Issues at the Johnson County sheriff’s office, which is under investigation by the Texas Rangers, led to a $20,000 payment to the widow of a man who killed a deputy.
A judge last month ordered Johnson County to pay Helen McCommas $20,169.52 for seven firearms and about 10,000 rounds of ammunition that either disappeared or were destroyed after the sheriff’s office seized them in 2013.
Judge William Bosworth also ordered the county to return to McCommas more than 20 weapons and about 10,000 rounds of ammunition still in the sheriff office’s possession. The county was ordered to pay an additional $9,750 to McCommas’ attorneys for legal fees.
McCommas — whose husband, Ricky Don McCommas, fatally shot Hood County Sgt. Lance McLean on June 28, 2013, and then was killed by Granbury police — sued Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford over the seized items in July. Judge William Bosworth ruled in her favor Sept. 1.
At issue in his widow’s lawsuit were 28 firearms and about 20,000 rounds of ammunition authorities seized from the McCommas’ home after the 2013 shootings.
The Texas Rangers and a special prosecutor began investigating the Johnson County sheriff’s office after a regularly-scheduled county audit in March revealed 10 weapons and ammunition were missing from the property room and several weapons had been destroyed. The missing items appeared a few days later, when a county auditor returned to the property room.
Bosworth signed the original search warrant for the items in 2013. Authorities received a separate order about a week later from Justice of the Peace Jeff Monk.
He ordered that the seized weapons be used by the sheriff’s office or destroyed.
But Monk’s court did not have jurisdiction to issue such an order because Bosworth signed the search warrant, Bosworth ruled.
McCommas and her attorney, Keith Bradley, could not be reached for comment this week.
Critical audit report
In the audit report earlier this year, auditor J.R. Kirkpatrick wrote that it remained “unclear” why the missing weapons weren’t shown to auditors during their initial review of the property room.
“It appears that the Sheriff’s Office has acted pursuant to [Justice of the Peace Jeff Monk’s] Order, although its validity has been drawn into question,” Kirkpatrick wrote in the audit report.
A sheriff’s department lieutenant told the auditor’s office that some of the ammunition “had been dispensed to deputies for training purposes,” the report said.
Kirkpatrick outlined other criticisms of the sheriff’s department in the audit report:
- Some personnel were allowed to enter the property room without signing in.
- The property room clerk did not report an irregularity between the items that were listed in the McCommas search warrant and the items submitted to the property room.
- The sheriff’s office failed to execute magistrate orders. Some weapons were found in the property room that should have been destroyed, per Monk’s order, Kirkpatrick wrote in the report.
- The sheriff’s office failed maintain an accurate record of property inventory
Sheriff Bob Alford, who is not running for re-election this fall, declined to comment on the situation Tuesday but said he welcomed the investigation.
“I agreed to it,” Alford said. “Let’s bring in the Rangers, let’s take a look at things.”
On the day of the shootings in 2013, Sgt. McLean, 38, had responded to a disturbance call in the Oak Trail Shores community north of Granbury.
Ricky Don McCommas, 49, had gone there to confront a 16-year-old girl he was accused of sexually assualting, authorities said.
After shooting McLean, McCommas went to Granbury, where he engaged in a shootout with Granbury police near city hall. He was fatally shot and a Granbury officer, Chad Davis, was wounded.
In a 2013 story on shooting, Alford told the Star-Telegram he believed that Ricky Don McCommas had a federal license to deal in guns.
A “McCommas Gun Sales” notebook was among the other items seized from McCommas’ home in 2013.
This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives