Wharton County Heroes
Warden Justin Hurst was shot and killed by a suspect in Wharton County following a high speed pursuit on US Route 90-A. The suspect had fled after he was approached by another warden who suspected him of illegally hunting from the roadside. Warden Hurst was called as back-up, and he and officers from other agencies pursued the suspect through two counties. The suspect then exchanged shots with the officers, mortally wounding Warden Hurst.
Warden Hurst was flown to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries in the early morning hours the following day, his 34th birthday. The killer was shot and wounded by sheriff’s deputies during the exchange. He was taken into custody, charged with murder, and subsequently sentenced to death. Warden Hurst graduated from the academy to become a warden in August of 2002. He is survived by his wife, 4-month-old son, parents, and brother.
One-day after turning 67 years old, Deputy Sheriff Otto H. Heyne and Sheriff E. J. Koehl were involved in an automobile accident in Fort Bend County near Arcola. Deputy Heyne died from his injuries at 3:00 p.m. Otto H. Heyne was a widower. He was buried in Wharton, Texas.
End of Watch: Saturday, November 9, 1935
Walter W. Pittman was reported to have been one of the luckiest lawman to ever wear a badge. In 1916 Pitman ran for constable of Precinct One in Wharton County and won. Pitman cut a deal with the sheriff to live in the jail in exchange for helping run the jail. Pitman’s precinct covered the county seat of Wharton and policed the city also. On September 15, 1917 Constable Pitman tried to arrest Francisco Lopez for being drunk in public. Lopez drew a Colt .38-caliber pistol and fired two rounds. Constable Pitman drew his single action Colt .45 caliber pistol and fired back and his first bullet went into the drunkard’s pistol muzzle and jammed his gun. The slug broke into half and struck the suspect’s hand causing him to drop the pistol. The constable’s second shot hit Lopez in the shoulder and he started running. Pitman arrested the man shortly thereafter. Lopez was fined $200 and sentenced to one year in jail for unlawfully carrying a weapon and a five year suspended sentence for assault with intent to murder.
On June 26, 1920 Constable Pittman and Deputy Sheriff Harry McCormick went to arrest a man for tying a piece of paper on a dog’s tail and saturating it with gasoline and setting it on fire. Deputy McCormick was unarmed. The suspect fled inside and the man’s wife and brother got upset. Constable Pitman got the suspect to the front porch and knocked him to the ground with his pistol. The wife charged him and the brother came out with a 30-30 rifle and seized Constable Pitman’s pistol and shot Deputy McCormick in the head. Pitman fled and avoided being hit by three pistol rounds and seven rifle rounds. A manhunt ensued and a posse killed the suspect and his brother. A mob lynched a couple of cousins of the suspects. The wife received a 5 year prison sentence.
After two terms as a constable, Pitman worked as a carpenter and grocery clerk before winning the city marshal position in Wharton. In 1932 Pitman was recognized by Ripley’s Believe It or Not for the jammed gun shoot-out and won a trip to Cuba. Later that summer Pitman and another lawman had a run-in with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. When the lawmen attempted to stop the pair, someone inside open fire as the car made a u-turn and escaped.
On November 9, 1935 City Marshal Pitman had a massive heart attack after dragging a drunken man to the jail. He had been a lawman for 16 years and was only 51 years of age. He was buried in the Wharton City Cemetery. Pitman was survived by his wife and two daughters.
End of Watch: Saturday, June 26, 1920
Deputy McCormick was shot and killed while helping a fellow deputy serve a warrant on a man. The suspect first agreed to go with the officers but then began to resist and was able to gain control of the partner’s pistol. At that moment the suspect’s brother emerged with a Winchester rifle. As Deputy McCormick began to help his partner the brother shot him in the head, killing him.
The two brothers were shot and killed the following week after being surrounded by a posse. Two other men who aided in their original escape were lynched by citizens.
City Marshal James Otway Lee
El Campo Police Department, Texas
Marshal Lee was shot and killed in the line of duty.
Deputy Jailer Henry Ross McCain
Wharton County Sheriff’s Department, Texas
Deputy Jailer McCain succumbed to stab wounds sustained two days earlier when he was attacked by a prisoner two days earlier. He was able to escape the attack after being stabbed several times. He was then taken by train to St. Joseph Hospital where he died two days later.
The suspect was able to escape the jail but was arrested the day after the attack. Deputy Jailer McCain had served with the agency for 7 years.
End of Watch: Wednesday, February 7, 1894
Suspect: Shot and killed
Sheriff Dickson was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a suspect who had earlier murdered Constable Mose Townsend, of the Colorado County Constable’s Office, during a jail break. Sheriff Dickson and the sheriff from Colorado County had met up to look for the suspect. As the two sheriffs entered a brushy area the suspect opened fire, fatally wounding Sheriff Dickson. Both officers were able to return fire and kill the suspect. Sheriff Dickson had been Sheriff for four years.
End of Watch: Friday, July 4, 1884 Sherff