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Police Solve Officer's Killing From 1983

Police Solve Officer's Killing From 1983

Gary Wayne Pettigrew, Officer L.C. Tribble

Dallas Morning News via YellowBrix

August 28, 2010

FARMERS BRANCH, TX – Farmers Branch police officer Lowell Clayton “L.C.” Tribble was on his way back to work about 1 a.m. in August 1983, after dropping off flu medicine at home for his ailing 2-year-old son.

Within moments, someone gunned down the 38-year-old officer inside his patrol car, and police struggled to capture his killer for nearly three decades.

Friday, 27 years to the day of Tribble’s death, Farmers Branch police and Dallas County prosecutors announced the arrest and indictment of Gary Wayne Pettigrew in what had been the oldest unsolved cop killing in the state.

“It kind of came out of the blue. I didn’t know they had anything,” Tribble’s daughter Sheila Schaack said in an interview later Friday. “I’m still kind of in shock. I don’t recognize the guy. But he’s kind of creepy looking.”

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins made the announcement at an afternoon news conference at his Frank Crowley Courts Building office. He said that Pettigrew, 63, who has already been indicted on a capital murder charge, was arrested Friday morning at a Tarrant County hospital where he was undergoing a medical procedure.

“It seems he expected it to come,” Watkins said about Pettigrew’s reaction. He declined to say what Pettigrew said to arresting officers.

Pettigrew did not respond to a request for an interview Friday and county records do not indicate whether he has an attorney. State District Judge Robert Burns set his bail at $5 million.

Judy Pettigrew, who identified herself as Pettigrew’s “estranged wife,” said in a brief interview that her husband wasn’t guilty.

“They’re wrong,” she said. “They’re making a big, big mistake.”

She declined to comment further.

Pettigrew has prior convictions in Dallas County dating to the 1980s for burglary, unlawfully carrying a weapon and theft, as well as two convictions for delivery of a controlled substance.

Records show Pettigrew had been living in Fort Worth, and Watkins said he had been “keeping a low profile” in recent years.

Over the years, Farmers Branch police had a suspect in the slaying but the suspect was never publicly identified and they had very little evidence. When Watkins took office in 2007, the department asked for prosecutors’ help in solving the case.

Watkins, his prosecutors and Farmers Branch police refused to say what connected Pettigrew to the crime and what led to his arrest. Police searched a pond in connection with the case in June but authorities declined to say whether anything was found.

“We do have evidence that we think will lead to a conviction,” said Kevin Brooks, a top prosecutor in the DA’s office who will handle the case along with assistant district attorneys Brandon Birmingham, Mindy Sauter and Glen Fitzmartin.

Watkins said “there was new evidence and there were individuals we spoke to who provided that.”

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