Agency History

Memorials

HOLLIS JESSICA

Jessica Hollis - 2014

On Wednesday September 17, 2014 Travis County Deputy Sheriff Jessica Hollis 4413 was assigned to work the midnight patrol shift in southwest Travis County. She was driving Unit 3213, a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria. Before midnight, the area that Deputy Hollis was patrolling was hit with torrential rains. The rainfall, estimated at 4 inches an hour, caused flash flooding.

On Thursday September 18, 2014 at 1:52 a.m. Deputy Hollis radioed from her patrol unit that she was on Fritz Hughes Road and her vehicle had been taken by the water. Seconds later using her handheld radio, Deputy Hollis radioed that she believed she was over the bridge and was trying to get to a tree.

Travis County patrol units were dispatched to the Bear Creek low water crossing, located at the 3400 block of Fritz Hughes Park Rd. At that time, deputies observed over a foot of swift water rushing over the roadway. Deputy Hollis's nearly submerged patrol unit was found minutes later resting on a large boulder in the creek. The rainfall subsided and deputies verified that Deputy Hollis wasn’t in her unit. The vehicle's key was in the on position, the front passenger window was open and windshield wipers had stopped in the up position.

Additional resources from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office continued to arrive, along with other local departments. Ground search teams searched both sides of the creek to the mouth of Lake Austin located ½ mile away. Dive Teams from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and Austin Police Department searched Lake Austin.

On Friday September 19, 2014 search efforts continued from 6:00 a.m. until 1:55 p.m. when Deputy Hollis was located in Lake Austin just south of Bear Creek. She was located floating face down in 8 feet of water, 7’1” below the surface. Travis County Dive Team members brought Deputy Hollis to the bank where she was carried to a level area. Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Services pronounced Deputy Hollis deceased at 2:35 p.m.

Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death as drowning and manner of death accidental.


memorials keithruiz

Keith Ruiz - 2001

On the night of Feb. 15, 2001, Deputy Keith Ruiz a 13-year Sheriff’s Office veteran, was assisting other Sheriff’s Office deputies in the execution of a narcotics search and arrest warrant at a private residence in the Del Valle area of Southeast Travis County.

Ruiz was assigned to breach the front door of the residence along with his partner, when the suspect in the investigation began firing pistol shots through the door at the entry team. Deputy Ruiz was struck in the upper arm just below his tactical vest.

Team members returned fire at the suspect, wounding Deputy Ruiz’s assailant and allowing deputies to arrest the suspect. Deputy Ruiz was mortally wounded and died a short time later at Brackenridge Hospital. The gunman stood trial, was convicted of Capital Murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Deputy Ruiz is survived by his wife, Bernadette, and three young sons.


memorials charleslacey

Charles Lacey - 1982

On the evening of Feb. 18, 1981, Deputy Charles “Chuck” Lacey, a U.S. Marine, Vietnam War Veteran, five-year Austin Police Officer and four-year veteran of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, was patrolling an area of Southeast Travis County near U.S. Highway 183 and Burleson Road when he noticed a suspicious parked vehicle.

Unbeknownst to Deputy Lacey, the suspect in this case had just kidnapped an Austin woman at gunpoint, forced her into her car and then drove her to the roadside area where he was in the act of sexually assaulting the woman when Deputy Lacey pulled in behind the vehicle to investigate.

As Deputy Lacey approached the vehicle, the suspect fired one shot with a .357 Derringer. The bullet struck Deputy Lacey in the throat and rendered him unconscious. Passing motorists stopped and administered life saving First Aid. As a result of the shooting, Deputy Lacey suffered paralysis from his neck down.

Deputy Lacey’s assailant was apprehended, stood trial, was convicted of Attempted Capital Murder and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Throughout the next 18 months Deputy Lacey underwent numerous medical procedures. He never recovered from his paralysis caused and died from wound complications in November 1982. Deputy Lacey is survived by his wife, Erica.


memorials larryeckert

Benjamin Berry/Walter Eckert - 1967

The morning of Feb. 1, 1967, Deputy Benjamin Berry and his partner/cousin, Deputy Walter Eckert, were attempting to execute a felony warrant in North Central Austin. The suspect named in the warrant had locked himself in a rear bedroom of the home and refused to surrender.

