Special Report: Violence against HPD has happened too often over many decades

Nelson Zoch

There have been a number of individual years in which it seemed that an extraordinary number of events of violence were committed against the officers of the Houston Police Department.


From 1860 to 2006, 106 such tragic deaths occurred in the City of Houston.  Those were documented in the book Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City.  Since 2006, there have been seven more such tragedies which have yet to be documented in a second edition of that publication.  Plans for completing this venture are in the works.


Off the top of the list has to be the 1917 Camp Logan riots in which five HPD officers lost their lives.  Five – what a down time that had to have been, especially considering the total number of officers on the force at that time.


Then, there were the numbers of multiple deaths in one day in the same incidents.


Those terrible days began in December 1901 when Officers Herman Youngst and John James were murdered in the same day in old downtown Houston.  Just four months prior, Officer Willie Weiss was gunned down at the same intersection – Congress and San Jacinto, obviously not a safe place to be policing in 1901.  Three in one year only months apart.


The year 1901 was a terrible year for HPD.


This sad tale of violence against HPD officers continues:


  • 1921 – Officers Johnnie Davidson, Jeter Young, and David Murdock all lost their lives IN THE LINE OF DUTY over a period of just four months.


  • 1928 – Officers Carl Green, Paul Whitlock, and Albert Worth Davis all lost their lives IN THE LINE OF DUTY to gunfire.


  • 1929 – Officers Oscar Hope, Ed Jones, and Osborn Thomas lost their lives IN THE LINE OF DUTY over a short period of six months.


  • 1930 – Officers Edward Fitzgerald and William Bonner Pharis lost their lives to gunfire in a battle with a robbery suspect. Officer J. D. Landry was killed in a motorcycle accident just four months later that same year.


  • 1955 – Officer Jack Billy Beets and his partner, Auxiliary Officer Charles Gougenheim both lost their lives to the hands of a lone gunman in near Northeast Houston. Auxiliary Officer Frank Kellogg was killed later that year.  This was a bad year for sure.


  • 1968 – Officer Ben Eddie Gerhart was shot and killed during a traffic stop near Northwest Mall. Following that tragedy, Officer Bobby James was killed in a high-speed chase while pursuing the killer of Officer Gerhart.  Another bad day, for sure.


  • 1975 – Officers Johnnie Bamsch, Francis Eddie Wright and Richard Calhoun lost their lives IN THE LINE OF DUTY.


The years 1925, 1927, 1954, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994, and 2001 were years in which two HPD officers lost their lives in separate incidents.


If all of these tragic days were not enough, we turn our attention to 1982.  In one day, March 29, 1982, Motorcycle Officers Winston Rawlins and William DeLeon both lost their lives on Houston freeways.  They were followed by Detective Wayne Shirley in April, Officer James Donald Harris in July and then by Officer Kathleen Schaefer in August, all to gunshot violence.


More than one of us commented at or about that time – Please, LORD, let it end.  If that was not bad enough, Officer Charlie Coates was seriously injured in May 1982 when struck by a vehicle while directing traffic around an accident scene. He passed away from his injuries the following year.  Basically, six HPD officers were KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY in 1982-83.  No one could deny that 1982 was a terrible year for HPD.


In the era of 1974-1975, exact dates not known, four Narcotics Officers were shot and seriously wounded on two separate occasions.  Fortunately, none were killed.


Recently Officer Steven Duffy, the current curator of the HPD Museum, contacted me regarding an article he discovered while reviewing a large amount of newspaper articles contributed to the museum by long-time City Councilman Frank Mancuso.  Mancuso, a former Major League ballplayer, served 30 years as a staunch supporter of HPD.


Please see a reprint of the article in this edition of the Badge & Gun.