Over almost 50 years six officers assigned to North Command have died in the line of duty.
Capt. Larry Baimbridge and his staff have taken steps to ensure that all new patrol officers know these special fallen heroes.
Now the captain won’t say if anyone has failed the test he routinely administers, but the smile on his face ranks as a strong indicator that there likely aren’t any wearing the blue who don’t know the names of the six and the details of their sacrifices.
The facility’s second floor memorial wall has pictures of the six. On special days in January, February, May, October, November and December a bouquet of flowers is placed in front of a picture as extra special recognition of the day the officer depicted made the ultimate sacrifice.
On Jan. 30, during a special ceremony honoring one of the six, Officer Johnny T. Bamsch, Police Chief Art Acevedo paid a special tribute while standing in front of the wall. Acevedo informed the crowd, which included Bamsch’s surviving family, that on the date the officer was shot to death “I was in the fifth grade.”
The chief said that date of infamy happened more than 40 years ago and he vowed to those present that “40 years from now the sacrifice of Officer Bamsch and what his family has sacrificed will still be remembered.” He also stressed the theme of the day at North Command: “That we’re family!”
Baimbridge explained that when probationary officers are assigned here out of the academy a lieutenant or sergeant provides each one of them the name of one of the six fallen officers. They are then tasked with researching the biography of the officer and the circumstances surrounding his death well enough to answer questions from the captain.
“They are assigned a name and an etching from the Police Memorial,” Baimbridge explained. “They research their man well enough to know what they’re talking about. I want them to know who went before them, to know the stories of what happened.”
Each of the six died while on patrol. The stories, no doubt, are lessons in what can happen on the streets “out there.”
Those six brave individuals – identified here in the chronological order of their deaths – are:
Kenneth W. Moody on Nov. 26, 1969
Officer Moody was shot and killed after he and his partner responded to a silent burglar alarm at Hamilton Junior High School. Moody and his partner exchanged shots with a suspect inside of the school and Officer Moody was shot in the chest and fatally wounded. The suspect served 11 years in prison before his conviction was overturned by a federal judge. The suspect, however, was shot and killed in 1986 during a shootout with Arizona law enforcement officers after killing K9 Murph, of the Tempe Police Department, and taking a six-year-old boy hostage (the child was not injured). Officer Moody was a U.S. Navy veteran. He was survived by his son and daughter.
Jerry Leon Sprull on Oct. 26, 1972
Officer Spruill was shot and killed after being setup in an ambush while working a uniformed, off duty security detail. He had gone inside to call dispatch when a man came in and told him his car’s lights were on. When he went outside to check on the car two suspects approached him and shot him in the back six times. He was transported to Ben Taub General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at around midnight. One suspect was apprehended and sentenced to 38 years for Officer Spruill’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison in connection with the attempted murder of two other officers. The suspect was released after serving only 14 years. The second suspect has never been apprehended.
Officer Spruill had served HPD for three years. He was survived by his wife and two sons.
Johnny Bamsch on Jan. 30, 1975
Officer Bamsch and his partner observed a suspect leaving a convenience store at the intersection of Yale and Norview. Bamsch got out of the car to confront the suspect as his partner followed a suspect vehicle around the block. The partner heard gunshots and quickly found Bamsch on the ground suffering from gunshot wounds. The suspect was also on the ground. Bamsch’s partner fired three shots and wounded the suspect, who later recovered. Officer Bamsch was dead on arrival at Parkway Hospital. The 19-year-old suspect survived and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He has not yet been successful in any of his parole hearings. Bamsch left a young wife who was pregnant with the couple’s first and only child, a daughter, Mandy. He had been an HPD officer for two and half years.
Andrew Winzer on Feb. 18, 1988
Officer Winzer drowned when his vehicle was knocked through a guardrail into Buffalo Bayou by another vehicle that had run a red light. His patrol car fell 35 feet down an embankment and landed upside down in 15-feet of water. Other officers arrived at the scene within minutes but were unable to free Officer Winzer until one hour later. He was pronounced dead at the scene by rescue workers. The driver of the vehicle that caused the accident was convicted of running a red light and driving on a suspended license. Officer Winzer had served with HPD for three years. The only HPD officer to drown in an accident in the line of duty, Winzer was survived by his wife and son.
Timothy Abernethy on Dec. 7, 2008
Officer Abernethy was shot and killed during a foot pursuit of a suspect who fled following a traffic stop. Abernethy had lost sight of the man as he chased him around a building in an apartment complex. After going around the corner the man hid behind a gate and then shot the officer twice in the torso and then walked around the officer and shot him in the head. The officer was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds a short time later. The suspect was arrested a short time later by deputies from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. He was found guilty of the murder on April 6, 2010 and was sentenced to death. Officer Abernethy had served with the Houston Police Department for 11 years. He is survived by his wife, son, daughter, parents, and siblings. His wife Stephanie places flowers in front of her husband’s picture every Dec. 7, the anniversary of his death.
Eydelmen Mani on May 19, 2010
Officer Mani was killed in a single-vehicle crash while responding to a call of a stolen vehicle. Officer Mani’s patrol car struck a guardrail and overturned. Rescue crews freed Officer Mani from his vehicle and transported him to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries the next day. Mani spent seven years with HPD. He left a wife and son.