Private W. Emmett Robuck

Private W. Emmett Robuck

Texas Rangers, Texas

End of Watch Tuesday, September 9, 1902

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W. Emmett Robuck

Alfredo de la Cerda, rancher and suspected cattle thief, his brother Ramón, and their father owned the Francisco de Asís Ranch, which bordered the King Ranch. Alfredo's father was killed in 1900 by a Brownsville policeman. In 1901 the brothers were arrested and charged with rustling cattle from the King Ranch. Texas Ranger Sergeant A. Y. Baker, and Privates W. E. (Emmett) Robuck and Harry Wallis were investigating cattle rustling when they came upon Ramón Cerda in the process of branding cattle on Mrs. King's ranch. Sergeant Baker reported that Cerda fired at him and killed his horse. Sergeant Baker returned fire and shot Cerda in the head killing him. The three state rangers were charged with murder and arrested. The rangers were released on a $10,000 bond each. Jesse Miller, an employee of Mrs. M. H. King, was charged as an accessory and also released on a $10,000 bond. The rangers were supported financially and legally by Richard King, John B. Armstrong, the former Ranger captain who captured John Wesley Hardin, and the Lyman brothers. An inquest into the incident stated that Baker acted in self-defense.

Around 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 9, 1902, Sergeant Baker, Private Robuck and Jesse Miller (also reported as a Ranger private) were riding horse back near Brownsville to the ranger camp. Several men hiding in ambush opened fire on the three men with shotguns loaded with buckshot. Private Robuck was struck and mortally wounded. He rode about 150 yards before collapsing and dying. Sergeant Baker was slightly wounded, and Miller was unhurt, although his horse was killed. The men escaped, but Alfredo Cerda and five other men suspected in the ambush were arrested after an investigation by Ranger Captain John A. Brooks. Heroulano Berbier, who was to testify against Alfredo Cerda, was killed before he could do so.

W. E. (Emmett) Robuck was buried by the Knights of Honor in the cemetery next to the Episcopal Church in Brownsville. His body was re-interred to the Bunton Cemetery in Dale in Caldwell County. He was 25 years of age and single. His parents lived in Lockhart, Caldwell County, and posted a $500 reward for the capture of his killers. He was survived by six brothers and sisters. His name is spelled in newspaper accounts and records as both Robuck and Roebuck, but his ranger enlistment papers indicate his name was Robuck.

Alfredo Cerda was released on bond. He swore to kill Baker or pay $1,000 to anyone who killed him. Baker was a tough lawman and acted first. Shortly before 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 1902, Baker caught Alfredo Cerda trying on a pair of gloves at Brownsville store, and shot him with a Winchester through the store window. Baker contended that Alfredo was reaching for his pistol and he fired in self defense. Using money provided by the King's and others, Baker was freed on bond. On Tuesday, October 13, 1903, Baker was acquitted of the killings of Ramón and Alfredo Cerda. The jury was only out for 20 minutes. Baker later served as a U.S. Customs Inspector and Sheriff of Hidalgo County. He died in 1930.


  • Age 25
  • Tour 1 year, 10 months
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Shotgun; 12 gauge
  • Offender Killed

Most Recent Reflection

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Pvt. Robuck,
On today, the 120th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for the citizens of the state of Texas. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.


United States Border Patrol

September 9, 2022

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