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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.