• May 29, 2020

Longtime Odessa lawman says farewell - Odessa American: Local News

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Longtime Odessa lawman says farewell

Commander retires from DA’s office

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Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020 6:16 pm

Commander served his final day as the chief investigator for the Ector County District Attorney’s Office, a position he has held for the last 13 years, on Tuesday.

The decision to retire was set in stone about a year and Commander knows his final day at the Ector County Courthouse is going to be bittersweet.

“It’s going to be a sad day for me, but on the other hand it’s going to be a happy day,” Commander said.

Throughout his law enforcement career, Commander worked for the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office, Odessa Police Department, Ector County Drug Task Force and the Ector County District Attorney’s Office.

Commander explained during a phone interview on Monday morning that a successful law enforcement career in his mind would involve him never having to use his firearm. It held true from his day to final day.

Though he never shot his firearm in the line of duty, his firearm was used as Commander detailed an incident that happened about three months into his law enforcement career.

A previous Odessa American article from Dec. 8, 1972, detailed that Commander and his partner, Richard Pate, arrested and charged Lillian Virginia Reid with two counts of assault with intent to murder after she pulled Commander’s six-shooter from its holster and fired at the two ECSO deputies.

Pate and Commander weren’t injured during the shooting, but their patrol unit was splattered with bullet holes, the article stated.

Commander said that night he remembers wondering if he made the right decision to be in law enforcement.

“I had to do some soul searching that night,” Commander said. “I had just gotten married and I said ‘What have I gotten myself into.’ I ended up going in the next day and went back to work.”

Commander explained in the 70s there wasn’t therapy sessions for traumatic events, he said deputies had to “cowboy up.” Commander returned to work, then went to work for the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office in 1973 and eventually returned to the Permian Basin in 1978.

In the 1980s, Commander operated a forklift service during the oil boom. Commander was elected Ector County Precinct 3 Constable in 1988 and took office in 1989.

“I just busted my tail every weekend for a $150 a month,” Commander said with a laugh.

Commander was offered a position by former Ector County District Attorney Gary Garrison in Oct. 1989 and Commander has been there ever since. Commander ran for sheriff several times and was edged out by Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis by 54 votes in 2016.

About six months ago, Commander had a heart attack. His heart attack happened Sept. 7, 2019, as the left side of his heart was 100% closed, so two stints were put in. A month later he went back and got a third stint put in the right side because it was 90% closed and then in January got a pacemaker/defibrillator.

Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said Commander will be missed as the lead investigator. Bland said a replacement hasn’t been named for Commander’s position.

“Selfishly, I hate to see him go,” Bland said. “He told me a long time ago that this was going to happen, so we’ve been preparing for it. I want him to be happy.”

As far as retirement, Commander said he might get a part time job, but it would only be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He wants to have long weekends to play golf and go fishing.

Commander also expects to travel back and forth between property he has in Ector County and Ruidoso, N.M. He said he had immediate family in both locations.

“I want to play golf a couple of days a week and then have a couple of days where the wife and I can run around New Mexico or whatever we want to go to have some fun for ourselves for a change,” Commander said.

Odessa, TX

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