Two desperate men chose shootouts over surrender in separate confrontations this year in Montague and Hood counties.
Both of the gunmen — one a fugitive from Colorado, the other a former hospital security guard facing a child rape charge in Johnson County — were shot and killed in gun battles with law enforcement.
The violence also wounded two officers and killed another.
As the year comes to a close, family and friends still grieve for Sgt. Lance McLean, the deputy who died in June after the Hood County shootout.
“Everybody went through a tough time,” said Sheriff Roger Deeds. “But I haven’t had anybody quit because of it.
“It’s something all of us know could happen at any time, but you do your job.”
Traffic stop turns
violent in Montague
The first shooting occurred March 21, when James Boyd, then a Montague County Sheriff’s deputy, confronted Evan Ebel during a traffic stop on U.S. 287 near Bowie.
Ebel, 28, had recently been released from a Colorado prison after serving eight years, much of it in solitary confinement.
Boyd, 27, didn’t know that, nor was he aware that Ebel was a suspect in the slaying of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements and pizza deliveryman Nathan Leon a few days earlier.
Dash-cam video images from Boyd’s patrol car showed him cautiously walking up to the black Cadillac, where Ebel was behind the wheel.
Boyd leaned forward to question the man through the open passenger window when the fugitive opened fire.
The deputy’s legs flew out from under him and he hit the ground with two slugs to the chest; another grazed his head and gave him a severe concussion.
“All I saw was gun,” Boyd would later say.
His protective vest stopped the rounds to his chest, and he managed to call in a description of the Cadillac.
The shooter fled south on U.S. 287 into neighboring Wise County, where other officers, alerted by radio, were waiting for him.
Ebel fired wildly, striking a couple of patrol cars until the Cadillac collided with an 18-wheeler.
He got out of the wreckage and kept shooting, but he was outgunned by officers. He died later at a Fort Worth hospital.
Boyd, too, was hospitalized, but survived. In a few months he was back on patrol.
Sheriff Paul Cunningham is a longtime acquaintance of Boyd’s family.
Cunningham and the deputy’s father, Hal Boyd, grew up together and served as firefighters and arson investigators in Lewisville. By coincidence, both retired in Montague County, where Cunningham was elected sheriff and Hal Boyd became a reserve deputy.
The sheriff said he was impressed by the younger Boyd’s resolve, despite his wounds.
“It would affect anybody, getting shot,” Cunningham said. “But as far as getting back to work, it had no affect on him.”
At the department’s recent Christmas party, Boyd and his father received Purple Heart medals for injuries received on patrol. Hal Boyd was hurt last year while trying to grab a prisoner who was trying to flee in a pickup.
James Boyd recently accepted a similar job in Cooke County, a move he said was a career advancement.
“We hated to lose him, but we understand,” Cunningham said, adding that Boyd joked that Montague County didn’t offer enough excitement.
“But how much more excitement can you have, getting shot three times and surviving?” the sheriff asked.
Boyd said he was eager to get back to work.
“That was my main goal, to get back on patrol,” he said. “People always say you should find a job that you love doing. I found mine, and I’m lucky I get paid for it.”
Boyd was asked if he ever thinks about the man who shot him.
His response: “I thought, ‘You know what? He can knock me down, but he’s not going to keep me down.’ I went through rehab, and I came back kicking and swinging.”
Evil intent in
A similar incident played out three months later in Hood County.
On the morning of June 28, Ricky Don McCommas, 49, of Joshua was scheduled to appear in a Johnson County courtroom for a pretrial hearing on a 2012 charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Instead, McCommas drove a white van to neighboring Hood County and arrived at the home of the teenage girl who had accused him of assaulting her. Investigators later said that he surely had evil intent.
McCommas, a gun dealer who had been fired as a security guard at a Fort Worth hospital, had packed the van with two semiautomatic military-style rifles, a handgun and lots of ammunition.
He had been ordered to stay away from the girl, so when he showed up at her home a few miles north of Granbury, deputies were called.
First on the scene was Sgt. Lance McLean, a 38-year-old training officer and SWAT team member who a month earlier had been praised for his actions after the deadly Hood County tornadoes.
McCommas mortally wounded the deputy. Then he got back in the van and drove to downtown Granbury, the county seat.
Other deputies arrived at the shooting scene and called in a description of the van to dispatchers.
Near City Hall, about a block from the courthouse square, the van was cornered by Granbury police officers, a highway patrol trooper and deputies.
Among them was Sheriff Deeds, who had just left a meeting when the alert came over the radio.
McCommas got out of the van brandishing a short-barreled AR-15 with 100 rounds of ammo in a double-drum magazine.
“There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he wanted to hurt and kill a lot of people that day,” Deeds said. “He already shot one of my deputies.”
McCommas sprayed the area with bullets. Officers returned fire, striking him several times.
“He looked at me and I looked at him right before I shot him,” Deeds said. “The whole thing was over in about 12 seconds.”
McLean died at a Fort Worth hospital the day after the shooting. As a hearse came for his body, Fort Worth police officers lined up and marched with it to the funeral home.
Granbury police officer Chad Davis was wounded in the upper arm and knee but survived. He returned to light duty in November and had additional surgery last week. More surgeries will be necessary in early 2014, said Police Chief Mitch Galvan.
The big issue was nerve damage to the officer’s arm, Galvan said.
“It’s a wait-and-see deal now,” Galvan said of Davis. “But he keeps his head up and keeps plugging away.”
as best we can’
Losing McLean was hard for the department, Deeds said, but even more so for the sergeant’s wife, Katy, a schoolteacher in Hico who is now raising two special-needs children on her own.
Memorial funds to help McLean’s family are set up at the Hico First National Bank and all Community Bank branches in North Texas.
Since the shooting, deputies created the “129 Hero Award” to honor heroism. The award was unveiled recently at their Christmas party. McLean’s badge number was 129. His name is first on the plaque.
“It’s a slow process getting over all that,” the sheriff said. “But we had some other situations that my deputies were put in since then, and they handled themselves very professionally.
“The department is moving forward as best we can.”