Special Reprint: Gunmen drop 8 in 11 months

Ralph Williams, The Houston Post

Editor’s Note: this is a reprint of an article that appeared on Nov. 23, 1969 in The Houston Post in November 1969. Ironically, two days after this article about violence against HPD officers appeared, Officer Kenneth Moody was shot to death in a line-of-duty death case. This reprint well illustrates the fact that HPD officers have always had to confront more than their share of violence against law enforcement.

Eight Houston police officers have been shot this year.  Of the eight, only one had a gun in his hand at the time he was shot.  And he was one who had just seen the gunman fell two brother officers and a young woman being held hostage.


The first officer shot this year was Patrolman R. E. LutherON FEBRUARY 14, Luther drove into the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant in the 2900 block of Dowling Street.  He saw a man in the rear of the restaurant exposing himself.  Luther arrested the man and walked to a phone to call for a patrol car to pick up the suspect.  A witness heard the arrested man tell Luther, “I’m not going to jail tonight.”  Then a shot rang out.  Luther stumbled to his car.  The man followed.  Then the man turned and ran as Luther, shot in the stomach, collapsed in his car.  The 38-year-old man who shot Luther was arrested later the same night.  He just did not want to go to jail.


ON THE MORNING OF May 3, two young robbers held up Laufman’s Food Market, 301 W. 11th Street, and escaped with several thousand dollars.  That afternoon, Robbery Detectives Newton B. Rackley and R. B. Schallert received information that the two suspects were at a house in the 5800 block of Lyndhurst.  Rackley and Schallert went to the house where they arrested two suspects.  Both men were handcuffed and put in the car without incident.


While Schallert went in the house to search for the money taken in the robbery, Rackley sat in the car with the two arrested men. The youngest robber was in the rear seat, the older one sat in the front with Rackley.  According to the 20-year-old suspect in the rear seat, Rackley and the other man were discussing another detective that both men knew.  The young robber said the next thing he knew, his partner had a gun in his hand.  Rackley turned toward him and was shot in the face.


The gunman, still handcuffed, jumped out of the car and ran.  Rackley got his shotgun, opened the door of the car, and stepped out.  Blinded by the blood in his eye, Rackley fell against the police car.  The gunman was captured a short time later as he held a man and two young girls as hostage.


The bullet that struck Rackley in the face lodged in the back of his brain.  He has not recovered from the shooting.


PATROLMAN JOE R. PYLE, 24, and his partner N. J. Zoch, also 24, were working the night shift on June 28.  At about 2 a.m., the two officers got a call from the dispatcher to make a disturbance call.  As they approached the location of the disturbance, a speeding car with only one headlight came toward them.  The officers stopped the car.  Pyle got out of the patrol car and walked up to the driver who had gotten out of his car.  The passenger in the car also got out and started walking around the car.


Pyle asked the driver for his driver’s license.  Zoch was standing beside his partner.  As the passenger came around the car, Zoch saw he had a gun in his hand.  Before Zoch could draw his gun, the man fired, hitting Pyle in the back.  Zoch shot the gunman and then the driver of the car tried to attack him.  Zoch also shot him.


AT 12:30 A.M. on November 4, Patrolman Donald R. Sutton was driving on Luzon Street when he met a car with its lights on bright.  Sutton blinked his lights several times trying to get the other car to dim its lights.  The car passed Sutton without ever dimming its lights.  The patrolman turned his car around and gave chase.  With his red lights and siren on, Sutton pursued the car before it stopped at the intersection of Reynolds and Luzon.


Sutton stopped behind the car and got out of his patrol car.  As he approached the car, the driver stuck a gun out of the window and began shooting.  The 22-year-old patrolman was struck by a bullet in each hand.  Then the car sped off.  Although he had broken bones in each hand, Sutton got back in the patrol car and went after the car.


At the intersection of Booth and Gentry, two blocks from where the shooting incident occurred, the car hit a telephone pole.  As Sutton drove up, the two men were looking at the damage to the car.  When Sutton got out of his car, one of the men started shooting at him again.  Then both men fled.


The owner of the car was tracked to an apartment on Keene Street.  Homicide Detectives E. R. Dennis and C. L. Jobe went to the apartment the night after the shooting looking for the owner of the car.  The suspect was not at the apartment.  Thirty minutes later, the two detectives were told to investigate a suicide at the address they had just left.  In the second floor apartment above the one they had searched, Dennis and Jobe found the suspect dead with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand.


ABOUT 11 P.M. ON October 16, several Vice Squad officers were working in the Houston Ship Channel area.  Officers George R. Neal, Jerry W. Carpenter, and James M. McCoy were walking in the 7400 block of Avenue O when a car with three women in it drove past them into a dead-end street.


As the three officers approached the car, it turned around and came back toward them at a high rate of speed.  The officers yelled for the car to stop.  The officers realized the car was going to run them down and they all jumped to the side of the street.  As the car drove by the officers, a shot was fired from the car.  The car finally came to a stop, but Neal, 28, had been shot in the chest.  The women were arrested.


LAST WEEK, THREE OFFICERS and a young woman were shot in Foley’s downtown store as the policemen tried to apprehend an ex-convict who was holding the woman hostage after a jewelry store robbery.  Before the shooting started in Foley’s, Detective C. K. Waycott tried to overpower the gunman in order to avoid any shots being fired in the crowded store.  But the gunman shot Waycott and the 20-year-old woman hostage.  Waycott’s partner, Detective Allen Rockwell shot the gunman.


As the man fell, he shot Lieutenant Leo Michna, who had given the ex-convict his own gun when the man threatened to shoot another hostage during the robbery.  The man then shot Patrolman R.E. Carver, the only officer to have a gun in his hand when he was shot.  Though the motive here was obvious, in many cases, no one seems o know why a man will start shooting at a police officer.


Many times, the worst that could happen to the gunman would be a $10.00 ticket. One veteran police lieutenant said, “Five years ago, it was almost unheard of for a person to shoot at a police officer.  Now it has become commonplace.”  End of article!


Following the above article appearing in a local newspaper, two more HPD Officers were shot in the month of November, 1969.  Homicide Detective Jimmy L. Marquis was working an extra job at a liquor store at 4818 Laura Koppe Drive in northeast Houston.  Marquis was shot while interrupting an armed robbery.  Marquis shot both hijackers, killing one.


If all of the above occurring in 1969, on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving it got worse, much worse.  North Shepherd night shift Patrol Officers Raymond Dietrich and his partner, Kenneth Wayne Moody, received a burglar alarm call to the Hamilton Junior High School at Heights Boulevard and 20th Street.  Officer Moody was shot and killed during that investigation.


Well, as it is sometime said, the “jury is still out as to what year or era was the most dangerous time for Officers in HPD history.”


As to the injuries received by the nine other Officers, Joe Pyle left HPD some years later and had a successful career with the Harris County Sheriffs Department.  Officer Luther, Officer Carver, Detective Waycott, Lieutenant Michna, Officer (later Detective) George Neal, Detective Marquis, Detective Rackley and Officer Sutton all thankfully recovered from their wounds even though Rackley had serious problems from his injuries for the rest of his life.


The following article was also included from Officer Duffy.  It appears to be an editors opinion piece written after the Murder of Officer Kenneth Moody: