Inspector Stephen S. Dawson

Inspector Stephen S. Dawson

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

End of Watch Tuesday, February 28, 1928

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Stephen S. Dawson

Inspector Stephen Dawson was shot and killed while attempting to arrest several liquor smugglers.

Inspector Stephen S. Dawson was one of the most widely regarded officers on the Mexican border. He had been in numerous gun battles and had killed a number of smugglers. There was a standing reward of $500 among smugglers to anyone who killed Inspector Dawson.

At around 7:30 p.m. on February 27th, 1928, Inspectors Dawson and another inspector received information that liquor smugglers would be bringing a load across the Rio Grande River in the Smelter District of El Paso County. The two inspectors saw two men cross the river and ordered them to halt. They started to approach the suspects when the men dropped behind an embankment. Six to eight smugglers were believed to have been hiding behind the embankment and opened fire on the officers. Inspector Dawson was hit in the chest and thigh. The other inspector wounded one smuggler, but his friends dragged his body back across the river. Although Inspector Dawson was weak from the bullet wound to his left lung, he did not fall and emptied his pistol as he walked to the roadside and sat down. His partner stopped an automobile and asked the driver to transport him to the hospital. Inspector Dawson died at 4:10 a.m. on February 28th, 1928.

Inspector Dawson had served with the United States Customs Service for more than 20 years. He was survived by his wife and two sons. He was buried in the Masonic Section of Concordia Cemetery, El Paso, Texas.


  • Age 55
  • Tour 20 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Texas
  • Incident Date Monday, February 27, 1928
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Escaped into Mexico

alcohol violation, ambush, smuggling

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Remembering and Honoring your service and sacrifice. 96 years since you were taken from us while protecting our nation. We thank you and your family for your sacrifice.

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