A sniper pinned down several construction workers on the eastern side of Wichita Falls, Texas twenty-five years ago July 25, 1989 when Lt. Walter Tommy Collins was shot and killed, according to the Wichita Falls Police Department, yesterday, Friday. Collins, who was a well-liked law enforcement officer, responded immediately to the dangerous situation.
Two Wichita Falls police officers were already facing hostile fire when their supervisor arrived at the scene. When one of the officers was shot and wounded, Collins charged the sniper to protect his men and the citizens being fired upon.
During the course of his brave action, Collins was shot and rushed to a Wichita Falls hospital. He later died from his wounds.
"Lieutenant Collins was going to proetect his men when he got shot," according to Bill Pursley, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Wichita Falls. Pursley spoke with Examiner after the Annual Memorial Service for police officers killed in the line of duty in May of 2010. Pursely, who said in his opening prayer, that "the families of our fallen heroes need to be remembered along with the officers who were killed in the line of duty", was a police officer who worked with Lt. Tommy Collins.
Pursely recalled the day vividly, saying, "Actually it was Officer Steve Pruitt who was shot first. I think Officer Donald Gossett was shot in the foot. Tommy Collins was going to protect his men when he was shot. He was a brave man and an outstanding lieutenant."
Since retiring from the police department several years ago, Pursley has served as the pastor for the Emmanuel Baptist Church on Loop 11 in Wichita Falls.
Robin Walker, daughter of Lt. Collins, said after the memorial service, "Sometimes it seems like it just happened yesterday. And sometimes it's like he's still here." Robin, who now works at United Regional Hospital, has attended every Memorial Service for her father and five other officers every year since the tragedy occurred in 1989.
Her sister Vicki Collins, an investigator with the Wichita County District Attorney's office, has also attended every Memorial Service along with their mother Medrith Collins, wife of the fallen hero. Son J.T. Collins continues to follow in his father's footsteps as a police officer with WFPD.
County Court At Law No. 1 Judge Gary Butler was the keynote speaker at the May 10, 2010 ceremony. Judge Butler emphasized the importance of remembering the families left behind.
Daniel Martin Fowler pleaded guilty of murdering Lt. Collins and was sentenced to the Texas penitentiary system. When he requested parole in 2010 citizens in Wichita Falls including the Wichita County District Attorney's mobilized in an effort to prevent Fowler's early release. Largely as a result of an aggressive letter-writing campaign opposing his release, Fowler remains in prison today.
Police officers like Lt. Tommy Collins never know when they pin on their badges every morning it this will be their last day on this earth. We need to remember them in our prayers as they go about their jobs protecting us.