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Hero Down: Jefferson County Deputy James Lee Killed By Drunk Driver While Mowing His Yard

Jefferson County, TX – Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Deputy James “Jim” Lee died on July 9 after being struck by an intoxicated driver while mowing his lawn, according to police.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said troopers were dispatched to a fatal crash on Burrell-Wingate Road east of State Highway 124 at approximately 8:15 p.m. on July 9, according to a JCSO press release.

A preliminary investigation revealed that a 2017 Toyota SUV was traveling westbound “at an unsafe speed” and failed to negotiate a curve in the road, causing it to veer off the roadway and into a ditch, the DPS said.

The SUV then slammed into off-duty Deputy Lee, who was out in his yard, riding on his lawnmower.

The 71-year-old deputy was pronounced dead at the scene, the DPS confirmed.

The driver of the SUV, 38-year-old Michael Miller, was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital for treatment.

Miller has since been charged with unlawful carrying of a weapon and felony intoxicated manslaughter.

The investigation into the fatal collision remained ongoing on Sunday.

“Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Lee was a beloved long time Deputy who was known for his calmness and kindness,” the JCSO said in a Facebook post on July 10. “His dry whit and humor will certainly be missed.”

Deputy Lee, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, originally joined the JCSO in 1973, KBMT reported.

He left the force temporarily at one point before returning to the sheriff’s office in 2002.

“We don’t have a lot of 70-year-old guys working in law enforcement, but to look at Jim and to look at his production at his job, you would’ve never known that,” Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens told KBMT.

Deputy Lee was most recently assigned to the JCSO’s fugitive warrant division.

Sheriff Stephens said the department has been struggling in the wake of the longtime deputy’s tragic death.

“You don’t expect people not to show back up at work on a Monday because they got hit while they were cutting grass in their front yard,” the sheriff said. “To die in that manner, a manner that could have been prevented or avoided, doesn’t make it easier. Makes it more difficult I think.”

Deputy Lee’s son, James, was recently hired by the JCSO and was scheduled to start work on July 15, KBMT reported.

“To have Jim’s life cut short and him not get to experience, I think one of the greatest joys for him to see his son follow in his footsteps, that’s one of the most difficult things right now for me, and the fact that we’re going miss him,” Sheriff Stephens said.

The veteran deputy also leaves behind his wife.

“This is a tremendous loss for our country in my opinion,” Sheriff Stephens told KBMT. “For our community and certainly for this agency and his family.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy James “Jim” Lee, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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