Badge & Gun: January 2012

Fallen Heroes: Officer Lyndon L. Sander

Just then a pickup truck ran the Stop sign and Officer Brown followed and stopped it several blocks south on McKee. Alton Lewis, the railroad detective, stayed to talk more with Officer Sander. But Sander wanted to check on his partner, and just as he was leaving he saw a brown Pontiac run the same Stop sign. The officer dutifully pursued the Pontiac, going east on North San Jacinto (Rothwell) toward Hardy.

Just as Lewis left to check on Brown, he and the HPD officer heard five or six gunshots coming from the direction of Lyndon Sander. They both sped immediately toward the shots. When they arrived in the 900 block of Hardy, they found Officer Sander lying in the street with several Houston firefighters providing aid. The shooting happened practically in the very front of HFD Station No. 5. Officer Brown attempted to give his partner mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. An ambulance took the wounded officer to Ben Taub General Hospital. However, the man who wore Badge No. 2023 was dead on arrival from a single gunshot wound to the center of his chest.

Both Officer Brown and railroad detective Lewis saw the Pontiac leaving the general area when they went to check on Sander. Neither was able to pursue him or get close enough to get a license number. They believed that the Pontiac was involved in the murder of Officer Sander, but that was the only fact they had. A later investigation determined that Sander was likely shot shortly after he got off his three-wheeler since he had not yet retrieved his flashlight from the trunk. From Officer Sander's weapon, investigators determined that he had fired five rounds at his unknown assailant. Homicide Lieutenant C. J. "Chuck" Lofland and Detective E. D. "Sonny" Combs responded to the scene and began an extensive investigation. They were assisted by Detectives Joe Gamino and Harry Hall.

On Sunday morning, Detectives Paul Nix, Ed Horelica and Jim Pierce also were assigned to the Sander case. Lieutenant J. E. "Pete" Gunn was assigned by Homicide Captain L. D. Morrison, Jr. to assist Lofland in supervising this investigation. Further assisting in the investigation were Detectives A. E. Rockwell, J. P. Paulk, C. E. Smith, I. W. Holmes and K. T. Defoor.

The description of the brown Pontiac was the only clue early on. HPD placed an all-points bulletin on this vehicle. The news media promptly aired this basic yet crucial information. As quickly as Sunday morning, leads began coming in and, as usual, most of them proved to be false alarms.

On Sunday afternoon, January, 22, the first big break unfurled. Point Control Officer E. M. Dobbs was on patrol and located a brown Pontiac with Arkansas license plates parked in the basement of a parking garage at 800 Franklin. It was reported stolen out of Little Rock, Arkansas on January 7. More interestingly, this vehicle had two obvious bullet creases on the upper body, from rear to front. When the license plate was broadcast on the police frequencies as well as the news media, more information began to flow. 

The Galveston Police Department received a call indicating that the car was listed by a person who had registered in two Galveston motels over the past two weeks. The person driving the vehicle had registered as A. R. Johnson (White Male, mid- to late-30s). Additionally, a canvas of the area where the Pontiac was recovered turned up a parking lot attendant who said that he had parked this same vehicle on Friday, January 20, in the 100 block of Milam at Franklin. His description of the driver matched the one from Galveston. 

Further investigation in Galveston led detectives to a bar on the Island. Investigators learned from the barmaid that she had knowledge of a Kenneth Hinkle who had been using their bar to take phone calls. An ID check revealed that one Kenneth Hinkle (White Male, 39) from West Memphis, Arkansas, fit the general description of the suspect.

The following is a summarization of very thorough, professional investigation later presented to the Harris County District Attorney's Office:

            On January 8, 1967, Kenneth Hinkle and his older brother, William, used this stolen Pontiac to commit an armed home robbery of a wealthy couple in Little Rock. They took jewelry, furs and a large amount of cash. A shot was fired during that robbery and the slug was later positively matched up as having been fired from the same weapon used to kill Officer Lyndon Sander. William and Kenneth Hinkle returned to Texas after the robbery to fence their stolen goods in Houston, Galveston and Beaumont. Witnesses said that after killing Officer Sander and dumping the vehicle on Franklin, Kenneth Hinkle made a long distance call to Beaumont from a bar at 800 Congress. Later, William Hinkle and his wife picked up Kenneth at a motel on Wayside. A cab had taken him there from the bar on Congress.

Based on an informant's tip, the Hinkle brothers were arrested the following week in New Orleans. Kenneth Hinkle was tried for the murder in the death of Officer Sander. On October 10, 1967, a Harris County jury convicted him and assessed him ninety-nine years and a day. William Hinkle was tried and convicted in Arkansas for his part in the robbery there.

