Motorcycle Patrolman William Harvey Austin

Motorcycle Patrolman William Harvey Austin

Portsmouth Police Department, Virginia

End of Watch Wednesday, June 18, 1969

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William Harvey Austin

Patrolman Austin was shot and killed while attempting to apprehend an armed robbery suspect at the Dixie Drive-In on High Street and Mount Vernon Avenue.

Patrolman Austin, off duty and out of uniform, was drinking a glass of milk at the bar when he noticed a man holding a gun on the manager a few feet away. He grabbed the suspect from behind and tried to disarm him when he suddenly broke free and shot Patrolman Austin three times. He ran out the drive-in with $200.00 taken from the manager. He was apprehended by Portsmouth Police a few minutes later. Patrolman Austin was transported to a hospital where he died.

On December 5, 1969, suspect, 25, was convicted of murder, armed robbery, and sentenced to life. He had been paroled on January 10, 1969, after serving 26 months of a 10 year sentence for bank robbery. As of February 22, 1988, he was still in prison.

Patrolman Austin was survived by his expectant wife. He was a Vietnam War Veteran.


  • Age 26
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun; Pistol
  • Offender Sentenced to life


Most Recent Reflection

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Patrolman Austin has always been remembered by my family members(most who have now passed on.) He was a Hero and made the ultimate sacrafice. His then pregnant wife and unborn child were not forgotten and prayers were and have been made for them. I was an infant in 1969 but I grew up hearing about this hero and his family.
I have never forgotten him and his selfless act -ions that fateful evening . Nor have I ever forgotten about his widow and child. I believe Patrolman Austin saved the lives of my great uncle John, my father(Steve), my aunt Shirley and patrons of the Dixie drive-in restaurant.
I was told that off duty Patrolman Austin had come in (the Dixie) that evening and sat at the counter . He reported not feeling well, specifically ,
he was having stomach pain. Therefore , he ordered a glass of milk. He noticed that a man came in and was talking to my Great uncle who was standing at the cash register. He saw that "Johnny" had opened the register and was quietly taking the money out and putting it in a bag. He also observed that the man had a gun.
Patrolman Austin attempted to get the gun from the robber. The two became engaged in an altercation. My father was behind the counter near my great uncle and rushed to get to the telephone . At the same time my aunt was on the outside of the counter , standing approximately 3ft from the robber , and also rushed to get to the telephone. My father was trying to get change (I believe from out of his pocket ) and my aunt picked a dime , that was part of a tip , on a tray. It was a pay phone and I think it cost a dime to make a call.
My aunt called the police and reported that there was a robbery in progress and that unarmed off duty Patrolman Austin was engaged in an altercation with an armed robber. Shots started going off while she and my father were on / at the phone and "dispatch" could hear the shots in the background. ( the news paper in error reported that my father made the call and spoke to "dispatch" ). Everything happened so fast. The armed robber ran. Two gentlemen who were patrons of the Dixie chased after him. They eventually lost him. One of the gentlemen was a tow truck operator/ business owner. My great uncle grabbed a towel and ran to Patrolman Austin as soon as he was down . My great uncle held the towel with pressure on Patrolman Austin's
Injury to his stomach. Although, the ambulance and police arrived rather quickly , my aunt said that time seemed to move slowly while anticipating help for Patrolman Austin. My great uncle was holding the "compress" on Patrolman Austin and then the EMTs started stabilizing and preparing Patrolman Austin for transport. Patrolman Austin said "Johnny please don't let me die." My great uncle told Patrolman Austin that he was not going to die. He tried to be encouraging and comforting.
EMS quickly transported Patrolman Austin to the hospital. My great uncle, both of my parents, my aunt, and my grandmother grieved the loss of Patrolman Austin.
They were grateful to this hero. They prayed for his wife and unborn child. They never forgot. And my aunt still has not forgotten that evening in 1969 , Patrolman Austin's Heroism and sacrafice , and his widow and child.
I will never forget this hero and his family.

September 17, 2021

September 17, 2021

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