Detective Joseph Robert Free

Detective Joseph Robert Free

Houston Police Department, Texas

End of Watch Friday, October 18, 1912

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Joseph Robert Free

Detective Joseph Free succumbed to injuries sustained on October 13th, 1912, while investigating a disturbance at a boarding house at 1020 McKee Street.

Residents of the rooming house complained to the police chief that a man had been making insulting and rude remarks to female occupants. The chief dispatched Detective Joseph Robert Free and a second detective to investigate. It was later learned that two mounted officers had answered a call at the rooming house earlier, but the subject was not in his room.

When the detectives arrived, several women told them the man was demented and had been acting crazy for days. They neglected to tell the detectives he was armed with a large caliber pistol. As the two detectives entered the room, the man shot and wounded Detective Free. The other detective moved Detective Free out of the doorway, and both detectives returned fire. The man was struck in the right chest and died at the scene.

Detective Free was struck on the right side of his stomach, and the bullet penetrated his liver. He died on October 18th, 1912.

Detective Free had served with the Houston Police Department for six years. He was survived by his wife and four children.

He was buried in the Prairie Lea Cemetery in Brenham, Washington County.


  • Age 30
  • Tour 6 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Incident Date Sunday, October 13, 1912
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Shot and killed

disturbance, EDP

Most Recent Reflection

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Det Free (my Great Uncle)
I remember my grandfather (your brother) telling the stories of you growing up and then joining the Houston Police… The story goes you and your partner took one of the first cars (I wanna say the HPD had 2 or 3 at the time) to go arrest this guy… Our entire family is proud of you - I actually kind of followed your footsteps and did 21 years in the U.S. Army Special Forces… I met one of your grandsons (my daddy’s cousin) - he lives in our (Your) hometown…

MSG R Jody Free
U.S. Army

March 11, 2024

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