Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Service for George Bopp, the Only County Police Officer Ever Killed in the Line of Duty

The Murder of Christy Township Constable, George Bopp
Constable George Bopp attempted to arrest Tom Palmer on a warrant for a paternity case on the night of December 26, 1889. In the process, Bopp was shot in the stomach. Before he died a few hours later, Bopp told the coroner the name of the man who shot him.  Yet at the coroner’s inquest, the dying man’s declaration was not sufficient enough to have Tom Palmer, the alleged murderer, arrested.  A week later two other men were charged with the murder.  Their testimony, however, provided the prosecution with enough evidence to drop the charges against them and bring formal charges against Palmer. By this time Palmer and a friend named Decker had disappeared.   A $700 reward was posted, $200 of it offered by the Governor of Illinois.

A nationwide manhunt ensued. Following a trunk shipped by Palmer's father on a roundabout journey through Illinois, Missouri, Indian Territory and Texas, Lawrence County Deputy Sheriff Charles W. Fyffe finally captured Palmer in Kansas City. The arrest was described then as “One of the best pieces of detective work ever done in the West.” With feelings in the community bordering on lynching Palmer, the trial finally began in Lawrenceville.

Constable Bopp left a wife and six children. A simple tombstone marks his grave at Sumner Cemetery. There is nothing to honor this fallen officer, the only county police officer ever to be shot in the line of duty. 

One hundred and twenty- five years later, that is about to be remedied. 

This year, at a candlelight vigil held during National Police Week, George Bopp’s name was read, as being one of the names newly engraved on the National Memorial in Washington, DC.  The Memorial features two curving 304-ft-long blue-gray marble walls with names of all the officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. Next year during Police Week, Bopp’s name will be added to the Memorial in Springfield. 

In cooperation with Sheriff Russell Adams' office, the Lawrence County Historical Society will honor this fallen officer at a Memorial Service to be held on June 1 at 2:00 pm at his grave in Sumner Cemetery. After the laying of the memorial wreath by the color guard, Sheriff Adams will speak about his attendance at the Washington DC ceremony and the honor bestowed upon our officer, George Bopp. The program will conclude with the traditional playing of the bagpipes. Refreshments will be served; a free will donation will be accepted. The newest book Lawrence Lore Vol 2 featuring the entire story of the murder of George Bopp as well as the manhunt and resulting trial will be available for sale.