Officer Larry Trepagnier: After 34 years we respectfully ask the question: Should this officer’s death be classified as happening in the line of duty?

Nelson Zoch

For those of you who remember the tragic night of July 13, 1982, and if you have in your possession the book, FALLEN HEROES OF THE BAYOU CITY, I would ask that you update your recollection of that incident.

For those of you who were not with HPD at that time, this article will provide a brief summary of the events   of that night.  The actual account of that tragedy, as written in that book, also will be featured in this issue.

On Tuesday night, July 13, 1982, HPD Officer James Donald Harris was shot and killed on a traffic stop at the intersection of Walker and Edgewood in the near east side of Houston.  There were two suspects and while Officer Harris was in the process of conducting his investigation, one of the suspects pulled a 9mm pistol and shot Officer Harris in the head three times.

Harris’s weapon was taken from him while he lay mortally wounded in the street.  Viewing the offense was an innocent citizen who was driving by along with his two children, both under the age of ten.  One suspect then fired a round at the driver, 33-year-old Jose Armijo, seriously wounding him and also wounding his three-year-old daughter.

The suspects fled on foot north on Edgewood.  An off-duty HPD officer, visiting his parents nearby, responded to the scene after hearing the shots.  He found the mortally wounded Officer Harris and called in an “Assist The Officer.”  HFD responded and after the officer was loaded onto a LifeFlight helicopter, the officer was declared dead by the medical personnel.  He was twenty-nine years old, married and the father of two young daughters.  Mr. Armijo, also shot in the head, married and the father of two, passed away a week later in the hospital.

The Homicide Division responded to this officer death in their usual efficient fashion.  No stone was left unturned.  After several hours passed, information surfaced that the suspects had fled on foot to 4907 Rusk, as they had abandoned their vehicle after the shooting of Officer Harris.  The investigation there produced nothing and was moved to next door at 4911 Rusk.  Homicide Division’s Chicano Squad was at the scene as were a number of radio patrol officers.

While going to the rear of this house, the officers were met with a hail of gunfire, which was immediately returned.  When the shooting ceased, Patrol Officer L. J “Larry” Trepagnier had been shot five times in the chest, arm and abdomen.   One suspect was shot at the scene and was killed.  Another suspect was arrested as being involved in both shooting incidents.

The story of the tragedy of that night did not end quickly.  There was a seemingly never-ending controversy over the prosecution of this offense and the complete story, as documented by this writer and published in FALLEN HEROES, will accompany this account of Officer Trepagnier’s injuries.

Officer Trepagnier had been seriously wounded and eventually underwent six surgeries.  In the process, he lost one kidney as well as eight feet of intestines. He also suffered damage to his liver, diaphragm, colon and arm.   He underwent a lengthy rehab and healing period of time, naturally being shown on the payroll as Injured in the Line of Duty.

He, like Officer Harris, was only twenty-nine years of age at the time of the shooting.  While this writer is not sure of his options after his recovery, he chose to continue to serve as a City of Houston police officer. Fortunately, the newly-opened South Central Police Station was in need of a night shift desk officer.  Officer Trepagnier jumped at this opportunity and served in that capacity until the summer of 2016, 34 years after he was seriously wounded.  He retired from HPD at that time with over 38 years of service.  It is very likely that he could have taken a medical retirement, but that apparently was not his nature.  He strongly desired to continue to serve as an officer, albeit in a limited capacity.

And, serve he did.  During these many years, Officer Trepagnier worked at the Medical Towers of St. Luke’s Hospital, a fixture there on the 6 a.m.-noon shift.

After retirement, Larry resided in Humble where he enjoyed life with his two sons and their families.  He had four grandchildren and they were the light of his life.  On Feb. 10, 2017, Larry suffered a medical episode and was hospitalized for what was initially believed to be related to the failure of his remaining kidney.  He passed away the day after that attack.  The exact cause of death is not known at the time of this writing.  He was just two months away from his 64th birthday.

Larry is survived by his mother, Mrs. Frances Trepagnier, two sons, Jeremy Trepagnier and wife Lindsey, and Jonathan Boswell and wife Joanie; sister  Francel Leonard; brother Paul and wife DeAndra; grandchildren Conner and Tanner Trepagnier and Finley and Morgan Boswell.  He was preceded in death by his father Harold Trepagnier and brother Anthony Trepagnier.

This is being written to bring to the attention of ALL as to how Officer Larry Trepagnier’s injuries, even though some 34 years previous, COULD HAVE LED TO HIS DEATH.  This is and has been somewhat unsettled ground.  However, an HPD officer was badly beaten in a large disturbance in 1986.  He was rightfully medically retired due to his extensive internal injuries and passed away from those injuries 14 years later in 2000.

That officer’s death is correctly classified as IN THE LINE OF DUTY.  Should Officer Trepagnier’s death also be so classified?

No matter what the answer to that question, Officer Lawrence J. “Larry” Trepagnier SERVED HPD WITH HONOR AND SHOULD BE REMEMBERED WITH PRIDE!