HOUSTON -- Surveillance video is a common modern tool used to catch criminals after they have robbed a convenience store. But when asked to recount his infamous father’s impact on fighting crime in Houston, Tim Wilson proudly predicted a decades-old solution could be used successfully again.
"I look back on the Shotgun Squad with a great amount of pride,” said Wilson.
His father, famed private investigator Clyde Wilson, who died in 2008, is legendary in law enforcement circles for exposing corruption and cracking some of Houston’s toughest criminal cases. But in the late 1960’s, asked by the original owners of Pilgrim Cleaners to help them reduce a rash of armed robberies, he came up with the idea of the Shotgun Squad.
Always a master of using the media to his benefit, he announced that he was hiring off-duty police officers armed with shotguns to hide in the stores, sometimes behind one way mirrors, ready to strike if a robber entered the store.
"We didn't have enough people to put in every cleaners so he made an announcement, that if you hit one you were playing a game of Russian roulette with your life,” said Tim Wilson, who by the late 1970’s was serving as one of his dad’s armed shotgun men.
"We were very proud of them. They did what they were supposed to do and they stopped crime."
Wilson said the guards his dad put in place never shot anyone but did stop several would-be robbers in the act.
The Squads lasted through the 70's and 80's. The idea spread to liquor stores and convenience stores. And by 1990, Stop N Go convenience stores hired undercover armed guards. And at least one robber at a Houston Stop N Go paid with his life, killed by one of those guards.
"It was a frightening thing,” recalled Chief J.C. Mosier with Harris County Constable Precinct 1.
Mosier was a Houston police officer when the Shotgun Squad idea first surfaced.
“I think it would have kept me up at night sometimes thinking about the possibility," said Mosier.
Mosier, an extremely close friend with Clyde Wilson, disagreed with his friend’s solution. Mosier instead sided with his police chief Lee Brown who banned Houston police officers from working on the shotgun squads as off-duty jobs.
Clyde Wilson eventually turned to officers from municipalities outside of Houston to fill the guard positions he needed.
“The idea of hiding back and kind of laying in wait so you could sort of blow them away when they come in an pull a gun out, I'm not sure about that. It still bothers me a little bit,” said Mosier.
"The whole idea to me just seemed a little bit like some kind of frontier justice,” said Mosier who believes that business owners, if concerned about armed robberies, should consider qualified – and visible – armed security.
There are no known current attempts to bring back the Houston Shotgun Squads, but the man whose dad invented them is convinced they would work again.
"Absolutely,” said Tim Wilson who is a successful and well-known Houston private investigator as well. “Nobody wants to take a chance if there is a hidden armed guard behind a counter waiting. I mean they may be desperate but they're not crazy."
Currently, Wilson is also a security consultant for transit systems in Central America. Used to fight back against attacks on bus drivers, he said the Shotgun Squad idea is used successfully on transit systems to this day.