LANCASTER — It was early Saturday morning, and Officer Dustin Dodson had just finished a 12-hour shift patrolling Lancaster’s streets. For the past two years, it was a job that often found him arresting drunk drivers.
Yet as Dodson drove home after work Saturday morning to see his wife and three children, a suspected drunk driver plowed into his motorcycle and ended his life.
"As a police officer, we always thought if something did happen, it would be something different than this," said the officer's father, Mark Dodson. "It was just one of those things that shouldn’t have happened."
Officer Dodson, 25, was struck on Highway 67 in Venus around 6:30 a.m. Saturday, only 15 miles from his Cleburne home.
Investigators said as Dodson drove westbound on the four-lane highway, the suspect — 22-year-old Ricardo Espinoza — turned his pickup truck in front of the officer’s motorcycle.
The impact threw the officer — who was wearing a helmet — more than 50 yards, according to Ernie Maggard, who watched from his truck at a nearby stop sign.
“The man never slowed down the pickup truck. The motorcycle never had a chance,” he told News 8.
Maggard said he chased Espinoza when he realized the suspect wasn’t going to stop after the accident. Maggard said he followed the suspect in his car for a couple of miles and then — after Espinoza abandoned his truck — chased him on foot through a field before eventually tackling him.
“I knew he needed to be caught,” Maggard said. “The whole time he was wanting to fight. Also, he was telling me that he was sorry... he had a heavy smell of alcohol on his breath.”
Espinoza was being held in the Johnson County jail on DWI charges and for failure to stop and render aid.
“He failed to yield and slammed right into the motorcycle,” said Venus police Chief R.L. Young.
The death is only the second time Lancaster has had an officer killed, Chief Larry Flatt said. Two years ago, Officer Craig Shaw was shot and killed while responding to a disturbance call at an apartment complex. Lancaster, a city of 37,000 people, only has a force of 53 officers.
“When you lose someone you work with day-in and day-out, it’s a terrible burden and pain for every officer in this department,” Chief Flatt said during a Sunday news conference.
After Shaw’s death, the department memorialized his locker by replacing the door with etched glass to display his uniform inside.
Since Dodson’s locker sat directly across from Shaw’s, he saw the memorial every time he got dressed before his shift. Chief Flatt now fully expects to give Dodson’s locker a similar treatment.
“Members of this department are devastated by this loss,” he said.
Dodson married his childhood sweetheart soon after high school. Together they have three young children.
“That was his lifelong dream — to be a police officer,” his father, Mark, said. “You could tell he threw his chest out when he put that uniform on. It wasn’t just a job.”