by Carla Noah Stutsman
Early in February 1978, Kelly Doherty was looking forward to graduating from Azle High School that May. Her brother, Buster Doherty, was ready to complete his junior year in high school.
Kelly and Buster’s mother, Carolyn, was grateful her husband Bobby’s recent promotion to Texas Ranger had not come with a transfer to another city. She liked living in Lakeside, close to her parents and hometown of Lake Worth.
But that all changed on Feb. 21 that year, when Texas Ranger Bobby Paul Doherty made the ultimate sacrifice.
Ranger Doherty was killed in the line of duty during a drug raid near Argyle that fateful day, shot dead by a drug dealer.
Gregory Arthur Ott, a 27-year-old graduate student at North Texas State University at the time, was convicted of Doherty’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Ott was released on parole in 2004 after serving 26 years in prison.
On May 23 – 35 years after Doherty’s death – the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) honored Ranger Doherty when it commissioned its newest airplane, a Pilatus PC-12 NG, at a ceremony in Austin.
The aircraft was christened the Bobby Doherty.
Buster Doherty, his wife Patti and the couple’s twin sons, Bobby and Brodie, traveled to Austin to attend the ceremony and serve “first orders” with a flight over Austin.
Dignitaries praised Doherty.
“Ranger Doherty proudly served the department and protected Texans, and he selflessly placed the safety of others above his own every day,” said Public Safety Commission Chair Cynthia Leon. “Tragically, Ranger Doherty died in the service of his state in 1978, and today we gather to honor his life, his family and to pledge that Texas will never forget his great service and sacrifice.”
“The Texas Rangers are an iconic branch of our state’s law enforcement history – and for good reason,” said Sen. Tommy Williams, chair of the Senate Committee on Finance. “Like many before and after him, Ranger Doherty admirably and selflessly served our state. Ultimately, he gave his life protecting others, and there is no greater sacrifice than that.”
“For years, Texas Ranger Bobby Doherty protected the people of this state as a sign of his commitment to the safety of Texans who would never know his name,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, chair of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations. “With the dedication of this aircraft in Ranger Doherty’s honor, Texans can rest assured that his watchful eye and dedication to public safety in this state continues even after the ultimate sacrifice has been paid.”
The Pilatus, which accommodates as many as two pilots and seven passengers, can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and travel as fast as 322 mph. It features state-of-the-art equipment, including an L-3 camera system with an infrared/color video camera, and an AeroComputer mapping system with the ability, for example, to map the area around a fire or assist in search and rescue.
In addition, the plane is equipped with a variety of radios, and features technology that enables communication between several responding agencies.
The Bobby Doherty ultimately will be stationed in San Antonio, with primary duties of supporting local agencies along the Texas-Mexico border. This multi-purpose, fixed-wing airplane also will be used for a variety of public safety missions across Texas, including transporting medical equipment, supplies and response teams during a disaster; aerial observation support; and serving as an aerial command center.
The aircraft was paid for with funding provided by the Texas Legislature.
“I was a State Trooper in 1978, and will never forget that day when Texas Ranger Bobby Doherty gave his life protecting and serving Texas,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “This plane, named in honor of Ranger Doherty, will provide a vital capability in supporting and advancing the same mission he lived by, and it will further ensure that his legacy continues to live on in Texas for years to come.”
With the addition of this new plane, the DPS aircraft fleet now totals 24 – with nine planes and 15 helicopters committed to public safety missions.