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Poth commends officer after gun battle
Poth Police Chief Lowell Hull (left) congratulates Patrolman Roberto “R.J.” Sanchez Jr. Feb. 24 on his award of an official commendation for his actions during a Dec. 8, 2013, gun battle with two robbery suspects. Additional photos on 4A.
Wilson County NewsMarch 5, 2014 3,503 views 1 comment
POTH -- Every time Patrolman Roberto “R.J.” Sanchez Jr. of the Poth Police Department puts on his uniform and goes to work, he -- like all of his brothers and sisters who took an oath to serve and protect -- leaves home knowing that he might not return.
“My main job, besides protecting people and serving the community and everything like that, is to come home at night in one piece,” he said.
At the start of the Feb. 24 Poth City Council meeting, the council and Poth Police Chief Lowell Hull honored Sanchez with an official commendation, recognizing the patrolman’s heroic actions in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 2013.
It was approximately 2 a.m. when Sanchez was in the police station at Poth City Hall, where he was finishing paperwork at the conclusion of a 12-hour shift. He heard the voice of Trooper Harold Estep of the Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol over his police radio, advising Wilson County’s Sheriff’s Office dispatch that Officer Robert “Bobby” Deckard of the San Antonio Police Department had been shot while pursuing two robbery suspects into Atascosa County.
The suspects -- later identified as 32-year-old Shaun Ruiz Puente and 28-year-old Jenevieve Ramos, both of San Antonio -- were still at large and possibly headed toward Poth. Sanchez hurried back out into the cold night with the intention of possibly intercepting the pair before they could do further harm.
“It still sticks in my mind today. I said, ‘If that ever happened to me, I would want somebody putting in the extra time and effort to look for the person who did that to me,’” Sanchez said.
He added, “We’re all one big family. It doesn’t matter if your shirt is blue or beige or gray, or what the shape of your badge is, or what your patch says.”
Sanchez parked outside Lyssy & Eckel Feeds at the corner of U.S. 181 and F.M. 541. At approximately 3 a.m., he observed a vehicle matching the description of the one driven by the suspects. The patrolman followed the vehicle north on U.S. 181, awaiting the arrival of additional officers before attempting to initiate a traffic stop.
But Puente and Ramos ran out of gas and pulled over to the shoulder. When Sanchez pulled over and activated his patrol car’s emergency lights, officials say the couple abruptly exited their primer black 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer sedan and began shooting at Sanchez. He took cover and returned fire, grazing Puente’s head, before the pair fled across the highway and into the darkness.
An army of law-enforcement officers from departments throughout South Texas converged on the area. Puente and Ramos were apprehended just after 8 a.m. Then on Dec. 20, Deckard -- a 31-year-old married father of two children and two step-children -- died of his injuries, resulting in Puente and Ramos being charged with capital murder. They also were charged with attempted capital murder for their alleged role in the shootout with Sanchez. Trials are pending.
“I tell all of my fellow officers, ‘Always expect the unexpected,’” Sanchez said. “No matter where you work, it’s going to happen. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen, and you have to be ready because you never know when your number is going to get called.”
Hull, who took the helm in Poth in January 2013 after a 30-year career with the San Antonio Police Department, continues to praise Sanchez’s actions on that fateful night, saying that the patrolman did everything right.
“Knowing what I know about the case, I believe he is a hero,” Hull said.
But despite the attention the case has received from South Texas and beyond, Sanchez has remained humble.
“Honestly, I never thought I’d be considered a hero,” he said. “... I always considered myself as just a guy doing my job, that’s about it. I mean, I appreciate it. But the real hero is Bobby [Deckard], because of what happened to him.”
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