Chambers Co. deputy killed in Baytown

July 14, 2009 12:02:00 PM PDT
A Chambers County sheriff's deputy was fatally shot Monday morning during a confrontation in Baytown. That deadly confrontation resulted in a SWAT standoff at a home that lasted into the evening hours.[PHOTOS: Images from Monday's SWAT scene]

The standoff started early Monday morning at a home in the Tower Terrace neighborhood over a dispute with the water company.

Authorities tell Eyewitness News employees with Monarch Water came to the home around 8:30am to shut off the water when a woman, identified by Chambers County Sheriff's Department officials as Pamela Leggett, came out and fired a few gunshots, but missed.

"It's all over water," said resident Randy Young, who was evacuated during the standoff. "The company wanted them to get shut off."

That's when Chambers County Sheriff's Office deputies and a state trooper responded. A man in the home, Gilbert Ortez, who is apparently the woman's boyfriend, opened fire on them without warning, killing Deputy Shane Detwiler, 31.

"There was a lot of gunfire exchanged in the trailer. It was a miracle more men weren't lost," said Chamber County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck.

Ortez then barricated himself inside the home. Authorities said negotiators had tried to establish contact with him without success.

"They are taking every precaution they need to," Baytown police spokeswoman Patti Jett said.

"Obviously, we don't want to have another loss," she added. "The loss of an officer is very traumatic for a police department. We like all of our guys, and we want them to be as safe as they can."

Then around 7:30pm, we learned that Ortez was found dead in a back bedroom inside the home. Investigators aren't sure if he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or law enforcement gunfire.

Ortez is a former police officer with the Kenefick Police Department.

"He's not a bad guy," Young said of his neighbor. "He's just a non-conformist. He used to be a police officer who didn't really like the way they ran things."

Ortez reportedly had a known fondness for weapons and explosives and does have a criminal record.

Investigators did, in fact, discover a significant amount of explosives. They are trying to figure out just how much is there and how they can most safely remove it. The FBI, the ATF Bay Area bomb squad, and the Chambers County Sheriff's Office are on the scene in addition to Texas Rangers and emergency medical personnel.

As for Legett, she was taken into custody and has been charged with aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

During the standoff, neighbors were allowed to either evacuate across the street to the Houston Raceway Park or remain at home and shelter in place, but the Chambers County neighborhood was in lockdown for hours. Shirley Blackketter could not get to her granddaughter and nine-month-old great granddaughter

"It's just really frightening. She was there and we couldn't get to her," she said.

Sheriff Joe Larive says they are a small department and this is a devastating loss.

"It's tough. My men don't work for me, but with me," said Sheriff Larive. "I was the fourth or fifth officer here and pulled up about the time when the shots started."

As neighbors return to their homes Monday night, the deputy's family was not far from their minds.

"I can only imagine what they're going through," said resident Crystal Blackketter. "We are praying for them."

About the fallen deputy

When Deputy Detwiler responded to the scene Monday morning, he was relatively new to the Chambers County Sheriff's Office. The 31-year-old had been employed there just two months.

"Before coming to the sheriff's department, he worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Departments. He had been there with them for six years. He was also a decorated Iraqi veteran," said Patti Jett with the City of Baytown. "He's married and left behind three young children."

Authorities say all of those children are under 10years old, the oldest four years old, the youngest eight months old, two boys and one girl. He and his wife had been married for 13 years. Detwiler graduated from the Texas Game Warden Academy in June 2003 and served as a Texas Game Warden in Chambers County until his resignation in May 2009. From Jan. 2005 through Dec. 2005, Detwiler was deployed to Iraq as a U.S. Army staff sergeant.

"Shane was an exceptional young man and a great game warden," said Col. Pete Flores, director of TPWD's Law Enforcement Division. "He served the people of Chambers County, the State of Texas and our nation selflessly and we are immensely saddened by this senseless tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

Detwiler's family pastor describes the deceased deputy as a "man's man," a man committed to his family. Visitation for him is set for Thursday wth the funeral planned for Friday. It will include a 1.5 mile long procession from the site of the visitation to the church where the funeral will be held. That church was chosen specifically because it has the capacity to hold about 3,000 people. A big crowd is expected to come paying final respects.

An autopsy is being conducted on Detwiler as well as on Ortez. No results yet have been released by the Jefferson County Medical Examiner.

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