Robert Barco Maldonado
Robert Barco Maldonado
  • September 20, 1938 - September 20, 2017
  • Texas

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Robert Barco Maldonado, one of five uniformed police officers shot by Fiesta sniper Ira Attebury just as the Battle of Flowers Parade was starting, died on his birthday Sept. 20 at 79. Maldonado had been with the San Antonio Police Department for 17 years the day Attebury opened fire from his trailer parked near the parade route on April 27, 1979. A lieutenant, Maldonado was working traffic control at East Grayson Street and Broadway.
"He was heading up the whole parade route and he called me . (and) invited me to go to the parade that day," his daughter Dianne Maldonado Hill said. "I decided it was too hot."Hill, who was 15 at the time, was glancing at TV coverage of the parade at home when she noticed "a ruckus."
"I see an ambulance toting people off," Hill said. "I saw someone and thought, 'That looks like my dad'" Called to the emergency room, Hill was told that her dad was going into surgery. "We were in such a panic," she recalled. "I thought he was going to die."But then Hill received another call, from her father.
"He said, 'I just wanted to tell you that I'm here and I'm alive. I'm going to be OK and I love you,'" Hill said. Shot three times, Maldonado was the most seriously injured of the law officers hit that day and was in surgery for seven hours. He carried shotgun pellets in his body for the rest of his life.
Returning to duty, Maldonado spent the rest of his career behind a desk. "He couldn't return in the same capacity," Hill said. "He couldn't run or walk very well."
Reared in San Antonio, Maldonado was the oldest of six children. He met his future wife while attending what was then San Antonio Vocational and Technical High School, but moved with his family to San Jose, California, where he worked in the fields.Maldonado returned to San Antonio by himself to be with his girlfriend and graduated in 1958. The two married immediately afterward, and he wanted more stability for his growing family than he could get doing auto body repair and welding. He joined the San Antonio Police Department in 1961. As a young patrolman on the West Side, Maldonado had to deal with gang activity.
"I used to hang around with him and so I saw some of his experiences firsthand," his brother-in-law Alfred Aradillas said. "He didn't give anybody a break. He was a very, very dedicated policeman who loved his work." With an eye to the future, Maldonado attended San Antonio College, then St. Mary's University, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in 1966. Even as he attended night school and worked overtime, Maldonado stayed close to his family.
"He'd come home most nights and have dinner with us," Hill said. "Was there to help me with my homework." Maldonado also tried to steer his children from the dangers he had encountered on the streets. "He knew we were going to make mistakes and he did his best to keep us clear of bad elements," his son Daniel Maldonado said. But nothing could have predicted the gunfire from Attebury, which killed two people and wounded dozens before he shot himself as police closed in. Maldonado stayed on the force for a few more years before retiring and becoming a teacher, moving to Eagle Pass where he taught criminal justice and English and coached girls sports. Eventually earning a master's degree in education, Maldonado returned to San Antonio and taught English at Edison, Burbank and Southwest high schools. "Most important thing to me of all is he taught me how to fish," his oldest son, Robert "Bobby" Maldonado, said. "I loved it from the very start. I'll be fishing for two now."