Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An honor long overdue

Its long overdue.

Rest in peace Deputy Alfred Fischer.

Finding a place in history
By Mitzie Stelte

FISCHER — “No, he has killed me,” said the sheriff’s deputy before pulling back his coat to reveal the gunshot wound to his chest. With that, he fell to his death.

This could be mistaken for a gripping final scene of a Hollywood western, but in fact, it’s the true story of Alfred Fischer, a Comal County Sheriff’s Deputy killed March 10, 1917.

Until now, Fischer hasn’t been recognized with the other Comal County officers killed in the line of duty. “He was lost to history,” said Comal County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Reynolds. Fischer was born in September 1880 in Fischer, Texas, the community named for his family, according to his great-nephew, Terry Fischer.Alfred Fischer’s father came to Texas from Germany in 1849 and settled first near Seguin before moving to Comal County, about 20 miles northwest of New Braunfels, in 1852. He married and had three sons: Alfred, Otto and Rudolph. Shortly after arriving, the family opened Fischer General Store and Fischer Hall; both buildings still are in existence.

It was at Fischer Hall where the deputy’s life came to an abrupt end at the age of 37.

The Agricultural Society — created in 1875 to help Germans who had settled in the area — was hosting a dance at the hall that evening, Terry Fischer said, adding that Alfred Fischer had been hired as security for the dance. “He was a handsome fella that the ladies liked,” said Merle Fischer, Otto Fischer’s daughter, who has heard stories about her bachelor uncle.

At the dance, the deputy noticed a man with a gold watch matching the description of a timepiece taken in a December burglary. Alfred Fischer called the sheriff and was instructed to arrest the man.

Terry Fischer’s records of the murder trial after his great-uncle’s death say the man resisted arrest, fled and three shots were fired as Alfred Fischer and others pursued. A witness testified he struck the fleeing suspect on the head, causing him to collapse near some brush about 100 yards away. Rudolph Fischer who was there, too, feared his brother had shot and killed the suspect. But when Alfred Fischer opened his coat, everyone realized he was the man who had been shot.

The suspect, identified in Terry Fischer’s papers as George Burkhardt, was sentenced to 50 years for murdering the Alfred Fischer. However, Burkhardt walked free a year later when his conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Appeals on April 3, 1918. According to Reynolds, in 2007, Lt. Kyle Coleman of the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, who researches lost officers from the Central Texas area, contacted Comal County officials about Fischer.“It was just something we knew about in the family,” Terry Fischer said.

Now, his great-uncle will be recognized on a memorial wall dedicated to the other two officers killed in the line of duty in Comal County outside the training room at the sheriff’s office, Reynolds said.

Deputy Ed Murphy died on Sept. 21, 1981, in a helicopter crash, and Deputy William Urban died Feb. 7, 1994, of a heart attack. The sheriff’s office also has submitted Fischer’s name and supporting documentation to the “National Officer Down Memorial Wall” in Washington D.C. and to the Sheriff’s Association of Texas for inclusion on the “Lost Lawman Memorial” in Austin.The sheriff’s office also plans to submit Fischer’s name to the “Texas Peace Officer’s Memorial” located in Austin.

“Poor guy,” said Terry Fischer. “He wasn’t really recognized for the sacrifice he made. It’s long overdue.”