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City of Houston

‘He Was Good At Everything’: Slain Arson Investigator Honored At Houston Memorial

A 17-year veteran, Lemuel “DJ” Bruce was remembered Tuesday as a skilled investigator, as well as a good father, husband and friend. 

Lemuel "DJ" Bruce, inset, died last week after a shootout with an arson suspect, HFD said.
Lemuel “DJ” Bruce, inset, died last week after a shootout with an arson suspect, HFD said.

Hundreds of people gathered inside Lakewood Church Thursday to celebrate the life of Lemuel “DJ” Bruce, an arson investigator with the Houston Fire Department who passed away in the line of duty last week.

A 17-year veteran, Bruce was remembered at the memorial as a skilled investigator, as well as a good father, husband and friend.

HFD Chaplain Bobby Delgado, one of Bruce’s coworkers and close friends, called the fallen arson investigator “irreplaceable,” a man instrumental in creating a family-like atmosphere in the arson division of HFD.

“The best person I’ve ever known,” Delgado said. “The kind of guy you’d want your daughter to marry. He was a mountain of a man.”

Bruce was a former marine who began his HFD career in 2003. He was a firefighter, a crew chief, an EMT, and ultimately, an investigator for the last five years.

His role in the arson bureau required he become a licensed Texas peace officer, and learn investigative techniques, chemistry, and physics skills — all of which he performed at a high level, according to Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña.

“He was good at everything that he did,” Peña said. “But beyond being good at his job, the man was just a good person.”

Bruce was shot and killed while conducting surveillance in an ongoing arson investigation with six other investigators in the Timbergrove and Heights areas early Friday morning, after an exchange of gunfire with a man he had been pursuing as part of that investigation, HFD said.

He had recognized the man’s vehicle, and was waiting for the rest of his team to arrive, and was in constant communication with them, but was shot before they got there, Peña said. HFD reported that the man was also found dead at the scene.

It was just the latest incident involving arson in Houston.

HFD arrested Joshua Rauch on Oct. 10, a week prior to Bruce's death. Rauch is a suspect in a presumably unrelated recent string of arsons in the greater Houston area, and has since been connected to seven fires, accoring to HFD. The arson bureau obtained search warrants based on a surveillance video for Rauch's cell phone and permission to put a tracker on his vehicle, which ultimately led to his arrest and second degree arson charges, according to court documents.

HFD held a procession for Bruce Monday. He leaves behind a wife and two children, and is the first HFD investigator to be shot in the line of duty, Peña said.

The department also revealed Tuesday that his radio number, 748, would be retired.

“He was an excellent husband, he was a good friend to many, and he dedicated his life to the service of this community,” Peña said at Thursday’s memorial. “And although DJ was taken much too soon, the impact that he made as a friend, as a father, as a firefighter, has left us with fond memories, with lives touched and with friendships formed. And it’s because of DJ that we are better as a city.”