A ceremonial jury room filled with young and old alike paid their respects to area officers killed in the line of duty, at the 17th annual Denton County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service this week.
The services, hosted by the Denton County Law Enforcement Association, were held at the Denton County Courthouse on McKinney Street to commemorate National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day, which coincides with National Police Week, which runs Saturday.
Sheriff William Travis read the roll call of the six men who have been killed in the line of duty in Denton County.
Jailer Floyd Coberly had only been on the job for 10 days at the Denton County Jail when he was bludgeoned to death by an inmate in February 1897. The inmate, George Henry, was trying to escape when he struck Coberly — while gathering lunch dishes — with a piece of wood that the inmate had been hiding in his room.
Travis said Coberly fell down a flight of stairs. When Henry was getting ready to shoot Coberly with his own gun, he was stopped by another inmate. Henry released all of the cell doors and fled with two accomplices. The other inmates raised an alarm and the three men were captured on the edge of town, Travis said. Henry was tried in Wise County and executed by a public hanging on Feb.18, 1898 — nearly a full year after killing Coberly.
As each of the names and their stories were told, a single black rose was placed in a memorial wreath.
Special Deputy Robert Parsons had worked in law enforcement for almost 40 years before he was killed on the streets in Denton while investigating a theft ring in the county in 1925. Accounts, Travis said, dispute what exactly transpired between one of the ring leaders and Parsons, but in the end, Parsons was found on the ground, having been shot nine times on East Hickory Street.
In 1934, sheriff’s Deputy Carl Garrett was involved in a deadly raid at a cafe in Justin while searching for illegal liquor. Garrett was shot in the throat by Jimmy Glasscock, one of the cafe’s proprietors.
Texas Ranger Bobby Paul Doherty was killed during a drug raid in Argyle in 1978. As officers attempted to make an arrest, shots were fired and Doherty was hit in the forehead, dying at 1 a.m. the next morning.
Trooper Hollis Stephen Lacy had been with the Texas Highway Patrol for only a few months when he was killed in an automobile accident during a high-speed chase on Dec. 26, 1980. Lacy was attempting to pull over a car on the FM407 access road off Interstate 35W when the car he was following stopped prior to the intersection. Lacy was unable to stop and proceeded into the intersection, where he was hit by a van.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Thurston was responding to a call in Pilot Point in 1986 when his patrol car was struck at the intersection of FM428 and U.S. Highway 377. A teenage driver failed to stop at a stop sign when the two cars collided, Travis said.
Johnny Peters, first vice president of the association, said he is really glad that only six have fallen victim in all of Denton County.
“1986 was our most recent death. I am very thankful and hope it stays that way,” Peters said.
Texas Ranger Clair Barnes, the keynote speaker, reminded all law enforcement officers in attendance what’s most important when serving the public.
“We are servants, not God,” Barnes said. “While we are talking about sacrifice, don’t forget about your families; tell them ‘thank you.’”
Barnes credited members close to him for getting him through almost 20 years of service and “hopefully 20 more.”
A resounding message overcame all attendees then and there — something the fallen didn’t get a chance to do during their last day standing.
“Go home,” he said. “Go home and godspeed.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.