Thursday, March 7, 2013
After 93 years, Plano PD honors city marshal murdered in the line of duty
Four generations of the officer's family visited for the ceremonies.
PLANO On February 28, 1920, Deputy City Marshal Green W. Rye was murdered in downtown Plano while attempting to stop a bank robbery.
On Friday, the 93rd anniversary of the shooting, a plaque was installed in Rye's honor in McCall Plaza on 15th Street near the site of his death.
The ceremony, which was led by Plano Police Chief Greg Rushin and attended by dozens of officers, was also attended by four generations of Rye's family.
"His sacrifice will be remembered forever as part of law enforcement history," Rushin said. "Today, I want to reiterate to all officers here that we must honor and never forget those who gave their lives in service."
While Rye's death is now common knowledge among Plano PD officers, that was not always the case. Until 2003, Rye, who was a night watchman during his 18 months in Plano, was thought to be a security guard, not a peace officer.
"When Chief Rushin took over [in 2001] he decided to put the history on the walls of the police department," said Det. Luke Grant. "One of the people who had done that research found out that the Plano National Bank had been burglarized in 1920 and a night watchman was killed. I then went to the Plano Star Courier to get a little more information on that and found out that the night watchman was actually a deputy city marshal with full arrest powers."
Once Grant discovered Rye was a peace officer, he began the process of contacting Rye's relatives to learn more about the first Plano officer killed in the line of duty. While it was no easy task -- Rye's family moved back to San Saba, Texas, shortly after his death and had no further connection with Plano -- Grant was eventually able to talk with Molly Lane, Rye's granddaughter. Lane, it turned out, had been working for years to get Rye included on peace officer memorials in both Austin and Washington, D.C., and was eager to speak with Grant.
"I felt so sad for Mama because they never knew who did it," Lane said, adding that her mother was 10 years old when Rye was killed. "It was just buried in her mind and I wanted to find out what I could on my own ... She died in 2000 at 91 years old, and I never got to get [his name] on the wall before she died, which hurt me a whole lot. [Luke] found me and we got his name put on in Washington [and Austin]. It gave me a sense of closure. I wish Mama had been alive, but she knows."
When Rye, 49, came across the bank robbers, he was shot once in the abdomen but managed to return fire. He did not kill any of the robbers, but investigators found blood at the scene, leading them to believe at least one of the robbers was hit. Rye was taken to the home of a local family but succumbed to his injury shortly before his wife and three children arrived to say goodbye. His final words, reports say, were "my poor wife, my poor children."
Grant said when he began his investigation he treated the case as an open homicide since no one was arrested for the murder. The investigation led him to Durant, Okla., where he learned that Alfred Gonia, a career criminal, claimed in 1921 that he had served as a lookout during the bank robbery.
Gonia denied firing the fatal shot and was never tried for Rye's murder, but Grant said under today's sentencing laws Gonia would have been charged with capital murder and likely convicted because of his confession.
After Friday's dedication, Lane said she was proud to be Rye's granddaughter. When people heading to bars and restaurants in downtown Plano walk by the plaque, Lane said, she hopes they stop to remember the sacrifice her grandfather made 93 years ago at that very spot.
"I would like them to take that this was a man who was dedicated to his job and his community," she said. "He gave the ultimate sacrifice. I want them to respect him for that."
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