Fallen Heroes: Officer Paul W. Whitlock

Nelson Zoch

April 22, 1928

On Tuesday, April 17, 1928, a group of six uniformed Houston police officers were on the sixth floor of the Police Headquarters on Caroline Street in downtown Houston. There existed at that time a make-shift indoor pistol range and these officers, who all worked the 3-11 p.m. shift, were conducting informal pistol target practice at approximately 2:45 p.m. prior to going on their regular tours of duty.

Present were Officers Paul W. Whitlock, C. V. “Buster” Kern, H. N. Howard, G. A. Morrow, W. J. Myers and E. A. “Dutch” Boehler. All of the officers had fired several shots at targets and were preparing for the firing of additional rounds. It is unclear as to whether there was any type of organized supervision at this practice session. There probably was not.

Newspaper accounts said that Officer Whitlock was about eight feet to the side of Officer Howard and slightly in front of him. Officer Howard raised his arm to shoot his weapon and the gun went off before he could level it on the target. A .38-caliber bullet from Officer Howard’s weapon struck Officer Whitlock in the right side of his abdomen.

The officers immediately carried Whitlock down the six flights of stairs, loaded him into a police vehicle and rushed him to Baptist Hospital. He was listed in critical condition from the projectile, which shattered the pelvis bone and lodged in the left hip joint. He was reported to have a “fighting chance to live.” However, he passed away at 1:16 a.m. Sunday, April 22, 1928. He was twenty-seven years old.

Officer Whitlock, who had only been on the Houston Police Department since January 16, 1928, was a traffic control officer assigned to the intersection of Main and Prairie. He lived at 407 East Ninth Street.

Funeral services were held at the Fogle-West Chapel at 4 p.m. Monday, April 23, 1928. The Reverend E. P. West officiated at the service and burial followed at Forest Park Cemetery on Lawndale. Members of the Police Department served as pallbearers. Honorary pallbearers were Bill Jones, N. E. West, Earl V. Hyde, A. J. Kuenstler, T. H. Hassat, Jack Smith, Hubert Cosby, Raymond Kaufold and Joe Thornton.

In addition to his wife, Officer Whitlock was survived by his father, Arthur Whitlock of Houston, and one sister, Mrs. E. P. Goudreau, of Jennings, Louisiana.

Police Chief Tom C. Goodson immediately ordered an investigation into this tragic incident. Statements were taken from all present and were very much consistent. Officer Howard’s statement indicated that as he was raising his weapon to fire, someone struck his elbow, and his weapon discharged prematurely. All officers stated that when the gun went off, Officer Whitlock doubled up and pointed to his right side, saying “right here.” His only question was, “Who did it?” All of the officers who placed Officer Whitlock into Captain Tatum’s car stayed at the hospital with their wounded friend until Lieutenant Meinke instructed them to return to the station and make their statements.

The investigation as well as the death certificate declared this shooting to be an accident.

For whatever reason, the death of Officer Paul Whitlock was not written up as a LINE OF DUTY death. Retired HPD Homicide Lieutenant Nelson Zoch turned up the details while researching newspaper microfilm archives for information on this HPD Line of Duty Death book. Zoch presented the research to Police Chief Harold Hurtt in 2006. In October of that year, Chief Hurtt officially approved the death of Officer Whitlock for the LINE OF DUTY status.

While the original decision could be questioned, it must be noted that early 1928 was a terrible time in the Houston Police Department, very much similar to 1982-83 when HPD lost six Officers in THE LINE OF DUTY.

Officer Carl Greene was shot and killed in March. Officer Whitlock was killed in April, followed by Officer Albert Worth Davis in June. Three more officers went down in a three-month span of 1928, and it was only June.

Officer Whitlock was born in Louisiana on January 27, 1901, to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Whitlock. The name of Officer Whitlock’s widow was never mentioned in any article, obituary or on the death certificate. While Officer Whitlock’s gravesite was located in the older section of Forest Park Lawndale (north side of Lawndale), there was never a grave marker put into place. Efforts are underway to place the 100 Club/HPOU LINE OF DUTY marker for this fallen Officer.