Fallen Heroes: Officer Timothy Lowe Hearn

Nelson Zoch

June 8, 1978

Officer Timothy Lowe Hearn was born on November 8, 1949, in Houston. After attending Oak Forest Elementary and Black Junior High, he graduated from Waltrip High School in 1968, one of a number of Waltrip graduates to become Houston police officers. He later graduated from the University of Texas in 1973 with an Accounting degree. He entered Police Cadet Class No. 67 on November 11, 1974. He was president of the class that graduated on March 6, 1975. His first assignment was to the Radio Patrol Bureau, Central Division, Evening Shift. He remained in that assignment until August 8, 1976, when he transferred to the Narcotics Division.

On Wednesday night, June 7, 1978, Officer Murray K. Jordan and his partner, Officer Tim Hearn, began their tour of duty assigned as plainclothes investigators in the Narcotics Division. Officer Jordan had developed information from a credible and reliable informant that one Rudy Ramos Esquivel was selling heroin from the Early Roberts Restaurant in the 6800 block of Harrisburg. He allegedly operated after 2 a.m. Acting on this information, Officers Jordan and Hearn set up surveillance in the parking lot of the Sears store across the street from Early Roberts.

At approximately 2:10 a.m., they observed Esquivel arriving at Early Roberts in the company of two Hispanic females. Through his previous police contacts, Jordan knew Esquivel and Esquivel knew Jordan as the arresting officer in a previous case. Shortly before 3 a.m., Esquivel and the two females left the restaurant. Jordan and Hearn met them on the sidewalk, with Jordan and Esquivel acknowledging each other. Jordan then told Rudy and the females that they needed to talk to them and asked them to come with them across the street away from the crowded sidewalk.

Officer Hearn took the purses from the two females and they all walked across the street to the patrol car. As Hearn told the two females to place their hands on the car, Jordan requested Esquivel to do the same. But Esquivel pulled a pistol and began shooting, hitting Jordan in the left arm and back. Jordon pushed Esquivel away as attempted to pull his service pistol. More shots rang out.

“Murray, I’ve been hit!” Hearn shouted.

Jordan saw Esquivel running and shot at him twice with his .357-caliber revolver before seeing him fall on the parking lot. Officer Hearn, even after having been wounded, also shot at Esquivel, firing six times with his .45-caliber automatic. Knowing Esquivel was down, Jordan called for help and turned his attention to his partner. Patrol Officers Joe Barrera and Paul Ogden, of the Park Place Substation Night Shift, were seconds away when they were dispatched to the shooting. They arrived to assist the wounded officers as well as call for Life Flight Helicopter. They also contained the two female witnesses.

LifeFlight arrived and treated both officers and took them to Hermann Hospital. Officer Jordan received two gunshot wounds to the back and one to the left forearm. Officer Hearn received one gunshot wound to the face and one to the abdomen. Hearn went into surgery but died from his wounds at 5:20 a.m. Rudy Esquivel received one gunshot wound to the back; he survived. HPD filed capital murder of a peace officer and attempted capital murder of a peace officer against him.

Officer Tim Hearn was only twenty-eight years old. He was survived by his wife Jenny and two-year old son Tory. Also mourning his death were his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Robert L. Hearn, and one sister, Mrs. Sayra Hesselsweet and her husband Nick. Funeral services were held on Saturday, June 10, 1978, at the Baptist Temple at 230 West 20th. Burial followed at the Corinth Cemetery in Buckholtz, Texas.

Rudy Esquivel was first arrested and charged at the age of eighteen in 1953 for a vicious and brutal sexual assault and mutilation case that occurred in the East End of Houston, not far from where he shot Officers Hearn and Jordan. For that crime, he was assessed a ninety-nine-year sentence. He was paroled in 1964 and sent back to prison in 1969 after more trouble with the law. Paroled again, he had several other arrests for burglary and possession of controlled substances prior to 1978. At the time Esquivel shot the two officers, he was free on $20,000 bond awaiting a June 26, 1978, trial date on a charge of possession of heroin.

