Inspector James A. Wallen

Inspector James A. Wallen

United States Department of the Treasury - United States Customs Service, U.S. Government

End of Watch Tuesday, March 6, 1923

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James A. Wallen

Inspector Jim Wallen was stationed at Del Rio in Val Verde County on the Texas-Mexico border.

Between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm, shortly before closing the International Bridge for the night, Inspector Wallen allowed two Ford cars to pass over from the Mexican side. The first car was driven by I. B. Baker, accompanied by his wife, and the second car by Mrs. C. O. Carruthers, mother-in-law of Baker, and her 5-year old and 10-year old children. The cars parked a short distance from the ferry. Inspectors Wallen and Watkins started driving to town when they had a flat and pulled to the side of the road. The first vehicle with Baker driving passed them, but the second car driven by Mrs. Carruthers turned around started back towards the border. Being suspicious, Inspector Wallen went to investigate on foot. Inspector Watkins was unarmed and stayed to fix the flat. Within minutes Watkins heard a volley of gunfire and saw flashes from the muzzles. They heard the children in Mrs. Carruthers’ car start crying. A woman shouted, “I told you so.” Mrs. Carruthers drove past the disabled customs vehicle at a high rate of speed. Inspector Wallen was found bleeding profusely from a bullet wound to his chest. He was reported to have died at 11:15 p.m. Officers from Del Rio arrested Baker and Mrs. Carruthers. Mrs. Carruthers claimed two rum runners did the shooting when Inspector Wallen came upon them loading illegal liquor into her car. Inspector Wallen shot one of the smugglers [later identified as Bob Bates] two times and had discharged his pistol four times.

Bob Bates was later arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to five years in prison. He appealed the conviction, alleging he should have been charged with manslaughter because of his self-defense argument. Bates alleged Inspector Wallen fired first, but witnesses testified Bates shot Inspector Wallen first. The appeals court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial because Bates was not allowed to make the argument of self-defense.

Inspector Wallen had served with the United States Customs Service for just six months although he had considerable law enforcement service with the United States Border Patrol, Texas Rangers, United States Immigration Service, Val Verde County Sheriff's Office, Del Rio Polie Department. He was a widower and was survived by five children. He was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Del Rio.

Inspector Wallen was the grandfather of Inspector Richard Latham, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on January 27th, 1984, near the same spot.

Bio

  • Age 45
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Texas
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Sentenced to 5 years

alcohol violation, smuggling

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My name is Frank Pages and I’m a US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Officer

Frank Pages, Officer
U.S. Customs & Border Protection

August 2, 2019

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