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End of watch

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, May 12, 2018
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Richard Hale

RICHARD HALE. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Officer.

Investigator.

Firefighter.

Father.

Whatever role Richard Hale was serving in, those who knew him said he performed exceptionally.

Hale died in the line of duty Wednesday afternoon in a car crash near Decatur. He was 46.

His funeral will be held Tuesday, May 15 – a date well known to those who wear the badge.

It’s National Peace Officers Memorial Day, where those officers who died while carrying out their duties are remembered each year.

PATROLLING THE HALLWAYS – Richard Hale spent several years serving as the school resource officer for Decatur High School while employed by the Decatur Police Department from 2008 to 2017. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Although he hadn’t worked for the department for nearly a year, Hale might be recognized most by those in Wise County for the nine years he spent at the Decatur Police Department. Hundreds of Decatur High School students knew Officer Hale from his four years as a school resource officer on the campus.

Hale had been on the job as the school resource officer at DHS for several years when Jeff Russell accepted the role as principal. Russell was quickly impressed by Hale’s work and care for students.

“The perspective he had as a dad as well as his professional experience made him a great school resource officer,” Russell said. “He treated kids like they were his kids. He wanted the best for them.”

Decatur Police Chief Rex Hoskins said he hired Hale in May 2008. Prior to that, Hale had worked part-time at the Newark Police Department. Before his law enforcement duties in Wise County, Hale had worked as a firefighter and paramedic in White Settlement, Hoskins said.

“He was a hard worker and a good family man,” Hoskins said.

Hale left the Decatur Police Department on May 15 of last year to go work for the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to serve as a deputy inspector general. The OIG investigates crimes committed by departmental employees as well as crimes and delinquent conduct committed at departmental facilities.

Chief Inspector General Forrest Mitchell said Hale will be sorely missed.

“He was an exceptional investigator – very hard working, very diligent. He was the best man, the best father, the best co-worker. He really was an excellent person,” Mitchell said.

Hale was assigned to the Gainesville State School, and he often worked with Jana Jones, the Section Chief of the Special Prosecution Unit (SPU) Juvenile Division through her office in Decatur.

Jones said Hale had visited her office Wednesday morning and was headed back to Gainesville when the wreck happened.

“It’s so tragic. We’re all in shock,” she said. “We probably saw him a couple of times a week. We’d talk about cases, strategy and warrants.”

Jones said her two sons also got to know Hale through his role as SRO at Decatur High School.

“Both of my boys knew him at the high school, and they loved him. He made them toe the line, but everyone liked him,” she said.

She recalled that Hale always had a smile on his face – “he was one of those good guys,” she added.

In addition to his role as officer, Hale was also a father to eight children. He and his wife, Jenny, also served as foster parents for many years.

Being an officer was a family tradition with Hale. In a 2014 interview with the Messenger, Hale said his father, grandfather and step-dad were all police officers.

In that interview, Hale talked about donating bone marrow the month prior to a 5-year-old girl with lymphatic leukemia. He called it the most rewarding thing he had ever done.

Funeral for Hale will be 1 p.m. Tuesday at the First Baptist Church of Decatur. Family visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at the church. Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur is handling arrangements.

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Wise County has mourned the loss of officers multiple times before this week. As the nation honors officers during National Police Week, here’s a look at local officers or residents who gave their lives to serve others.

  • Jasper H. Coghlan, Wise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, 1888 – The deputized civilian and druggist was shot near Paradise as part of a group hunting a pair of suspected horse thieves.
  • Joseph H. Brown, Jr., Wise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy, 1933 – The deputy was shot and killed in Rhome by three theft suspects.
  • James Leroy “Pancho” Bennett, Decatur Police officer, April 3, 1980 – Bennett had stopped a burglary suspect on U.S. 380. Officer Bennett had just stepped out of his patrol vehicle when the suspect exited his vehicle and shot him numerous times. Officer James “Pancho” Bennett died as result of his wounds. U.S. 380 through Decatur his now named for him.
  • Wes Hardy, Plano Police officer, July 7, 2007 – Hardy was killed when his police motorcycle collided with a vehicle as he attempted to make a traffic stop. The Boyd resident previously worked for the Wise County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Randy D. White, Bridgeport Police Officer, April 2, 2009 – While assisting with a high-speed pursuit, Bridgeport Police Sergeant Randy D. White was tragically killed when the suspect intentionally struck Sgt. White’s vehicle at 88 mph on Texas 114 near the intersection of Farm Road 2123. The area of Texas 114 is now dedicated in his name.

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