After an 18-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot was held Tuesday, Oct. 19, at the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Firearms Range in Cleveland. The annual event, hosted by Company A of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers, is organized by Texas Ranger Brandon Bess and Range Supervisor Royce Wheeler. Bess is a cold case crimes investigator assigned to Liberty County and Wheeler is the former Pct. 6 Constable for Liberty County.
The Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot is an opportunity for current and retired Texas state troopers and Rangers to reconnect over two of their favorite things – food and firearms. Attendees enjoy a meal with friends and then complete the state-required firearms training needed to keep up their peace officer licenses.
Representatives of The 100 Club of Houston came to the event to present a robot to the Texas DPS Special Response Team 2, which covers the greater Houston area. The $80,000 robot, named “Little Joe” in honor of the founding member of the team – legendary Texas Ranger Joe Haralson, will be used to respond to situations that have to potential to be extremely dangerous to law enforcement officers.
Bess explained, “In extreme hostage situations or when we have barricaded subjects or active shooters, we can send in the robot. It has an active arm to carry items in such as a cell phone, or food and water. It also can record and video situations and can be used to aid in a rescue or to evaluate a situation so that we don’t have to send in humans.”
Two retired DPS troopers at the event who have seen how technology has changed the landscape of law enforcement are James Wilson and Roy Duff.
Wilson, a retired colonel for DPS, later served as the sheriff of Williamson County, Texas. He and Duff, who worked as an investigator, were assigned to the Houston area. Wilson was director over Duff’s investigation unit. Over the last 20 years of his career, Duff aided investigations through electronics surveillance, which included wiretapping and camera surveillance. Both said much of their work was related to investigating narcotics trafficking.
“There were a bunch of big time dope dealers in the Texas area,” said Wilson.
Recalling a particular investigation from his storied career, Wilson said DPS investigators, working with Customs Enforcement, conducted a high-altitude investigation in 1980 that involved trailing a plane from Colombia in South America as it entered Texas’ air space. The pursuit continued until the plane was forced to land in San Angelo, where the smugglers were taken into custody.
“We didn’t make a big deal about it in those days. We just wrote a report and went back out,” Wilson said.
Wilson scoffed at the suggestion that criminals have become more sophisticated.
“I don’t think they are smarter, but I think there are just more of them here in the United States now,” he said.
According to Duff, part of his job involved investigating human trafficking, a term that was not in use at the time.
“I am not sure that human trafficking has gotten worse over the years or if we are just more aware of it since the term ‘human trafficking’ was created and used by the news media,” Duff said.
This year’s Ol’ Farts Fish Fry and Retiree Shoot welcomed 300 people, 195 of whom were retirees. Liberty County law enforcement officers from the sheriff’s office, constable’s offices, District Attorney’s Office and Cleveland Police Department were among the guests. Bess was surprised at the turnout.
“I really thought our numbers would be down again this year with COVID-19. We’ve had a lot of folks get sick and a lot of folks who have died over the last two years,” Bess said. “Our attendance this year is bigger than expected and we are happy to see everyone here.”
Major Grover “Frank” Huff, who previously was assigned to Liberty County, is in command of Company A, which includes Matagorda, Wharton, Colorado, Austin, Washington, Burleson, Robertson, Leon, Madison, Houston, Trinity, Angelina, Nacogdoches, Shelby, Sabine, San Augustine, Jasper, Newton, Tyler, Polk, San Jacinto, Hardin, Jefferson, Orange, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Waller, Grimes, Brazos, Harris, Walker, Chambers, Colorado, Galveston and Liberty counties.