Cherokeean/Herald (Rusk, Tex.), Vol. 150, No. 10, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 29, 1999 Page: 9 of 16
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Customs agent leads 4double life'
Alto Students Honored 2B
Ordinary People, Extraordinary Things 3B
Christian Concert Features Britt 3B
Ident-a-Kid Program Slated 7B
Thursday, April 29, 1999
■ Larry McLendon
Houston as narcotics
Óy Wanda Rawls
SPECIAL TO THE CHEROKEEAN/HERALD
The scene on an Austin street in
1981 could have been lifted from a
Hollywood movie. A drug dealer,
sitting in the back seat of the se-
dan, picked up a gun and held it to
a DEA agent's head and screamed,
"Larry, I'm going to kill you!"
The scene was not a movie, but a
chapter from the real life of Larry
"Suddenly I felt the cold metal of
a Browning automatic against my
head. The hammer was back and
the safety was off. I knew that the
slightest pressure from his finger
would mean the end for me. And I
wasn't ready to die."
In the next split second, the
driver of the car, a DPS narcotics
officer, let go of the steering wheel
and turned in his seat as he
grabbed the weapon. Larry re-
acted equally as fast, and he lodged
his thumb behind the hammer of
the gun and wrestled it free.
That day stands out in Larry
McLendon's mind, as he reflects
on a law enforcement career span-
ning 29 years with service to the
Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S.
Customs and Department of Pub-
"At that point in my life, I didn't
think I needed anyone. I was young
and considered myself to be bullet
proof and invincible."
These days, he compartmental-
izes his life between work and fam-
ily and he's placed a 160-mile space
between the.jtwa. Each Monday,
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday,
he drives round-trip to Houston,
where he works as a narcotics in-
vestigator for the U.S. Customs
Service. Drug smuggling, money
laundering, weapons technology
and pornography are all in a day's
work for Larry in his Houston of-
But as the sun goes down, he
hurries home to Rusk from the
Houston rat race so he can spend
several evenings a week at the
Softball diamonds. Larry volun-
teers as an assistant coach for two
teams and an eight-year-old and
10-year-old who call him "dad."
Throughout his law enforcement
career, Larry has found himself
involved in dangerous situations
involving high-profile cases. Per-
haps one of his most famous cases
involved John DeLorean, who de-
signed and manufactured the
stainless steel, space-age car fea-
tured in the Hollywood move, Back
to the Future.
Mr. DeLorean found himself in
financial straits, when he alleg-
edly hit upon the idea to save his
company by smuggling large
amounts of cocaine into the United
"During the arrest of the former
General Motors executive, I helped
set up the recording of the video
equipment and the audio equip-
ment in the hotel room preceding
DeLorean's arrival," said Larry.
"After DeLorean had flown into
Los Angeles that morning, we
picked him up and brought him to
the room," he recalled.
A suitcase containing 55 pounds
of coke, with a street value of al-
most $1.5 million, sat in a closet as
Mr. DeLorean offered a champagne
toast to his new "business part-
ners." j u
"It's better than gold," he de-
clared, referring to the profit he
"Suddenly I felt the cold metal of a
Browning automatic against my head. The
hammer was back and the safety was off. I
knew that the slightest pressure from his
finger would mean the end for me. And I
wasn't ready to die."
thought he was going to make for
his struggling car manufacturing
His drug "buyers" turned out to
be undercover agents, and they
videotaped the whole procedure.
Larry saw the drama unfold
through the eye of a camera lens.
"We thought we had enough evi-
dence to convict him. It was a very
intricate case, but it eventually
resulted in an acquittal," Larry
said. Mr. DeLorean claimed "en-
trapment" as a defense, and the
courts threw the case out.
In another high-profile case prior
to the DeLorean bust, Customs
agents picked up more than a ton
of cocaine, representing one of the
agency's largest cases. "The ship-
ment of cocaine came in from South
America. The dope was inside sup-
posedly-empty, chlorine gas cylin-
ders that were being returned.
They had a unique way of insert-
ing cocaine inside a round cylin-
der. If someone probed it, chances
were good that they would get chlo-
Good intelligence and hard work
paid off, resulting in a near-record
haul of cocaine which never hit the
In another undercover job in-
volving a speed lab, Larry again
found himself in a gun battle which
nearly cost him his life.
"We received a search warrant
on a methamphetamine speed lab,"
Larry said. "I was shot at from
close range with a .357 Magnum.
It was an unusually dark and
dreary night. I saw fire jump a
couple feet out of the barrel of that
.357 Magnum, coming straight to-
ward me. I was actually surprised
when 1 didn't feel anything, realiz-
ing I had not been shot. After the
fireworks were finally over, the
felon had been wounded."
The emotions which follow a
shoot-out with the bad guys are
"During those times, you're
scared," Larry said. "There's no
question, you're scared. And you
don't have time to think about it.
But after it's over, that's when the
real scare sets in."
Most of Larry's hair-raising tales
occurred between his mid-20s and
the age of 35. "This time in my life
was an age when men seemed to
take more chances. I've been in
numerous situations where there
was gunfire exchange, people
wounded and sometimes killed."
Despite the "tough guy" image
Larry projects as an undercover
agent, he admits to being a "white-
knuckled" flyer. Just recently he
flew to the Federal Law Enforce-
ment Training Center in
Brunswick, Ga., to instruct a semi-
Larry McLendon leads a double life as a U.S. Customs agent. He
splits his time between the narcotics division in Houston, but
chooses to live in Rusk with his wife.
nar. Most federal officers receive
some training at this location. The
FBI and DEA has its own school
but most other federal protective
services are trained there.
With the passage of time, Larry
has begun to reflect and re-live
some of those dangerous moments.
Along the way, he discovered he
had a "silent partner" he never
"I realized that God was watch-
ing over me during those times,
which happened when I was lost,
had never trusted Christ as my
Savior. I now realize that God had
his hand on me. Otherwise I would
not be alive today," he said.
He admits that his job took an
emotional toll on him along the
way. "I became negative over the
years after working the highway
and seeing all the accidents with
people getting hurt and killed.
Other people died because they
were used by higher-up criminals
who make their money from drugs.
As a result, it became a negative
thing from 1970 to 1983."
Some time in 1983, Larry said
he hit "the lowest point in my life"
with stress and pent-up emotions.
"The problem was that I didn't
know God had a plan for my life. I
was seeking something, but was
unable to find it - I didn't even
know what I was searching for. 1
had gone into this (career) with
altruistic reasons, but they were
not enough to sustain me through
all that I would be exposed to. I
didn't know there was a God in
heaven who loved me and wanted
me to give Him my life. So as good
as my motives were, it was not
enough," he said.
"In 1983,1 finally realized that I
needed something outside of my-
self; there was something missing.
When Jackie (his wife) and I be-
came saved, two days apart, it
made a great difference in our
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Whitehead, Marie. Cherokeean/Herald (Rusk, Tex.), Vol. 150, No. 10, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 29, 1999, newspaper, April 29, 1999; Rusk, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth152422/m1/9/?q=larry%20mclendon: accessed July 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Singletary Memorial Library.