Street named after Austin officer killed 52 years ago

The family of the fallen officer holds the street sign that bears his name during the dedication ceremony. (KXAN Photo/Justin Hobby)
The family of the fallen officer holds the street sign that bears his name during the dedication ceremony. (KXAN Photo/Justin Hobby)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin has named a road in Circle C Metropolitan Park after Donald E. Carpenter, an Austin Police Department officer killed in 1964.

On Jan. 28, 1964, officers surrounded Dean’s Drive Inn on South Congress while responding to a burglary in progress. The man inside yelled to officers he was coming out, but instead opened fire, hitting Ofc. Carpenter and his fellow officer Bobby Sides. Officer Sides recovered but Carpenter, 28, died two days later. He had been on the force for five years at the time of his death.

Ofc. Sides and Ofc. Carpenter’s oldest daughter Cheryl spoke at the ceremony Saturday alongside Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and Council Member Ellen Troxclair.

“It means that his memory will live forever,” Cheryl Carpenter, who was six years old when her father died, said. “And whoever drives down the road will hopefully wonder who is that person and maybe they’ll look it up. And he’s a shining example, he’s somebody we can all aspire to be like.”

Ofc. Sides says in 1964, only two patrol cars and a traffic car patrolled south Austin. On Jan. 28, Carpenter and Sides were the two patrolling.

Ofc. Sides recounted what happened Saturday as he happened across a burglar inside Dean’s Drive Inn on South Congress Avenue after seeing the man inside.

“I went back to my car and called for a backup, said I had a burglary in progress,” Ofc. Sides said. “Don immediately came on the radio and said ‘341 is on its way’ and you could hear the roar of his engine as he sped out. I knew he’d be there in a minute so I ran to the back of the building. When I got to the back of the building, I heard a door start to open. I said ‘Hold it where you’re at! Police officer. Stay where you’re at until I tell you to come out.’ And just a minute Donald drove up and I knew he would be there ready so I told the man inside, ‘Come out with your hands up. You will not be shot.’ And at that time, there was an explosion in my chest and I went down.”

“This street named in his honor is a small way for the city he served to recognize the ultimate sacrifice he made while protecting the people Austin,” Chief Acevedo said in a statement. “The legacy of brave officers such as Donald Carpenter continues to inspire us at the Austin Police Department.”

A memorial honoring Carpenter already stands at South Congress Avenue and Annie Street, the site of the former Dean’s Drive Inn.

The investigation into Carpenter’s death took weeks. It was, at the time, the largest investigation ever undertaken by APD. In five weeks, officers identified 187 persons of interest before arresting 29-year-old Carl Albert Marley on Feb. 26, 1964.

Marley admitted to robbing Dean’s Drive Inn and killing Carpenter. He led police to the murder weapon, a Russian-made .32 caliber revolver, which he had thrown into Lake Austin. It took four days to find the weapon in the lake.

Marley’s trial began in late September and lasted about a week. After three and a half days of testimony, the jury took less than three hours to return a guilty verdict. Marley was sentenced to 99 years in prison on Oct. 20, 1964. He was discharged in November of 2013.

After his death, APD set up the “Carpenter Fund” to help the fallen officer’s two young daughters pay for an education. In the weeks and months after his death, more than 3,000 people donated a total of $25,300 to the fund (worth nearly $200,000 adjusted for inflation).

Austin Public Library online records from the Austin American and Austin Statesman were used in gathering information on Marley’s arrest, trial and conviction.

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