The suspect fired in excess of 20 rounds from a M-1 .30 cal carbine at the two officers. Deputy Berry was shot through the heart and died at the scene. Deputy Eckert was seriously wounded in his lower leg but was able to return fire, striking the suspect in the hand, which ended the gun battle. Deputy Eckert, bleeding to death, was able to crawl to a nearby residence for help.

As a result of the shooting, Deputy Eckert injuries were so egregious that they ended his law enforcement career. Deputy Eckert’s wounds continued to cause extreme difficulty and he died from wound complications in 1975.

The suspect in this case was captured in a field off of Springdale Road after a massive search. The suspect stood trial and was sentenced to life in prison. Berry’s killer served only nine years in prison before being paroled.

Their wives and children survive both deputies.


memorials lemuelduncan

Lemuel Duncan - 1911

Deputy Lemuel Duncan had been a deputy sheriff for only 29 days when he was killed on the night of September 23, 1911. Deputy Duncan was at home asleep in South Travis County when he was awakened by the sound of gunshots coming from the nearby “Little South Austin Saloon”. The saloon was located on South Congress Avenue near West Mary Street.

Deputy Duncan responded to the scene and was met by the suspect leaving the bar, armed with a rifle. Deputy Duncan tried to apprehend the fleeing suspect who the bartender had witnessed shooting and killing the bar owner. The suspect used his rifle as a club and struck Deputy Duncan in the head causing Duncan to fall to the ground. The suspect then disarmed Duncan of his revolver and shot him through the heart, killing him. The suspect fled into what is now Westlake Hills. An Austin City Marshal captured the man, the next day. He stood trial, was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of the bar owner.

In a miscarriage of justice, the suspect was never tried for the murder of Deputy Lemuel Duncan. Although sentenced to 99 years, he served only 13 years before receiving a pardon by infamous Governor “Pa” Ferguson, hours before he was forcibly removed from office by the Texas Rangers. Duncan left behind a wife and several children.


memorials mauricemoore

Maurice Moore - 1887

During the early morning hours of November 10, 1887, Deputy Maurice “Morris” Moore was shot and killed while serving a civil paper on the McNeil brothers in the Eanes area of Western Travis County.

During an arson investigation of the Eanes Schoolhouse, Deputy Moore discovered that the McNeil brothers had written a letter to the Travis County Sheriff confessing to the schoolhouse arson and expressing their desire to surrender. In this letter, the McNeils warned the Sheriff not to send Deputy Moore as they would kill him if he tried to apprehend them.

Deputy Moore (a former Texas Ranger), married to the Eanes schoolteacher who was the victim of the arson, by happenstance intercepted this letter. Deputy Moore took this warning as a threat and personal challenge. Deputy Moore and an Austin City Marshal embarked into the mountain country, as it was called then, to arrest the McNeil brothers with a “Writ of Attachment”. The two lawmen camped overnight. Early the next morning, the two officers approached the McNeil cabin and tried to gain entry. Old man McNeil held the officers at bay with a rifle.

During the standoff, the Austin Marshal tried to disarm Old Man McNeil while Moore tried to enter the cabin. A shotgun blast from behind the door cut Deputy Moore down and he died instantly.

In 1905, a man believed to have assisted in Deputy Moore’s murder was hanged in Georgetown, Texas. The man, Thomas Young, was hanged for the brutal torture killing of a 15-year-old girl. Before his execution, (the last public Texas hanging) Young was asked to clear up the matter of Deputy Moore’s murder, as he was a suspect. Young did not confirm nor deny killing Deputy Moore. No arrest was ever made in the case.

FOOTNOTE: Deputy Moore was a participant in the 1878 Sam Bass shootout in Round Rock, Texas, and he is partially credited with the killing of Bass, a notorious bank robber. During the shootout, Williamson County Deputy Sheriff Grimes was shot and killed before he could fire a shot. Deputy Moore was also critically wounded with a through and through gunshot wound to his chest. Deputy Moore was able to return fire and wound Bass who was found the next day and later died from his wounds.

