Retiring B&G editor retells a favorite HPD war story

Over the past 20 years I have had the honor and pleasure of serving as the editor of the Badge & Gun. During that period, I have heard countless war stories, many of which couldn’t actually see the light of print. (You are supposed to be laughing out loud at this point).

I wish I could have told all of them, but I still respect the term “off the record.”

There is still one that was indeed in print after we lost Gary Gryder on June 29, 2008. Like so many of the 119 other HPD officers we’ve lost in the line of duty, we didn’t realize just how good a human being and police officer he was until he was no longer around. I am humbled to this day that I was able to find the war story that reflected the dedication and commitment he had to the always-dangerous job.

So, pretend we are sitting and sipping on a bar stool and let me tell you this story one more time. It was first published in the August 2008 issue of the B&G.

The Gryder War Story

On the cold rainy Thursday night of Jan. 17, 1991, rookie Officer Mike Loessin and his partner, Richard Benavides, answered an alarm at the Tenneco Research Facility on South Rice near the Southwest Freeway.

Three burglars were removing the very expensive tires from the cement trucks on site when Loessin and Benavides startled them. Very quickly, the officers captured two of them, while the other hid under a large air conditioner cooler.

Like a sniper, the armed 16-year-old suspect lay in wait for Loessin. As the officer neared him, he fled, turning to shoot Loessin in the left leg and right arm. Seconds later – as Loessin recalled 17 years after the event – “We DOA’ed him.”

Other units arriving as back-ups held the first two prisoners as an HPD helicopter hovered overhead.

The first ambulance at the scene literally got stuck in the mud of the fenced-in, largely undeveloped acreage around the research facility. It seemed to get colder every second as the officers quickly summoned a second HFD ambulance.

A locked wrought iron gate was a major hurdle preventing the ambulance from getting through to treat the wounded Loessin.

Time was ticking away when, all of a sudden, Loessin and the other officers present heard one powerful crash, followed quickly by another. They looked to see the gate give way as a Houston police officer rammed his shop into the sturdy iron structure, allowing the paramedics to drive through, treat his brother officer and get him to the hospital.

The man at the wheel was Gary Gryder.

The Rest of the Story

“He slammed through it,” now-Sergeant Loessin recalled, “and tore the gate all to hell. He totally trashed the police car, which had $3,000 damage. It was totally destroyed. Gary kinda hid the car. It was drivable but was not pretty.”

The incident took place about 3 a.m. Several hours later, a sergeant spotted the damaged shop parked in the far reaches of the environs then known as the Beechnut Substation and asked the inevitable question: “What the hell happened?”

When they found out, the powers that be laughed it off. “Everybody loved Gary,” Loessin said. “He was just a good guy.”

Loessin spent his 25th birthday in the hospital that rookie year. He recovered but still has some nerve damage in his arm.

Aftermath and Reflections

The Badge & Gun has ardently followed one of the primary tenants of the Houston Police Officers Union by writing stories that ensure that those officers lost in the line of duty are never forgotten. I have helped retired Homicide Lt. Nelson Zoch by editing and reprinting his detailed accounts of each of these Houston police tragedies.

Every time I have undertaken this task, I wish I could rewrite the ending with each officer surviving instead of paying the ultimate price.

My deep, heartfelt appreciation for the dangerous job you guys do every day will continue to be stronger every day of my life.

Gary Gryder and the others will never be forgotten. He was a dedicated HPOU Board member married to a fellow retired officer, Debbie Gryder. His son Austin, we said in 2008, would either be a starting left-handed pitcher for the Astros or join another outfit.

Now, as we know, Austin Gryder is one of HPD’s left-handers. He works Northwest Patrol. Sgt. Loessin, Austin’s mentor, is assigned to the Major Offenders Division—Paroled Offenders Unit.

It was the unit Gary Gryder was assigned to at the time he died at an extra job. Yes, Gary was actually working under the man he helped save that cold January night.