Since 1877, four Erath County officers have been killed in the line of duty.

On June 21, 1877, Sheriff James Mastin was killed by gunfire in Erath County when he and a deputy went to arrest a horse thief. The suspect was killed in a shoot out with Texas Rangers three months later.

On March 29, 1879, Deputy Sheriff John T. Ross and Deputy Sheriff Marion Robertson were killed by gunfire while trying to arrest a suspect for unlawfully carrying a firearm. The incident happened at a family farm and the shooters were members of the suspect’s family. One of the suspects was sentenced to 35 years; two were acquitted; and another turned himself in 48 years later.

On December 18, 1897, Constable John A. Adams was killed by gunfire when he was ambushed by John Wright. Wright was wanted on illegal liquor charges and was subsequently convicted of murder and hanged.

This week, officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice will be honored during National Police Week, with May 15 designated as National Peace Officer Memorial Day. President John F. Kennedy signed the public law creating the National Police Week on October 2, 1962.

Stephenville Police Chief Roy Halsell is asking citizens to recognize the week by thanking local law enforcement agencies. He is also urging citizens to fly flags at half-staff on May 15 to honor those who have fallen.

“When you see an officer, I would ask that you go out of your way to thank them for serving,” Halsell said. “May 15th is Peace Officer’s Memorial Day and President Clinton approved flying the flag at half mast on that day. I ask you to fly your flag at half-mast as a tribute to those law enforcement officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to those officers that put on the uniform every day and put their lives on the line to make your life safer.”

In 2005, 57,546 law enforcement officers nationwide were victims of some type of assault and 122 of them were killed (67 accidentally and 55 were feloniously killed). In Texas, 10 law enforcement officers were killed in 2005.

Halsell said these deaths are not restricted to the larger cities or to areas that are considered high crime areas, citing an incident in 1999 where three law enforcement officers were killed in Atascosa County. A man, who had just been released after a family violence arrest ambushed the three officers in a rural area of Atascosa County.

Texas has recorded 1,512 Texas law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, making it the highest number of any state.

Killed in the line of duty in Texas 2007

Fannin County Deputy Sheriff Rahamy Mitchell - traffic accident Needville ISD PD Chief of Police Ernest Mendoza - traffic accident DPS Trooper Todd Holmes - traffic accident Game Warden Justin Hurst - gunfire rRifle Dallas Police Corporal Mark Nix - gunfire Irving Police Officer Andrew Esparza - traffic accident Beaumont Police Officer Lisa Beaulieu - vehicular assault

Sara Vanden Berge covers courts, law enforcement, and business and political issues for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at sara.vandenberge@empiretribune.com. Her work number is 968-2379, ext. 240.