In The Line of Duty
On average, an officer somewhere in America is killed in the line of duty every fifty-three hours. This page honors just a few of those officers from our history in an effort to insure that they will never be forgotten.They all had a life, family, and a story and we want to make sure that their stories are told here. Thank you for visiting this page. It will be developed further in the near future.
San Francisco Police Officer John B. Hurd was the 30th SFPD officer to die in the line of duty. Sadly, line of duty losses today total 103 officers gone much sooner than they should be because they were willing to give their lives for their community.
Officer Herman F. Vogel of the St. Joseph, Missouri Police Department was born in 1876 and was a salesman before entering law enforcement in 1904 at the age of 28 years. Department records indicate that Officer Vogel dropped dead while on duty, wearing this very badge, at the age of 51 in 1927. (photo courtesy of St. Joseph PD).
Ernie May has the distinction of being the first Las Vegas Police Officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty. This story is what happened that day and about the impact upon his family.
The history of Nevada’s mining boom dates to Civil War days but Las Vegas bloomed much later. The city stretched for only a few short blocks in the 1930s yet today the metropolitan Las Vegas valley boasts millions of residents.
As I began to research facts for this story, I had the good fortune of discovering that Ernie May’s daughter, Marjorie, was still living in Utah at the age of 87. She was only nine years old when her father’s life was cut short by a crazed man with a gun but her pride and recollection of facts is strong. When I questioned several variations in published stories, she said “forget all of the other crap as this is what really happened.”
A young Ernie May left Utah for Las Vegas in 1905, traveling with the rest of his family follow-ing the death of his father, a miner by trade. They lived in a home constructed from railroad ties, a design meant to help make the desert heat some-what tolerable. Ernie worked for the railroad as a teen to help support his family but developed a fascination with law enforcement at a young age. At only 14 years of age, Ernie would complete his day with the railroad and then shadow his brother, Joe, on the beat as he patrolled the downtown of Las Vegas. Joe was twelve years Ernie’s senior and worked as the night officer.
Ernie joined the half dozen officers of the LVPD in 1929. He had accomplished his dream of becoming a cop!
Ernie first experienced the dangers of the job on February 29, 1929 when he was shot in the arm while apprehending four burglars. His young bride, Mamie, encouraged him to find a safer job so he applied for and was appointed a United States Ranger at the Boulder Dam project. He was assigned the night shift and this was far from what he imagined doing for a living.
That assignment was short lived as Ernie had not lost his burning drive to be a street cop so after only a short time he returned to LVPD. He patrolled the streets in his own Buick, no radio and no uniform as the city had not grown to that level. Officers instead were notified of their calls for service by a red light in the downtown core and when it flashed, they were to call the station for assignment, just as done in Reno and many other small cities across the country. Ernie was issued a badge, number 13, as shown in this publication.
Clark’s Tourist Court was a motel on 5th Street near Charleston. Described as a seedy little place, it was said to not only include rooms for the tourists but also bootlegging and prostitution went on there. Clark, the owner, had been drinking for three straight days when a disturbance broke out between him and others. A call was placed to the police department around 7:00 pm on June 3, 1933, and Officer Ernest May was sent to calm the situation.
When May arrived on scene, he was met by gunfire from Clark from nearby. May was shot but returned fire. Clark was said to have walked up to May and finished him off before turning the gun on himself. Witnesses and evidence was said to have proven this scenario. His daughter Marjorie insists on this!
Ernie’s big brother, Joe, responded to the Tourist Court to check on things when Ernie was not heard from. When he arrived, he discovered the horror of his little brother dead in a pool of blood, and the suspect nearby also dead from a gun-shot wound.
Every business in town closed for May’s funeral services. A plaque was placed inside the city hall in honor of Officer Ernest May. But these were the days when there was no pension for surviving family, no Federal monies as a result of losing a life in the line of duty, and to top it all off, it all happened during the Great Depression. It was extremely difficult for the family to survive so by September of 1933, only months after Ernie’s death, the family packed up and moved back to Utah.
Joe stayed and continued serving the citizens of Las Vegas. According to the Nevada State Journal of January 19, 1935, Joe struck gold in the Sheep Mountain District.
Today the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department boasts thousands of officers. Although Ernie May has the dark distinction of being the first LVPD officer killed in the line of duty, too many others have followed that path in service to their community.
Today, Ernest May Elementary School is named after the officer and his name is listed with other officers killed in the line of duty on memorials in Carson City, Reno, and Las Vegas as well as in our nation’s capital.
TYLER, TEXAS POLICE OFFICER BADGE #127
Tyler Police Department badge #127 has a considerable history beginning in 1962 when Tyler PD Officer Milus Nichol was struck and killed. Then, only six months later, Officer Eugene Vickers was struck and killed. Nichol and Vickers both wore badge #127. The badge was again issued out to then Officer Kenneth Findley who found himself being shot in the chest while wearing the same badge. Findley survived and went on to serve as Deputy Chief in Tyler before moving to another agency as their chief.
Police Chief Maloch, in 1977, donated badge #127 to this collection with a letter advising of the misfortune brought upon the officers wearing the badge. Chief Maloch was murdered in 1978.
On March 29th, 1908, Patrolman Pat Sweeney of the Tiffin, Ohio Police Department happened to come across a burglary in progress.Sweeney was shot and wounded. He survived until the next day when he died as a result of his wounds. The photo shows Officer Sweeney. Could the badge have been worn by him when he was killed? It is possible. The Tiffin PD had only a handful of officers when they started out.