Past Sheriffs

Travis County, named for Alamo commander William Barrett Travis, was created Jan. 25, 1840. Originally part of Bastrop County, Travis covered 40,000 square miles and was later divided into 14 separate counties.Austin was the largest city in the county, and was also chosen as the county seat. 

Originally, the terms were one year (1840-1846) and then increased to two years (1847-1956). Starting in 1957, the Travis County Sheriff serves a four year term. The following is a listing of those sheriffs and their tenure.

Sheriff Term

Wayne Barton

March 14, 1840 - Feb. 27, 1841
A.C. McFarlane Feb. 27, 1841 - Oct. 30, 1841
Sheriff Charles F  King
Charles F. King
Oct. 30, 1841; April 8, 1843 - Oct. 21, 1844
James H. Matthews Oct. 21, 1844 - late 1845 or Feb. 18, 1846. (exact dates are unclear in the State Election Register)
C.C. Hornsby 1845;(unknown if he was elected or appointed)
Sheriff Charles F  King
Charles F. King
Feb. 4, 1846 - July 13, 1846
James H. Matthews July 13, 1846 - Aug. 5, 1850
Harvey Smith Aug. 5, 1850 - December 1850
Thomas C. Collins December 1850 - October 1851
George W. Scott Oct. 4, 1851 - March 1855
Sheriff John T  Price
John T. Price
March 3, 1855 - March 1857
Sheriff Adolphus G. Weir
Adolfus Y. Weir
March 9, 1857 - March 1858
J. M. Blackwell March 29, 1858 - Aug. 6, 1860
Sheriff John T  Price
John T. Price
Aug. 6, 1860 - Oct. 12, 1861
Thomas C. Collins Oct. 12, 1861 - June 25, 1866
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George B. Zimplemann
June 25, 1866 - Nov. 1, 1867
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Radcliff Platt
Nov. 1, 1867 - Dec. 3, 1869
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George B. Zimplemann
Dec. 3, 1869 - Feb.15, 1876
Dennis Corwin Feb. 15, 1876 - Nov. 2, 1880
Ed Creary Nov. 2, 1880 - Nov. 7, 1882
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Malcom Hornsby
Nov. 7, 1882 - Nov. 6, 1888
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Robert E. White
Nov. 6, 1888 - Nov. 6, 1900
J. M. Davis Nov. 6, 1900 - Nov. 4, 1902
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George S. Matthews
Nov. 4, 1902 - Nov. 2, 1920
Sheriff W D  Miller
W. D. Miller
Nov. 2, 1920 - Jan. 27, 1927
Horace E. Burleson Nov. 2, 1926 - Nov. 1, 1929
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Coley C. White
Nov. 6, 1929 - Dec. 31, 1932
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Lee O. Allen
Jan. 1, 1933 - Dec. 31, 1939
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Jim McCoy
Appointed in 1940 and served until 1941
Sheriff H W  Collins
H. W. “Rip” Collins
Jan. 1, 1942 - Dec. 31, 1948
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Ernest Best
Jan. 1, 1949 - Dec. 31, 1952
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T. O. Lang
Jan. 1, 1953 - Dec. 31, 1972 (longest serving Sheriff in Travis County history)
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Raymond Frank
Jan. 1, 1973 - Dec. 31, 1980
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Doyne Bailey
Jan. 1, 1981 - July 1992
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Dan T. Richards
Appointed July 1992; served until November 1992
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Terrence (Terry)  M. Keel
Jan. 1, 1993 - Dec. 31, 1995
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Margo Frasier
Jan. 1, 1996 - Dec. 31, 2004 (first female sheriff in Travis County history)
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Greg Hamilton
Jan. 1, 2005 - Dec. 31, 2016

Facilities

Travis County, named for Alamo commander William Barrett Travis, was created Jan. 25, 1840. Originally part of Bastrop County, Travis covered 40,000 square miles and was later divided into 14 separate counties. The population of the city was 629 and the population of the county was 3,138 citizens and 2,063 slaves. The first Sheriff was elected on March 14, 1840 and won by six votes. Since that time, 32 men and one woman have served as Sheriff of Travis County. Originally, the terms were one year (1840-1846) and then two years (1847-1956). Starting in 1957, the Travis County Sheriff serves four year terms. In the 1850's, the city and county began to prosper and the growing population made Travis County a breeding ground for lawlessness. The Sheriff was responsible for all law enforcement in the county until the city of Austin created its own police department in 1851.