This plague on society, Rudy Esquivel, who should not have even been out of prison in June of 1978, was once again taken before our criminal justice system. This time, on August 18, 1978, 71 days after murdering Officer Hearn, jurors found him guilty of capital murder in the 180th Criminal District Court and assessed him the death penalty. Finally, on June 9, 1986, he was executed. Once again, and more than ever, it was “the rusty old penny for a bright shiny silver dollar or gold piece.”

It is true that almost in every instance when an Officer is killed, it is discovered that this was a special person. In the case of Officer Tim Hearn, since most of his family has passed on, research was conducted at Waltrip High School to learn more about this young man. While I knew him personally from playing softball with him, the following was discovered about Timothy Lowe Hearn from the 1968 Waltrip yearbook: Most Attractive Senior, Senior Favorite, President of National Honor Society, President of Senior Class, member of German Club, Student Council, and American Legion Club, as well as playing on the varsity basketball team for three years. What a loss to his family, HPD, and society in general when Rudy Esquivel decided to shoot his way out of his latest problems with the law.

The area where Officer Hearn was murdered was not new to tragedy in the Houston Police Department. In January 1976, just three blocks east of the Sears Store at the Latin World Nightclub, Officer George Garza Rojas was murdered. In October 1980, across the street from Sears and almost directly in front of the Early Roberts Café, Robbery Detective Victor Ray Wells was shot and killed.

In 2006, Jenny Hearn resided in the Houston area, working in real estate. Her son Tory has completed a degree at the University of Houston. Mr. and Mrs. Hearn retired to Temple, Texas and Mr. Hearn passed away in 1998. In another family tragedy, Mr. and Mrs. Hearn’s only other child, Tim’s sister Sayra, passed away in the 1990s from cancer. And, in 2005, Mrs. Hearn passed away, having lived over twenty-seven years after the loss of her only son.

Officer Murray Jordan survived his wounds and continued an exemplary career with HPD, the majority of which was spent in the fight against narcotic trafficking. He retired in 1987 after twenty years on the force. He returned to his Northeast Texas hometown of Gilmer. He served as chief deputy of the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department with plans to retire from that job and continue his sawmill and heavy equipment businesses.

Veteran Homicide Detectives James Pierce and Danny Spurlock investigated the murder scene. Detectives David Massey and Van Knox conducted the extensive follow-up and trial preparation. Jim Pierce retired in 1991 after nearly thirty years in the Homicide Division and moved to the Lake Sam Rayburn area. Danny Spurlock worked in Homicide for nearly eleven years, later transferring to Burglary and Theft. He retired from there in 1996 to East Texas.   David Massey became a captain and retired in 2004. Van Knox later worked many years in the Auto Theft Division and retired in 2004. Officer Joe Barrera became a lieutenant and Officer Paul Ogden a sergeant. They were longtime patrol partners before their promotions and in 2006, both are assigned to the Magnolia-Eastside Division, the same area they patrolled that night when Tim Hearn’s life was taken.

Officer Hearn was an outstanding athlete and enjoyed playing softball. At the time of his death, he played with the Narcotics Division team with Murray Jordan. Cleveland Field, in the 4200 block of Scotland, was the City Park where the Houston Law Enforcement Softball League regularly played on Wednesday nights. Tim Hearn played many games on this field. On April 4, 1979, Cleveland Field was renamed Timothy Hearn Field. Then-Mayor Jim McConn presided over a ceremony with Tim’s family present. In later years, no signage indicated the name of this field. Robbery Detective Earl Musick, who later retired, was instrumental in having this field renamed for Tim Hearn.

Also, just as was the case with Officer Jim Kilty, a law enforcement softball tournament was named for Tim Hearn and was held for a number of years in Houston.