Austin man returns badge to former deputy 42 years after he lost it

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — For someone like Larry McDougal, a decades-long member of law enforcement, a badge is a big deal — especially his first one.

So you can probably imagine McDougal was pretty disappointed when a scuffle with a suspect cost him that first badge. He was a deputy with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office near Houston. It was 1979.

“When I got down to the jail another deputy goes, ‘where’s your badge?'” McDougal said. “I looked down and there’s a rip where the badge used to be in my shirt.”

Fast forward more than 40 years and that badge has finally made it back to McDougal, who has since retired from law enforcement and is now operating a law firm in Richmond, Texas.

McDougal says he’s frequently wondered where that badge went, and he has an Austin man, a stranger, to thank for answers — and a return of that sentimental piece of his previous career.

‘Out of the blue, I get a phone call’

Last month, roughly three hours away, Dennis Cameron says he was deep cleaning. Something caught his eye, a badge he picked up at a resale shop 25 years prior.

Photo of man who found badge, and original badge owner
Larry McDougal (left), a former deputy for the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and Dennis Cameron (right) showing the drawer he found McDougal’s badge in (KXAN photo/Grace Reader and courtesy of McDougal)

Unlike when Cameron found that badge decades ago, he noticed something this time — a name etched into the back, still there, but barely. With the help of his daughter, he tracked down the original owner, Larry McDougal.

“I used to kind of wonder, ‘I wonder whatever happened to that badge,'” McDougal said. “Then out of the blue, I get a phone call from Dennis.”

“I had the badge for probably 25 years, it’s been on my shelves and for the biggest part of it underneath my bed,” Cameron said. “It feels kind of weird that somebody would be looking for it or wondering about it and I had it all this time.”

A few days later Cameron had that badge packed up and ready to ship back to its original owner.

“I’m glad to see that people still do those kinds of things,” McDougal said.

An unlikely pair

Cameron admits his background with law enforcement hasn’t always been a positive one. He spent several years in prison as a young man after being convicted of drug charges.

Cameron says this experience, and re-finding the badge, has put into perspective how far he’s come.

Ft. Bend County badge
The badge Larry McDougal lost in 1979 (Photo courtesy McDougal)

“I was always kind of running from the law, now I’m not worried about the law,” he said. “It’s just a different feeling, a great feeling.”

McDougal says Cameron’s past isn’t a part of the story he shares — as a lawyer, he knows people turn their lives around. Still, he acknowledged how unique the connection was.

“Coming from his background and my background, which are completely diverse, but here we are together doing this,” McDougal said. “I think that Dennis has a friend in me for life.”

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