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.
Deputy Griffith wore this very badge when he was murdered. He also carried these handcuffs then but never had a chance to get them onto his arrestee. The group photo below shows Earl Griffith in a suit before he left for military service.
Jacob Earl Griffith joined the Washoe County, Nevada, Sheriff's Office in the 1930s as a deputy sheriff assigned to motorcycle traffic enforcement. He was promoted to chief deputy at one point before he left in the 1940s to serve his country in the United States Military. Griffith returned to the Washoe County Sheriff's Office as a deputy sheriff assigned to patrol duties.
On April 28, 1947, Griffith was assigned to the night shift and was doubled up in a patrol car with Deputy Tom Lambert as they patrolled the areas north of Reno. At the same time, a team of two were busy committing armed robberies near the city of Susanville, only an hour north into California along the east slope of the Sierra. The suspects were known last southbound toward Reno and a broadcast was given to units in the Reno area to be on the lookout.
Griffith and Lambert drove out the the California Agricultural Inspection Station just across the state line and made contact with the on duty inspector there. The inspector pointed south and advised that he observed a car pass his location and move off of the road nearby. The deputies went to investigate.
As the investigation played out, the deputies did encounter two suspects in the car. Unfortunately, Deputy Earl Griffith was ambushed by one suspect and was shot and killed by him as the other took on Deputy Lambert. Lambert was shot several times with at least one round striking his badge, deflecting what would have been a deadly blow to him. The suspects then sped off in the darkness, leaving both deputies for dead.
Lambert, seriously injured, made his way to the highway and called for help. Responding officers encountered the suspect vehicle abandoned miles from the scene on the way to Reno. Although one suspect surrendered a short time later, the other most dangerous of them was on the run out into a very wild and rough country.
While Deputy Lambert fought for his life in the local hospital, Deputy Earl Griffith's body was found at the scene and a dedicated lawman had lost his life at the hands of two viscous criminals.
For the next several days, a widespread search took place in an effort to catch the suspect. Two Native American men from nearby Fallon, Nevada were called into action to assist with their mantracking skills. The outstanding suspect had stolen a car from a fisherman along the Truckee River near Verdi and had managed to get away, at least for a short time.
Several days passed when a California Highway Patrol Officer encountered the suspect and took him into custody on the Grapevine in Southern California.
Deputy Lambert survived and finished out his career. Deputy Earl Griffith was buried near Sacramento, leaving three sons and a new bride behind.
Both suspects would die in custody, one in the execution chamber and the other at the sharp end of a knife by the hands of another inmate in prison.
Earl Griffith lost his life in what was the first known line of duty death of a Washoe County Sheriff's Office member. However, since then, the agency has lost more of their own including Lieutenant Glenn Barnes and Deputies Frank Minnie and John Wiberg. Since then though, it was discovered that Deputy Harry Swaney was killed in a vehicle crash in 1935.
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 was a Las Vegas, Nevada Police Officer assigned to patrol duties when he was shot and killed on scene of a dispute at a local motel. May unfortunately has the distinction of being the first LVPD officer to die in the line of duty. His own brother, also a member of the LVPD, responded to the call to find his own brother slain.