Sheriff Robert Lee "Rob" Watts

Sheriff Robert Lee "Rob" Watts

San Augustine County Sheriff's Office, Texas

End of Watch Saturday, November 1, 1919

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Robert Lee "Rob" Watts

J. Anthony (Tony) Miller owned a grocery store in town. Tony’s brother, Johnny B. Miller, stopped by the store and noticed that Tony was already drinking. He advised his brother to stop drinking, and reminded him that Sheriff Rob Watts had warned him that he was not going to put up with his drinking any longer. Tony was 19 days short of his 41st birthday.

Drew (Chuck) Davis, Jr., 16-years old, worked at Miller’s store and asked for his pay. Davis told Miller he was being shorted twenty-five cents. Miller and Davis got into an argument. Miller grabbed a loaded pistol, and Davis ran into the street. Ed Burleson was the only person in the store and prevented Miller from pursuing Davis.

Constable Noel G. (Node) Thomas, son of a former sheriff, was 78-years old, and was summoned to the store. The constable found the situation calmed down and went outside. He looked back and saw Miller pointing a pistol at him. Constable Thomas drew his pistol and pointed it at Miller. He told Miller he was a constable and Miller lowered his pistol. Thomas went to get Sheriff Watts.

Sheriff Robert Lee (Rob) Watts was 30-days short of his 45th birthday. The sheriff approached Miller’s store on the run, and saw the door was closed. He drew his pistol. Deputy Sheriff Wiley Parker and Constable Thomas followed with pistols drawn. The sheriff rammed the door with his shoulder and broke it open. Watts opened fire as he entered the store. Eight shots rang out in the dark interior of the store. Watts was struck and killed.

Bystanders confiscated Miller’s pistol in the aftermath. Deputy Sheriff Parker ordered Miller to surrender. Miller now had a butcher knife, and told Parker to “go to hell.” Parker shot Miller in the chest, killing him.

R. L. Watts was elected on November 7, 1916 and re-elected on November 5, 1918. He was survived by his wife and five children. He was buried in the City Cemetery in San Augustine. Sheriff Watts had gained statewide attention when Texas Ranger John Dudley White, Sr., was shot and killed on July 12, 1918, attempting to arrest draft evaders in San Augustine County.


  • Age 44
  • Tour 3 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender suspect killed by deputy

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No passage of time can ever erase your service and sacrifice. Rest in peace always.

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

November 1, 2020

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