Community hasn’t forgotten fallen officers

Debbie and Danny May, stepfather of Deputy Sheriff Thomas Monse Jr., stand alongside the memorial in downtown Pleasanton. It thanks and honors Monse, Deputy Sheriff Mark Stephenson and DPS Trooper Terry Miller. LISA LUNA | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Debbie and Danny May, stepfather of Deputy Sheriff Thomas Monse Jr., stand alongside the memorial in downtown Pleasanton. It thanks and honors Monse, Deputy Sheriff Mark Stephenson and DPS Trooper Terry Miller. LISA LUNA | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

Oct. 12, 1999, is a date forever etched in the minds’ of the families of Atascosa County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Monse Jr., Atascosa County Deputy Sheriff Mark Stephenson and DPS Trooper Terry Miller. It was on that evening that the three brave men were killed, responding to a bogus phone call pleading for help, on Coughran Road in Pleasanton.

Danny May, stepfather of Monse, wants the entire Atascosa County community and law enforcement agencies to know how much they have done for the families over the years. He recently met with the Pleasanton Express and shared his scrapbook of officer related newspaper clippings and ads, photos from his career as an Alamo Ranger and more.

May’s scrapbook also contains articles from 2014 and 2015, when Kenneth Vodochodsky was up for parole. He was convicted for his part in the murders of the three officers, as an accomplice to murderer Jeremiah Engleton.

“The Sheriff gave me a bunch of sample letters and I gave them out to all my buddies who were Rangers. They all sent one to the parole board,” said May.

In 2015, Vodochodsky’s parole was denied.

“I wrote, ‘Vodochodsky should serve his full sentence of 30 years. He does not deserve a break for good behavior. The thought of him being released early sends chills up our backs. The children, most of all! Tom’s youngest son, David and I talked just the other day and cried. They spent Father’s Day at the cemetery at the grave of their father. Please take all that into consideration…’ What I’m trying to say is that the family suffers. Like that shooting in El Paso- I started crying. But people really rallied together.”

May recently revealed that he used to believe that not long after the funeral, people would simply forget about the three officers.

“You remember the funeral like we had right here, the priest walking all the way down to the hundreds of people. I remember thinking, ‘After all this hoopla and everything is over, everybody’s going to forget and the families are going to be left to just exist.’”

However, pointed out May, he was proven wrong. It was at the 10 year memorial ceremony under the big oak tree in downtown Pleasanton, when May was struck with an overwhelming realization that the community did remember his stepson, Stephenson and Miller. May had brought a picture of the deputies taken in Poteet.

“I got out with the picture and had to park about three blocks back, there were so many cars. I was carrying the easel and the picture and it was heavy,” said May.

As he was walking he heard, “Danny!” from John Eric Rutherford and Travis Hall, who helped him with the easel.

May donated the picture to the Longhorn Museum on behalf of the officers’ families.

Further recalling the 10 year memorial, he added, “Mark, Tom and Terry’s families were all there. I looked out and there was John Eric Rutherford, Travis Hall and Sheriff Tommy Williams, who gave me a rose. He gave everybody one. There was Gene Powell. We go back to the early 60s. He’s a retired Texas Ranger. There were all these people and that’s when it finally clicked in my head, that they haven’t forgotten. This healing started to come in me. And then of course, from talking with the family and everything. It seems like the more people would show us that they haven’t forgotten, just like you guys putting these ads and articles in the paper, and it helps. You don’t ever heal from it completely, but you start this healing process. Because I remember we went through shock and denial. Men get angry, women cry. You go through this process like that and then it goes on and on. But then when you start to heal it really feels fantastic. I’ve had this in my head for 20 years.”

He shared how shortly after the ambush, he made a cross in their memory and put it up at the site, with the help of retired Border Patrol Agent Carl Fischer, who was injured on that day in 1999.

Approximately 15 years ago, May wrote a piece titled, “My Son’s Last Birthday,” describing Monse asking for his ideal birthday dinner of sour cream enchiladas, red beans and fresh ground cornbread with cheese and jalapeño. The children all came over and played video games, Feb. 24, 1999, with his mother Janie cooking his favorite food.

What May didn’t write about was Thomas saying, “Mary Alice bought me a new, 9 millimeter pistol. Can we shoot it out there?

Danny said, “You bet.”

Thomas explained his brother Max Talamantez was also coming along.

“So, me and Max and Tom go out to the field and there’s an old drum out there. So Tom shoots the old drum and then Max says, ‘Hey look! There’s a golf ball laying out there. I bet you can’t hit that golf ball, Mr. Deputy Sheriff,’” May said.

Tom shot about six to eight times and hit all around the ball, but the ball didn’t move.

“Max was laughing and Danny could see Tom starting to steam up.”

Thomas told May, “Hold on. Let’s see what you can do.”

May did not think he would hit the golf ball. Danny fired one round and the golf ball went straight up and came down.

Max said, “He hit it! He hit it!”

Tom said, “Bet you can’t do that again!”

May hit it again and thought, better to quit while he was ahead. He joked to Thomas and Max, “Here I showed you all up enough. I don’t want to embarrass y’all anymore.”

They arrived at the house and Max teased Tom. “You can’t out shoot the old man!”

Finally, Tom said, “Oh, shut up!” as siblings often do.

Mary Alice and Tom’s mother Janie asked how everything went.

The boys said they were fine.

“And we never told anyone about any of that,” said May.

“The point I’m making is, it’s about precious, precious memories. And everytime I look at that field out there now, I still own the place. I just, I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.”

Back then, the weekend of Oct. 9, they took the grandkids to Concan.

“It was wonderful. Mary Alice and Tom had the whole weekend together,” said May.

May also has fond memories of taking his grandkids fishing at the coast.

“They started catching fish. David said, ‘Grandpa, catching these fish is really fun.’ I told him if you want to catch some bigger fish, I’ll take you out on the boat tomorrow.”

David agreed to go.

“They had the best time in the world. I took Max out on one of those boats. I was managing an RV park. I took them camping to Coleto Creek Reservoir. We stayed out all night fishing.”

Everyone slept in- but then awoke to the scent of May cooking bacon.

“We had some really, really good times.”

May later divorced. He retired from the Alamo Rangers on Aug. 21, 2013 with honor. On Oct. 24, 2013, he married his high school sweetheart, Debbie Sewell.

May is extremely thankful to all who have shown their support over the years.

“I want to tell people to please support people that lose people.”

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