TRINITY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Emergency flags mark the spot where Sheriff Brent Lee's patrol car left the roadway early Thanksgiving morning. The more disturbing sight is the burned vehicle. The Crown Victoria slammed into a tree, now charred by the blaze. The veteran law man died at the very end of Farm to Market Road 3453. That road is off State Highway 19, about one mile south of the Trinity city limit sign.
A longtime partner and now deputy found Lee's partially burned body lying about six feet from the burning vehicle. Chief Deputy Donald Fisher now assumes a leadership role. After hours of being up Fisher said, "We're just gonna have to move along with this and just take it one step at a time."
At the time of the accident the sheriff, along with two deputies in separate vehicles, were responding to 911 calls placed from Pinecrest Estates. The sheriff and his deputies had responded to numerous calls from this development. It all ended with a shooting during a party. The sheriff came back three times showing his dedication to law enforcement.
The shooting involved a Trinity police dispatcher. Chassin Bynum was shot and lifeflighted to a Tyler hospital. She's said to be in stable condition. Bynum was attending a party in this trailer at Pinecrest Estates. Sheriff Lee was first called there at around 2:30 this morning for a hit and run, but the suspects had already fled the scene. He returned about twenty minutes later after Bynum was shot. While Lee was at the hospital more shots were fired from the same location. On that third trip is when the accident occurred. Texas Rangers are assisting in the shooting investigation. At this time the motive is unclear and no arrests have been made.
Deputies continued the disturbance investigation knowing just a few hundred feet away state troopers were investigating the place where their boss had died. An accident reconstructive team spent several hours taking measurements and collecting evidence. Lead investigator, Trooper Rae Shel Lee said, "This is a mass, volume of information that's being collected and has to be analyzed before we can draw any conclusion." Clues may come from skid testing. Trooper Lee explained, "You get the vehicle to 35 miles per hour or less and once we sustain that speed then we lock up our brakes on our vehicle and that machine measures exactly how far it takes to stop." It's a collection of evidence to determine how a law man died. The details are needed for a report, but these fellow officers know what happened is the risk that comes with a law enforcement job.
Sheriff Brent Lee is no stranger to East Texas. He's the son of a former Trinity County sheriff, former state corrections officer and former Livingston police officer. The last thirty years Lee worked for the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission, retiring as a lieutenant out of the Lufkin office. It didn't take long for nearby sheriffs to come to the scene of the accident to provide assistance and condolences. Angelina County Sheriff Kent Henson reflected, "You couldn't ask for a nice person. He always had a smile on his face and that's one think I'll remember him by is that smile. He was always willing to go an extra mile to help everybody out."
Lee was elected for a term that begins January 1st, but he was sworn in this summer following the outgoing sheriff's resignation. Walker County Sheriff Clint McRae said, "We have already seen some positive reflection of his action and his department. He has done an excellent job and we're truly gonna miss him."