HPD History: The Lone Ranger finds truth and justice in Houston, thanks to two detectives operating with speed of light

Earl Musick

“On a mighty horse with the speed of light in a cloud of dust and a hardy Hi-Yo-Silver came a champion of justice, the Lone Ranger!”

As a child I watched Clayton Moore portray the Lone Ranger on television and at the movies. He became synonymous with the character he played and for many years made charity guest appearances dressed as the Lone Ranger.

In December 1986 Clayton Moore made one of his guest appearances in Houston and left Hobby Airport on Christmas Eve to return home. At the Los Angeles Airport, Mr. Moore discovered one of his suitcases containing his Lone Ranger costume, holsters and matching Colt 45s were missing.

Theft at Hobby

    Mr. Moore made a police report and the Los Angeles authorities contacted the Houston Police Department’s Special Thefts Division for assistance in the investigation.

Sgts. George Powers and Larry Mikels were assigned to investigate the missing property and learned that the missing suitcase was never loaded on Mr. Moore’s flight to Los Angeles.

Unknown at the time, the Houston thief had already sold the stolen property which was taken out of town to Beaumont.

The case received a lot of media attention and the detectives talked with several confidential informants who were familiar with individuals buying and selling stolen property. The matching Colt 45s and the Buscadero double-gun rig were made especially for Mr. Moore by Edward Bohlin. Needless to say, these guns and rig were extremely valuable. However, they could not be legitimately sold on the open market and didn’t take long for the word to spread that the merchandise was stolen property.

With more and more heat being generated by law enforcement throughout Texas, the Beaumont buyer contacted an attorney who called authorities in mid-January 1987, wanting to turn over the stolen property. The guns and holsters were recovered and Powers and Mikel began tracing the property back to Edward Louis Young III, a baggage handler at Hobby Airport.

Young was arrested and charged with the theft of the Lone Ranger’s guns and his case fell in the Harris County 228th District Court. The judge in that court was the Honorable Ted Poe and the Lone Ranger was Judge Poe’s childhood hero. As you know, Judge Poe became Congressman Poe, and is now serving the people in that capacity.

During the trial Mr. Moore was called as a witness and came to court dressed as the Lone Ranger, with mask, hat and costume. Young’s attorney objected and demanded Mr. Moore remove his mask and change clothes before testifying. However, Judge Poe denied the motion and the trial continued.

Truth and Justice

The jury found the defendant Young guilty and sentenced him to 10 years in prison on April 29, 1987.

The jury probated Young’s time in prison, but Judge Poe ordered him to spend 30 days in the Harris County Jail as a condition of probation and his community service consisted of working 20 hours per month at the Houston Police Department Mounted Patrol Division stables — cleaning up after the police horses.

Young immediately appealed his conviction and sentence, putting off the start of his punishment and probation.

On Sept. 6, 1988, the appellant court denied Young’s appeal and he was sentenced to spend 30 days in jail and start his community supervision. He successfully completed his probation on Sept. 16, 1998.

Upon hearing of Mr. Moore’s loss of his guns, Colt Firearms provided him with a new matching set of 45s. Mr. Moore donated the recovered matching Colt 45s, which he had worn throughout his career and special appearances, to the Smithsonian Institute along with one of the three masks he wore as he portrayed the Lone Ranger.

Sgt. George Powers honorably retired from the HPD on Sept. 21, 1989 and passed away on June 11, 2008. I have many fond memories of working with George and he was definitely a credit to the citizens of Houston. His accomplishments during his career were many and his memory lives on, not to be forgotten.

After solving the Lone Ranger’s case, George and Larry came into the office wearing their own costumes. George was wearing a Lone Ranger mask and Larry was wearing feathers like the Ranger’s Indian companion, Tonto. On that day, they were true “champions of justice” just like the Lone Ranger and Tonto.