It might take a third oak tree but North Patrol will once again dedicate the Johnny Bamsch Memorial

Tom Kennedy

On Monday, Jan. 30 – 42 years to the day Officer Johnny Terrell Bamsch, 27, died in the line of duty – a special memorial will be rededicated to his memory at the North Patrol substation at 9455 West Montgomery.

The third dedication of the Bamsch Memorial represents the oft-stated goal of the Houston Police Officers Union that no officer who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect the citizens of the Bayou City will ever be forgotten.

Let history tell this particular story.

No Transplanting

Bamsch, 27, a veteran of two and a half years with the Department, was shot and killed – murdered, actually – while on patrol Jan. 30, 1975. He was assigned out of the North Shepherd Substation, where a tree was planted in his memory. This special memorial made it impossible for anyone who took notice to forget the sacrifice of the young officer and Vietnam veteran.

Mother Nature took the first tree planted at North Shepherd. But a new one took root soon afterward and has grown over the last 30-plus years to more than 25 or 30 feet into the Houston sky. When the new substation was built at 9455 West Montgomery, the city sold the old property to a developer who planned to demolish it to make way for new construction.

The tree shading the memorial could not be transplanted. Since that time the granite Bamsch memorial has been under the roof of North Patrol Capt. Larry Baimbridge’s office, awaiting an appropriate rededication opportunity.

Retired HPD Honor Guard member David Freytag crusaded to have the second tree moved to the new location of North Patrol but said he couldn’t pull the trigger with city of Houston bureaucracies to get the job done. Freytag at one time sought to have a private company move the tree but learned that couldn’t happen for less than a $2,000 moving cost.

Freytag then undertook the effort to rededicate the Bamsch plaque under a new tree. Initially he was frustrated – until he met with HPOU 1st Vice President Doug Griffith, who saw to it that there would be a new tree and that the memorial would be fully restored.

Recently, Freytag pointed out that the original site was surrounded by an eight-square-foot chain attached to posts and draped around the tree. He said he now seeks the same accoutrement at the new location. “This is so we can duplicate where it came from as close as possible,” he said.

The retired senior police officer and long-time Honor Guard leader vowed to get the guard back at the rededication just like it was there originally.

Capt. Baimbridge told the Badge & Gun that the next anniversary date of Officer Bamsch’s death will be the dedication date.

“We will have a short, small ceremony – nothing too elaborate – on Monday the 30th, that will be the anniversary of his death,” Baimbridge explained. “It will involve the family and we hope to get the word out ahead of time so that anyone who remembers Officer Bamsch will be able to attend and say a few words.”

There will be a new tree – paid for by the HPOU – and the old plaque. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. right in front of North Division station.

“It might be cold,” the captain said, also pointing out that the Department will be specially occupied since the dedication will be the week of Super Bowl activities all over the host city.

Bamsch, a graduate of HPD Academy Class No. 55, was married to Cindy, who was pregnant with the couple’s first and only child at the time of the fatal shooting. At age 25, Cindy gave birth to daughter Mandy.

The Surviving Family

Cindy Bamsch is a retired teacher and Girl Scout leader for her granddaughter’s troop. She remains a steadfast friend and supporter of all Houston police officers and was gracious and appreciative about the plan to plant a new Live Oak in memory of her husband.

Last year she said in an interview, “All of our family is definitely interested and excited about this. It was a big deal when we had it transplanted the first time. I have pictures of Mandy the time the first tree was planted. We have been watching it grow over the years.

“It was a big deal when we had it transplanted the first time,” she said. “I have pictures of Mandy the time the first tree was planted. We have been watching it grow over the years.

“Mandy and her family live in Houston fairly close to the same area she grew up in. She’s closer to the location of the tree than I am.”

Cindy, Mandy and the younger family members will be at the ceremony. Two others will be missing. Bamsch’s mother and father devoted their lives to caring not only for the tree that shaded their son’s memorial but also the Northside officers who were his colleagues.

Mr. Bamsch owned his own plumbing company while Mrs. Bamsch helped him in the office while caring for their only son.

Most of the officers that were from the North Station knew the Bamsches by sight because they were very active. They took things to the station and visited with the guys. Both are now deceased.

The memorial plaque will read the same as always:








Retired HPD Homicide Lt. Nelson Zoch, the author of Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City, detailed the circumstances surrounding the death of young Officer Bamsch thusly:

On Wednesday night, Jan. 29, 1975, Officers Johnny Bamsch and J. D. “Pops” Ellis reported for duty as usual on the night shift at the North Shepherd Substation. Being regular partners, they were assigned to Unit No. 1161. On this particular night, Johnny was “on the ground” and Jim was driving.

Just prior to 1 a.m., they were on patrol, driving south in the 4600 block of Yale. Johnny observed some suspicious activity at the 7-Eleven Store on the northeast corner of Yale and Norview. He alerted Jim, who made a left turn into a service station parking lot on the southeast corner of that intersection.

Life Imprisonment

They both observed a Black Male exiting the 7-Eleven as well as a vehicle moving slowly on Norview toward Yale and then turning onto Yale, going north.

At this point, Johnny got out of the patrol car and approached this Black Male, who was apparently headed toward this suspicious vehicle, which went north on Yale.   Jim drove on to Yale to follow the suspect vehicle and after traveling just half a block, heard gunshots. He immediately turned around and saw Johnny wounded and on the ground.

Jim, seeing the suspect on the ground but holding a gun, used his shotgun, firing three shots. He put out an “Assist the Officer” on the radio and other units responded.  Emergency medical personnel from the Houston Fire Department loaded Johnny into an ambulance and transported him to nearby Parkway Hospital, but he was dead on arrival.

Both officers had apparently shot the wounded suspect.  Richard Delain Kyles, age 18, who was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital under police guard. He survived his wounds. Information was developed and later the next evening, Robert Lee Thomas, 30, was arrested for his part in this capital murder of Officer Johnny Bamsch.   The stolen vehicle Thomas used to flee the scene was recovered. Both Kyles and Thomas were charged with capital murder.

They were sentenced to life imprisonment. Over the years the Bamsch family has diligently opposed any opportunity for parole.