El Paso

Retired officer who foiled armed bank robbery honored with Medal of Valor

Former EPPD officer to be honored...

EL PASO, Texas - It was a typical morning patrol for officer Gary White.

He had just exited I-10 at McRae when he received a call on his police radio of a bank robbery nearby.

The day was May 1, 1973 -- one that changed White's life forever.

"Had I not had a guardian angel, I don't think I would be here today," White said.

White arrived at the Border City Bank just before 8 a.m. As he pulled in, he saw the president of the bank who had just been shot. The president pointed to the distance -- and yelled "Get that man!"

White saw the armed robber getting away in his car. That's when instinct kicked in.

"I floored the police car and I was on pavement. As he went in front of me, I crashed into him, and we spun into dirt," White said. "As we were spinning that's when he started shooting my windshield full of holes."

The shooter's name was Albert Garza. Garza's first shot hit the roof of White's car. That's when White was able to duck -- narrowly missing the other five bullets. 

"I got out, and he was reloading because he thought he had shot me," White said. "That's when I shot him, I shot him twice."

White said Garza then ducked to the floor of his car. White tried to call for back up, but at that point the police department only had one radio frequency. It was being used, and he was unable to get help.

White continued to fire at the car, until he saw Garza get out of the car.

"He starts yelling 'I give up! I give up!' but, I'm not a fool," White said. "I ran from the police car, climbed over a wall and came up above him -- I climbed over and walked up. He was laying there spread eagle, shot through the mouth, and shot through the right shoulder. He was saying 'I give up! I give up!'"

Eventually reinforcements arrived and Garza was arrested. At the time, White was 24 years old. It was the first, and only time, White ever used his gun in his 21 year career.

"I did not sleep for three days, because I would hear gunshots coming through the windshield, and I would jump," White said. "I thought about quitting but I survived something most police officers don't go through."

On Thursday, the El Paso Police Department will award White the Medal of Valor.

"I never expected to [get the award]. It's been 44 years since the event occurred. I'm very proud, and I really appreciate what Chief Greg Allen has done," White said.

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