Del Rio Port of Entry Hosts Fallen Officer Ceremony and Memorial Marker presentation during National Police Week
DEL RIO, TEXAS– U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Del Rio Port of Entry today hosted a special event coinciding with National Police Week to honor two local U.S. Customs Service inspectors who were killed in the line of duty.
“The Wallen-Latham family has endured tremendous heartbreak, to lose first a grandfather, then a grandson, both killed in the line of duty protecting their country as U.S. Customs Service inspectors,” said Director, Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office. “The ultimate sacrifice made by their sons exemplifies the highest core values of our agency; vigilance, service to country and integrity and while the recognition is a long time in coming, that is precisely what we honor with this memorial marker presentation today.”
Acting Executive Director, Operations Sidney Aki, U.S Customs and Border Protection Headquarters, DFO Higgerson and Port Director Alberto Perez, Del Rio Port of Entry presented flags to the Wallen-Latham family and dedicated memorial markers to commemorate the service of U.S. Customs Inspector James Wallen, End of Watch, March 6, 1923 and U.S. Customs Inspector Richard Mack Latham, End of Watch Jan. 27, 1984.
On March 6, 1923 at around 11:00 p.m. James Wallen, a 45-year-old U.S. Customs inspector, was shot in the chest as he investigated a suspicious vehicle parked near the Del Rio Port of Entry after closing the port of entry for the night. The suspicious vehicle was being loaded with rum that had been smuggled into the United States.
On January 27, 1984, 50-year-old U.S. Customs Inspector Richard Mack Latham was kidnapped at the Del Rio Port of Entry by four men who had robbed a jewelry store in neighboring Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. His body was found the next day about 200 yards off of Highway 277 near Eagle Pass, Texas. He was wearing his Customs uniform and restrained with his service-issued handcuffs. He had been shot twice in the back with his own service weapon. An eight-day, multi-agency law enforcement manhunt brought all four kidnappers/killers to justice. There was nothing to suggest that Latham put up a fight or did anything to instigate his death. He was buried in Westlawn Cemetery.
James A. Wallen was the maternal grandfather of Richard Latham.
In an effort to further honor the sacrifice of these men, the Del Rio Port of Entry incorporated the legacy into the curriculum for CBP Explorer Post 2302, a group of young men and women who want to become law enforcement officers. The Explorer cadets studied the history behind the fallen officers and visited their grave sites. The old cemetery was overgrown and neglected, but the Explorers made it their duty to restore the grave sites to those befitting the heroes that Inspectors Wallen and Latham were. It took many months of planning by advisors and scouts. They secured donations from the local Home Depot store for the supplies and received additional help from CBP employees. The graves were refurbished with stone pavers, decorative rock, and mulch. The crowning touch was a 4-foot-high steel memorial marker placed at each grave, denoting the agency badge and that the person resting there paid the ultimate sacrifice, was killed in the line of duty, and would forever remain a hero.
On May 18, 2017, during National Police Week, a ceremony was held for the family. The renovations and the memorial marker were unveiled to the family members and the public. Full CBP Honor Guard ceremonial honors were bestowed at the cemetery, not in funeral fashion, but in a celebration of this family and the sacrifices their loved ones made.
The ceremony drew participation from area CBP components and law enforcement agencies, including CBP Del Rio Port of Entry, Laredo Field Office, U.S. Border Patrol, Del Rio Sector, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations Del Rio resident agent office, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers, Del Rio Police Department and Val Verde County Sheriff’s Office.