From the moment Montague County Deputy James Boyd stopped a 1991 black Cadillac Thursday morning near Bowie, he had an uneasy feeling.
The car, which had Colorado plates, took an unusually long time to pull over, leaving Boyd with a sense of trepidation.
“Before I even got out of the patrol car, I remember looking at the car and thinking something is just not right,” Boyd said Tuesday at Texas Health Harris Hospital Fort Worth.
The nearest deputy was at least 10 minutes away, and Boyd didn’t feel comfortable waiting for him to arrive.
As he walked up to the passenger side window, Boyd never got a look at the driver, Evan Spencer Ebel.
“All I saw was a gun,” Boyd, 27, said. “… I remember seeing the gun shoot off a number of times, and I could see the cartridges flying. At which point I blacked out.”
With Ebel speeding away down U.S. 287, Boyd slowly regained consciousness; he said he wasn’t sure if he was standing or on the ground.
He had been shot twice in the chest, and one bullet grazed the left side of his head.
Boyd said he didn’t realize he was injured until he felt a trickle of blood running down his forehead.
Scrambling for his microphone, he called dispatchers, telling them an officer was down, the type of vehicle as well as the direction it was headed.
Other law enforcement officials have credited Boyd with helping them track down Ebel as he sped down U.S. 287 toward Wise County. Ebel crashed into a rock hauler in Decatur and a gun battle ensued. Ebel, 28, who was later determined to be a suspect in the fatal shooting of the head of the prison system in Colorado, died at a Fort Worth hospital later Thursday.
“Somebody needed to get him off the street,” Boyd said. “I didn’t know who he was or where he was headed to.”
An off-duty Johnson County Sheriff’s Department detective, who was driving to Wichita Falls with his mother along U.S. 287, saw the patrol car’s flashing lights and stopped to help.
Boyd who became a sheriff’s deputy after graduating from Bowie High School, doesn’t regret stopping Ebel. He believes his 6-foot-2 frame helped save his life and prevent another officer from being killed.
“If I wouldn’t have done it, there was an officer 5 to 10 miles up from me who would have probably stopped him,” Ebel said “He was actually a few inches shorter than me. He most likely would have died. I just got lucky that I was the perfect height, weight. That’s all it boiled down to was luck.”
Boyd wouldn’t learn about last week’s killing of Tom Clements, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, or the killing of a Denver pizza delivery man that also may be linked to Ebel until he was in the hospital. Clements was shot March 19 as he answered the front door of his Monument, Colo., home.
Boyd, who was released from the hospital Tuesday, will now go to a Fort Worth rehabilitation facility to recover from a severe concussion.
“I could be there five days to 50 days,” Boyd said. “That’s not up to me.”
But he’s eager to return to his job and will return for some “ride alongs” as soon as doctors give him the clearance to do so.
Boyd’s mother, Barbara Boyd, was home in Montague County when her son was shot. After they were called by a deputy, his parents hopped in their Mustang and began racing down rural dirt roads. When they learned he was already on a helicopter, they turned toward Fort Worth.
“We were told he was shot in the chest and one shot had nicked his ear so we didn’t realize how serious it was until we got to the hospital,” she said.
While she is worried about her son’s safety, she is also looking forward to the day he goes back to work.
His father, Hal Boyd, a former Lewisville firefighter and arson investigator, currently works as a Montague County reserve deputy.
“This is all he’s ever wanted to do since he was little boy,” Barbara Boyd said. “He’s been around it all of his life. I’m just glad he can serve another 20 or 30 years.”
Montague County Sheriff Paul Cunningham said the shooting shows how vulnerable deputies are in rural counties where backup may be miles away.
Even though Montague County only has about 20,000 residents, out-of-state drivers are commonplace along U.S. 287 that runs from Texas to Montana.
“We only had two deputies on duty at that time so we can be spread pretty thin,” Cunningham said.
Besides his height, Boyd credits his bullet-proof vest with saving his life.
“If there’s one thing I want to come out of this is wear a vest,” Boyd said. “I want to get that message out there.”
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698. Twitter: @fwhanna