell Overstreet returning a verdict of murder in Officer Hope’s death and a verdict of death by gunshot wounds in the case of Henry Charles. As a result of this inquest, no charges were filed against Detective Nix, as it was ruled that he obviously fired in the line of duty.

Detective Oscar Hope was thirty-one years old, having been born in Longview, Harrison County, on August 17, 1897. He was the second of seven children born to Robert Wert Hope and Harriet Parker Hope. He had entered the service as a mounted ward officer seven years before his death. He later served as a plain clothes man and was made head of the Vice Squad, a position he held until the new city administration came into office the previous April. He was very well respected by all officers who had served with him.

Oscar Hope was also well known as a rodeo performer, having tamed broncos, bulldogged steers and roped calves at exhibitions throughout the Southwest. In addition to performing in England, he had also seen rodeo action at the 1928 National Convention of the Shrine at Miami, Florida. He had participated in several motion pictures, including “North of 36” and “Womanhandled.” In 1924, he rode before the King and Queen of England, as well as the Prince of Wales, in a traveling rodeo.

Hope, who lived at 3207 West Dallas Avenue, was survived by his wife, Frankie Mae, and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. W. (Harriet) Hope, Sr., two brothers, R. W. Hope Jr. (HPD officer) and Glenn Hope, and five sisters, Mrs. Norma McFarland of Longview and Mrs. Gay Osbourne of South Houston, and Mrs. Annie Mae Peterson, Mrs. Robbie Gregg and Miss Ruth Hope, all of Houston.

While the family relationship of Officers Hope and Nix has been somewhat confusing through the years, with the help of Officer Hope’s nephew, HPD’s own Harry Hope, and his daughter Heather, the proper information came to fore. Oscar Hope and Ira Nix were fellow officers as well as very good friends. Hope’s younger brother, Ruben, later married Nix’s daughter, Alma, in 1933, four years after Officer Hope’s murder. Their son, Harry Hope, joined HPD as a civilian in the Identification Bureau in 1963, retiring in 2004.

Just one week prior to Officer Oscar Hope losing his life in the line of duty, Officer Ruben Hope was involved in a fatal shooting of a suspect while off-duty in near West Houston.  Officer Ruben Hope, while traveling in his personal vehicle, was confronted and actually kidnapped by a crazed, drunken suspect who was fleeing on foot after killing several citizens.  Officer Hope calmly accompanied the suspect. When responding HPD officers confronted this suspect, Hope took his chance with a concealed off-duty weapon and shot and killed the suspect.

One week later, his dear brother, Oscar, ten years his senior, lost his life in the line of duty. Oscar Hope is buried at Forest Park Lawndale on the north side of Lawndale. His marker reads: