Sheriff Edgar Leary

Sheriff Edgar Leary

Karnes County Sheriff's Office, Texas

End of Watch Friday, December 26, 1884

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Edgar Leary

On December 26, 1884, Emmett Butler, 19, and Hugh McDonald, 22, were drinking and created a disturbance in another town before arriving in Helena. Butler was the son of a wealthy cattleman, William Butler. Butler and McDonald made some disparaging remarks to the former Karnes County Sheriff, I.M. Reisinger. Reisinger was unarmed and left to retrieve a weapon. When McDonald attempted to grab Reisinger, he struck McDonald in the face. Both men pointed guns at one another, but the crowd interfered. Butler and McDonald, still carrying their weapons, continued terrorizing the town.

Sheriff Edgar Leary had been out of town and when he heard of the disturbance, he went in search of Butler and McDonald. At approximately 3:00 p.m., Sheriff Leary found Butler and McDonald drinking at a bar. When Butler saw Sheriff Leary he reached for his Winchester, but was disarmed by Deputy Joe Manning.

Butler was released and walked from the saloon into the street, where he drew a “six-shooter” that was concealed under his coat. Sheriff Leary observed this and started walking toward Butler. Butler fired at the sheriff, striking him near the heart. As the sheriff fell backwards he was heard to say “shoot him, boys, he has just killed me.” Just before dying, Sheriff Leary raised up and fired at Butler but missed. Butler held the crowd off of him by pointing his six-shooter at them. Butler then retrieved his horse and fired another shot into the dead body of Sheriff Leary. He also fired at Deputy Manning, but missed, grazing his coat.

Members of the crowd then fired several shots at Butler as he ran behind a tree. Butler then mounted his horse and as he rode away, he fired at Reisinger. By then the crowd had started firing at Butler as he fled, with Butler being shot in the leg and in the back of the head. Butler rode another 50 feet and fell from his horse. He lived until the next morning then died of his wounds. No one knew who had fired the shot that killed Butler.

Edgar Leary, 34, was survived by his wife, Fannie, a son and a daughter. Sheriff Leary was appointed by Karnes County Commissioners Court on July 14, 1884 to fill the term of Sheriff I.M. Reisinger. Sheriff Leary was elected on November 4, 1884 and served until his death on December 26, 1884. He would be the first of two Karnes County sheriffs to be shot and killed in the line of duty by members or friends of the Butler family. Sheriff Leary is buried in the Helena Cemetery.


  • Age 35
  • Tour 5 months
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Emmett Butler

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No passage of time will ever erase your service and sacrifice and may you always rest in peace knowing that your fellow law enforcement will always remember and thank you.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

September 6, 2020

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