In 1847, Travis County Commissioners authorized the construction of a county jail and appointed S.M. Swenson to oversee the selection process for construction. An announcement was made on March 6, 1847, that proposals that included plans and specs, would be accepted until March 15, 1847, at “Swishers Tavern.” Thomas H. Jones was awarded the contract and Thomas William Ward, James G. Swisher, John J. Gambles, and Abner H. Cook were appointed to draft plans. Ward, Swisher and Lamar Moore were appointed to supervise the construction. The jail was built under contract with local Mormons for a cost of $1,800. It was a small double log building constructed on the Old Courthouse block, located on the fourth block west of Congress Avenue, between Guadalupe and San Antonio, West 3rd and 4th streets.

The first jail was destroyed by fire in 1855 and a second courthouse and jail facility was built in 1856 at the same location. The following is a description of the jail taken from county records of the time: "The courthouse and jail is to be of brick, 50’x70’ wide and 20‘ high. The jail is to have two walls, the outer of brick and the inner of dungeon stones, and four feet thick, 16’X16’. Mr. Jones is to receive $16,000 for the completion of said building. He is an energetic man, and proposes to finish the structure in time for the fall court. The jail was often referred to as ‘The Black Hole Calcutta.’ It was not uncommon to have as many as 34 prisoners in the jail at one time.” This courthouse and jail facility was razed in 1906.

Travis County obtained the property for the next location through a 99-year lease with the State of Texas. Located at 11th and Congress, the property belonged to the Texas Game Fish and Oyster Commission. The courthouse was moved to 11th St. and Congress Ave., with the jail being located at 11th and Brazos. The architects of Lamour & Klerke designed the jail facility. The jail was 50’X 60’, built in one large room enclosed with two foot walls made of solid hard stone. The jailer’s residence was connected to the jail by means of a long corridor. The twenty-four cells were two stories in height, and each cell was 8’ X 10”. By a novel patent lever arrangement, all of the cell doors can be closed and shut by the jailer without coming into contact with the prisoners. The jail, jailers residence and courthouse cost $200,000 and was financed by a local property tax increase and a state approved bond election.

In 1931, the State of Texas gave Travis County land in exchange for breaking their 99-year lease for the courthouse and jail facilities. As a result, Travis County built what still functions as our county courthouse today. At a cost of $1 million, the courthouse was considered a “State of the Art” facility at the time of construction. The new courthouse building also housed the jail on the 6th and 7th floors, with capacity for 100 inmates. In 1950, the courthouse was expanded at a cost of $225,000 and the jail capacity was increased to 250 inmates. A lawsuit filed in 1972, Musgrove vs. Frank, stated that a jail above a county courthouse was unconstitutional. This lawsuit eventually resulted in the closure of the courthouse jail on July 3, 1990.

In 1978, a jail bond issue was passed, and plans began for a new jail which was scheduled to open between 1981 and 1982 in the Criminal Justice Complex. However, a series of design and operational problems ensued that resulted in litigation between Travis County and the architects and contractors. The county won its lawsuit and the jail finally opened in July 1986 with a capacity of 267 inmates. The original estimate to construct the jail was $13 million, but due to the delays, the final cost was $20 million. Because of overcrowding, a minimum security jail facility was built in Del Valle, Texas, with an original capacity of 96 inmates at a cost of $1.4 million. Now known as the Travis County Correctional Complex, the facility has grown to more than 19 buildings that house more than 2,500 inmates.

The largest portion of the Travis County jail population is now at the Travis County Correctional Complex (TCCC) in Del Valle, Texas. TCCC is made up of twelve buildings that house more than 2,500 inmates. Building 12, the newest TCCC building, opened in October 2009. This is the largest single facility within the Sheriff's Office and is larger than most county jails in Texas. At 257,000 square feet, Building 12 has 301 staff members, 193 of which are corrections officers.

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