On October 12, 1999, three local law enforcement officers – DPS Trooper Terry Miller, Atascosa County Sheriff Deputy Thomas Monse Jr. and Atascosa County Sheriff Deputy Mark Stephenson – lost their lives in the Atascosa County Ambush that took place out on Coughran and Corgey Rd. in Pleasanton. Just five months shy of the 20th Anniversary, their lives are being remembered by those who knew them.
“I have relived that night every day for the last 20 years and I carry that burden of losing them,” said Pleasanton Police Chief Ronald Sanchez. “I do my best to make sure their sacrifice is remembered. We cannot let their lives be forgotten.”
In that remembrance, Chief Sanchez has made a few changes within the department since becoming chief in December 2012.
“Back then, we didn’t have the resources for a tragedy like that. We didn’t know how to deal with the aftermath,” said Sanchez. “Once I became chief, I made sure my officers had that resource available to them should they ever need it.”
Another huge change Chief Sanchez made to the PD is the patch on his officers’ uniforms. Originally, the patch was of the Pleasanton cowboy statue in front of city hall. The patch now is of the thin blue line symbol that represents all law enforcement officers.
“You look back at 9/11, and who were the first ones to get to the towers? Police officers and firefighters,” said Sanchez. “They knew they’d probably die going into the buildings, but they did it anyway. It’s a sacrifice they make, a sacrifice that Mark, Thomas and Terry made that night.”
In addition to the patches, Pleasanton PD is in the process of changing the graphics on their patrol cars to the thin blue line graphic as well.
“It is important to us that the community knows we are here for them.”
Sanchez sees these small changes to the thin blue line as a way to honor the three officers.
“That thin blue line is a symbol that separates the chaos from the calm, and that’s what we are here for,” said Sanchez. “It also serves as a reminder of those who have lost their lives while doing so.”
If you’re ever around Chief Sanchez, make sure to take a look at his arms where you’ll see two more memorials in honor of Terry, Thomas and Mark.
On his right forearm is a tattoo of the American flag bearing the thin blue line and the date “10-12- 99” underneath.
“That was one of the darkest times of my life. The tattoo commemorates that day and serves as a reminder to never forget those three men,” said Sanchez, who says the tattoo served as a part of his healing process.
Sanchez got his tattoo from Prison Break Tattoos in Houston back in 2017, a tattoo shop owned by retired Houston police sergeant BK Klev. The two talked about what the date symbolized.
About a year later, Klev reached out to Sanchez about his tattoo shop doing a TV show called “Hero Ink.” He wanted to feature Sanchez.
“He said the producers were looking for people with a story, and he remembered mine about the ambush,” said Sanchez, who recalled doing over the phone and FaceTime interviews before being asked to go to Houston.
On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, Sanchez spent the whole day in interviews with the producers of the show.
“I don’t even remember exactly what I said, but I do know it was about that night. About Mark, Thomas and Terry. I did it for them, to remember them,” said Sanchez.
As a result of his episode, Chief Sanchez got another law enforcement tattoo, this time on his left forearm. The tattoo is of two Atascosa County Sheriff badges and a Texas Department of Public Safety badge with an American flag wrapping around them.
“This one is specifically dedicated to Mark, Thomas and Terry. To keep their memory alive,” said Sanchez. “I want people to ask me about it, to ask what it means so I can tell them about these three men and the sacrifice they made.”
The Hero’s Ink episode was the second time Chief Sanchez has spoken about that night. The first was a story he wrote many years ago that was published in Behind the Texas Badge last year, a book that highlights Texas law enforcement officers.
“None of this is about me. It’s about the officers’ lives we have lost and not forgetting them. It’s also to encourage current officers to seek help because it is available to them. Don’t do what I did,” said Sanchez, who called the years following the ambush his darkest moments.
Chief Sanchez’s episode on Hero Ink will premiere on Thursday, June 27 on the A&E Network at 9 p.m. central where viewers will hear about the Atascosa County Ambush.
“I hope the community will watch this episode and hear a story about three brave men who lost their lives. We cannot forget about them. We owe it to them.”
The series premiere of Hero Ink will be June 6 at 9 p.m. central.