Officer Sander was three weeks short of being twenty-five years old. He was survived by his wife Linda, who suddenly became a twenty-three-year-old widow with a three-year-old daughter, Stacie, and another child due any day.   Other survivors were Lyndon's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Walter (Sadie) Sander, his brother Dennis, who was in the U. S. Army at the time, and his brother, Officer Kenneth Ray Sander, who had graduated from the same academy class with Lyndon and Officer Gene Brown.  Linda Sander's due date was the day her husband and the baby's father were killed. On February 3, 1967, Kimberley Ann Sander was born, two weeks after her father died. Also mourning his death were his mother-in-law and stepfather-in-law Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Ray, stepfather-in-law John DiMacio, brother-in-law John Perry DiMacio, and sister-in-law Mrs. Karen Sander.

Funeral services were held at 2:00pm on Tuesday, January 24, 1967, at the Forest Park Lawndale Funeral Chapel, with Reverend George Reck officiating.  Burial followed at the Earthman Resthaven Cemetery on the North Freeway.  Pallbearers were T.J. Scalise, T.L. Doty, G.E. Brown, J.A. Davis, O.H. McKissack, L.W. Redden, C.L. Simmons, and C.K. Kindall.  Lyndon was a native Houstonian and a graduate of Reagan High School where he was an all-around student-athlete.  He also attended Blinn Junior College in Brenham, Texas. 

Linda later remarried and had a son, Stephen Michael Hannah, a half-brother to Stacie and Kimberley.  Linda lived in the Houston area in 2006 and unfortunately, was widowed again in 2006. Stacie Lynn Crown has two children-Lauren Elizabeth Crown, ten years old and Katherine Nicole Crown, six years old. Kimberley Anne Braswell has one son, Lyndon Tyler Braswell, ten years of age, a namesake for his grandfather that his mother never knew.

In a tragic irony, Stacie was widowed on January 21, 1987, when her husband was killed in a military aircraft accident - twenty years to the day that her father was murdered. Stacie, just like her mother, became a widow at age twenty-three. Mr. and Mrs. Sander are deceased and were laid to rest next to their son Lyndon at Resthaven. Kenneth later resigned from HPD and was employed by TCLEOSE in Austin for a number of years and now lives in Victoria.   Dennis had his own engineering business and lives in Houston. 

When Officer Lyndon Sander stopped the brown Pontiac, two families of completely different backgrounds collided. Sander conducted a traffic stop, unknowingly stopping a career criminal, Kenneth Hinkle. The young officer very likely had no knowledge that Hinkle was wanted for the Arkansas robbery and that the driver of the vehicle possessed a prohibited weapon. He also had been proudly and openly driving a stolen vehicle for two weeks.

Lyndon and his brother Kenneth both proudly wore the uniforms of HPD. Their brother Dennis was honorably serving his country, wearing the U. S. Army uniform. All three were raised in the Houston Heights by honest, hard-working parents.

On the other end of the spectrum were the Hinkle brothers, William and Kenneth. Both were career criminals and were incarcerated for various crimes most of their adult lives. Kenneth Hinkle, after being arrested and convicted of Sander's murder, was bench warranted from Texas to Arkansas in 1984 in order to have his armed robbery case there tried while witnesses were still available. He served time in Arkansas for that crime. He died in a Tennessee Prison in 1996. It is unclear as to how he came to be in a Tennessee prison. But then, prisons were his frequent home.

As for the investigators, Captain Morrison, Lieutenants Lofland and Gunn, as well as  Detectives Rockwell, Holmes, Nix, Paulk, Horelica, and Combs are deceased.  Detectives   Pierce  and Hall  are retired.  Gamino retired as a lieutenant and Smith and Defoor both retired as captains. Officer Dobbs also retired.

Gene Brown later promoted to sergeant and retired in 1990. Retired Officer Terry Scalise, another close friend of Lyndon Sander who attended Reagan High School with him, said Lyndon was best man at his wedding. Brown and Scalise said they still have strong emotional feelings over the loss of their friend. They said they will never forget him and his devotion to duty.

This author has had the pleasure of meeting most of the remaining Sander family. Linda and her two daughters live with their loss in their own way each and every day.  In speaking with brothers Dennis and Kenneth, it is obvious to me that the loss of their middle brother in this family, now nearly 40 years ago, is something that will never be gotten over.  Mr. and Mrs. Walter Sander probably never got over the loss of that wonderful son and went to their grave mourning the loss of this young man.