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Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter found dead Saturday night - Odessa American: Crime Justice

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Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter found dead Saturday night

Midlanders, law enforcement around the area mourning his death

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Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2019 2:54 pm

Midlanders and law enforcement around the area are mourning the death of longtime Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter, who was found unresponsive at his home just after midnight Saturday night.

Emergency responders attempted to revive him but he was pronounced dead by Midland Justice of the Peace David Cobos in the early morning hours.

Painter was first elected sheriff in Midland County in 1985 and had led that agency since. Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said Painter was a peace officer for almost five decades and was sheriff for more than 33 years.

“During one of the last conversations he and I had, I asked him if he was going to run again. His response was "oh yea,' " Griffis said Sunday. “He was unbeatable. I believe there has only been one man run against him, same man twice, and Sheriff Painter won by a large margin both times. He was very respected.”

Griffis said Painter had useful and good advice for both him and others. “He leaves quite a legacy. A legacy that many of us could only dream of. God speed Sheriff Painter, rest in peace and thank you for your service, advice and friendship. Blessed are the peacemakers.”

His legacy was on the minds of many on Sunday and Odessa Chamber of Commerce CEO Renee Earls remarked on his commitment to the people he protected. “He made a tremendous mark and will be missed. He was a big man in stature, and he left an even larger legacy.”

She said she sent her thoughts and prayers to Midland.

U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway said via email that Painter will be remembered by West Texans as a patriot of integrity and valor.

“Sheriff, you’ve left behind a huge pair of boots to fill. God bless his family and loved ones during this difficult time of loss. Suzanne and I will continue to pray as our community mourns.”

Painter grew up in the farming community of Edmondson in Hale County. He was raised on a cotton and grain farm and graduated from Plainview High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1966 and served two tours of duty in Vietnam with the first tour in the DMZ and the second outside of Danang. He earned the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Ribbon with six devices. He also earned the Presidential Unit Commendation and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

He would enter law enforcement in 1970 with the Department of Public Safety and later work at both Culberson County Sheriff’s Department and then the Presidio Sheriff’s Department. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Sul Ross in police administration and joined the Midland Sheriff’s Office in 1982. He would be elected sheriff in 1985. He was involved in numerous civic and charity organizations including the Downtown Lions Club. He was married to Patsy Painter and has five children and seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Social media on Sunday was full of memorials and tributes to Painter. Kent R. Hance called him “a giant in law enforcement” and praised his war service and his service to Midland.

Odessa Police Chief Mike Gerke called Painter the “dean of West Texas law enforcement” and a legend across the state. “He will be sorely missed by all that knew him,” Gerke wrote in a statement.

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