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My wife grew up in this area and has a friend who married a Henderson County Sherrif's deputy.

Deputies killed in shootout were veterans

By BILL HANNA
[email protected]


ATHENS — Henderson County Deputy Sheriff Paul Steven Habelt, 63, had cheated death years ago when he had been shot and left for dead while on duty in California.

Deputy Tony Price Ogburn, 61, had witnessed firsthand Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963 and had been deeply affected by the event as he helped police the crowds with a National Guard unit.

The two veteran law officers were shot and killed Thursday when they answered a domestic disturbance call outside the small community of Payne Springs, 60 miles southeast of Dallas. A third deputy was wounded in the leg during the shootout.

Shooting suspect Randall Wayne Mays, 47, was listed in fair condition Friday at East Texas Medical Center in Tyler after being shot in the elbow and torso. He was under guard at the hospital and was charged Friday with capital murder, with bail set at $2 million.

"We still have no idea why he twisted off," said Lt. Pat McWilliams, a spokesman for the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department. "Everything was normal, like it had been other times when officers had responded to calls out there, and then he opened fire. We really don’t know why. I don’t know if we’ll ever know why."

Crime scene investigators from Kaufman County and the Texas Rangers searched Mays’ home. Overnight, they recovered a high-powered hunting rifle and a pistol but no large cache of weapons or ammunition, McWilliams said.
Outside the Henderson County Sheriff’s Department on Friday, flags were flying at half-staff and doors were decorated with black ribbons.

Local businesses delivered food and flowers while deputies, with black tape across their badges, stood on the lawn watching silently and declining reporters’ requests for interviews.

There was concern for Ogburn’s widow, who had suffered a stroke in recent years and could no longer care for herself. Ogburn, a uniformed officer who lived in Log Cabin, had worked day shifts to ensure he was home every evening.
"I don’t see how she’s going to be able to continue living at home," McWilliams said.

In a Jan. 20, 2003, article in the Athens Daily Review, Ogburn, who was African-American, recalled witnessing King’s effect on the civil-rights movement.

"This was the first time I could recall in the history of the country that many black people came together for one common goal at the capital of the United States," Ogburn said in the article. "It was the fact that I think everybody was saying, ‘We have leadership and we are going to following this leadership down to the wire.’"

Habelt, a criminal investigator who lived near Eustace, had joined the Oakland, Calif., Police Department in 1964 and later became a member of the California Highway Patrol.

"He was shot twice in the line of duty before this shooting," McWilliams said. "The second time, he was shot and left for dead in the Lake Tahoe area, but he survived and recovered."

Deputy Kevin Harris, who hours before the shooting had participated in a memorial service that honored his late father, Dave Harris, the former Athens police chief, was expected to recover from a gunshot wound to the leg.

"Kevin got caught out in the open and probably would have been killed if not for officers vigorously returning fire," McWilliams said.

Deputies initially responded to a domestic disturbance call involving Mays and his wife after a neighbor called police and said the couple were yelling at each other.

When deputies arrived, everything appeared calm, McWilliams said. But then deputies noticed that Mays was armed and called for assistance.

As other deputies arrived, shots were fired from a high-powered rifle inside the house.

The fatalities were the first in Henderson County law enforcement since 1956, but authorities said they face hazards every day, particularly in the rural southern part of the county, where they frequently find methamphetamine labs.
"We are often dealing with calls where some residents exhibit irrational behavior," McWilliams said. "I’m not saying this suspect was on anything, but he clearly was exhibiting some unpredictable behavior."

Memorial
A candlelight service for Henderson County Deputies Tony Ogburn and Paul Habelt and wounded Deputy Kevin Harris is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Lord’s Acre in Payne Springs. The site is across the street from the Payne Springs United Methodist Church, 9667 Texas 198 in Payne Springs.
 

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When I worked Navy Security they always told us Domestic Disturbances were the most dangerous call you could get. Many officers have been injured and killed by one spouse while you were arresting the other spouse.
All our prayers are with these familys.
 
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