County salutes police who lost lives while on duty

Colors are retired at Wood County Police Memorial Service.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

The bell sounding the last alarm was rung 12 times Thursday for the 12 law enforcement officers in Wood County who have died in the line of duty while serving local citizens.

Dating back more than 120 years, the officers lost their lives to gunfights, car crashes and drowning.

“We are reminded how dangerous it is each and every day,” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said to all the law enforcement members attending.

The Wood County Commissioners thanked those who gave their lives for the citizenry.

State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, spoke of an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper who died 50 years ago when he was in pursuit of two speeding vehicles on the turnpike near Ohio 795. He was just 22 years old.

“Obviously police officers face dangers every time they put on their uniforms,” she said.

Gavarone was critical of the media for inaccurately portraying law enforcement, by focusing on the negative not the positive actions by police.

“I wish some attention would be paid to the good things you guys do,” she said.

Retired Ohio State Patrol Trooper Mike Samson plays bagpipes at service.

Gavarone mentioned two pieces of legislature affecting law enforcement and first responders. House Bill 115 is designed to improve communication between law enforcement and motorists with communication problems. The bill creates a system for information on drivers with communication difficulties to be accessed by law enforcement as soon as a vehicle is stopped.

The other legislation increases penalties against people who harm first responders and other emergency workers as they respond to incidents.

“Our police officers should be given all the tools possible to do their jobs effectively,” she said.

Gavarone also praised the work of the local Fraternal Order of Police, for their efforts with children doing Christmas shopping, fishing and holding movie nights.

“We all owe people like you and Trooper Birchem an immeasurable amount of gratitude,” she said.

Following is a list of the 12 law enforcement members in Wood County who died in the line of duty:

Patrolman Jesse Baker, North Baltimore Police. On June 19, 1896, Baker and his faithful dog responded to the post office as three men were breaking in. During an exchange of gunfire, Baker was shot and died as a result of his injuries.

Marshal Frank Thornton, Perrysburg Police Department. On Dec. 28, 1905, Thornton was told that five wanted individuals were at the Krauss Restaurant, so he went to confront them. During an exchange of gunfire, Thornton was struck by a bullet. He was taken by a street car to Toledo Hospital. He later died due to an infection from his wounds. His last spoken words were: “I hope the people of Perrysburg are satisfied that I have done my duty.”

Patrolman Austin Harman, Bowling Green Police Department. On May 13, 1919, Harman was accidentally shot when the revolver dropped from the holster of his partner, Officer E.J. Alkire. The officers were removing a pile of lumber that was creating a driving hazard for motorists. Harman was shot in the groin and died shortly after.

Deputy Ellsworth Beaverson, Wood County Sheriff’s Office. Beaverson was known for his active enforcement against alcohol peddlers in the area. On Aug. 27, 1927, he was on patrol riding his sheriff’s motorcycle on southern Ohio 25. A Studebaker pulled into his path and they collided. Beaverson was thrown from his motorcycle and died as a result of his injuries.

Patrolman Ralph Castner, Bowling Green Police Department. On April 16, 1931, notorious criminal Frank Mitchell and William Miller (also known as “Billy the Killer”) and their two girlfriends came to Bowling Green. As the group reached the corner of Clough and Prospect streets, Castner and Chief Galligher stopped their vehicle. During an exchange of gunfire, Castner was struck. He survived his wounds for seven days, then died from his injuries on April 23.

Marshal Jay Davis, North Baltimore Police Department. Having stolen a car and abducted a salesman from Toledo, three brothers named Manley, Bert and James Storey headed south to Bowling Green in July of 1932. There they robbed a gas station and abducted the gas station attendant and the owner. As they drove on a mud road west of Rudolph, they decided their hostages were becoming bothersome. One brother suggested they kill them. Another brother argued against this, so they dumped the hostages off near Rudolph. The following day, the Storey brothers were spotted near Walnut Street in North Baltimore. Residents notified Davis, who grabbed his gun and headed out to locate the brothers. He came across them in an alley east of Main and East Walnut streets, and told them to put their hands up. Two brothers complied and allowed Davis to walk up to them. As the marshal began searching one brother, another brother pulled a gun and shot Davis.

FOP Honor Guard offers salute.

Officer Clifton Miller, Rossford Police Department. In May of 1966, Miller was pursuing a vehicle being driven by Tom Watterson, who was driving at a high rate of speed through Rossford. Miller was attempting to stop Watterson as they proceeded on River Road. Watterson lost control and plunged down the river embankment. Miller then lost control of his police cruiser and swung to the left into the path of another car. He died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Trooper Jon Birchem, Ohio Highway State Patrol. On Feb. 27, 1967, Birchem was working the Ohio Turnpike, pursuing two speeding motorists. As he approached the Ohio 795 overpass, he lost control of his cruiser and crashed. He died as a result of his injuries. The drivers of the vehicles he was pursuing never stopped, and were never identified. Birchem was 22 years old, and had just graduated from the Ohio Highway Patrol Academy in June 1966.

Patrolman Kip Boulis, Perrysburg Police. On May 31, 1976, Boulis responded to the Maumee River where four people had fallen into the water after their boat sank. Boulis dove into the deep water to save the man and his three children. Unfortunately, he was snagged by a submerged large tree branch and was drowned. The family members in the water were able to hold onto a cooler and were later rescued by fishermen and fire department personnel.

Sgt. Robert Schiffman, Perrysburg Police. On Nov. 1, 1978, Schiffman was traveling south on Route 25 near Sugar Ridge Road when another driver went left of center and struck the police cruiser. He was killed instantly in the head-on collision.

Chief Thomas W. Hall, Northwood Police Department. Hall passed away on Dec. 31, 1981 as a result of medical issues occurring while he was on duty. He was handling a traffic crash in front of Grabenstetter Chrysler/Plymouth, when he suffered a stroke and later passed away.

Deputy Thomas Bryant, Wood County Sheriff’s Office. On July 23, 1984, Bryant was patrolling the southern part of the county when he received a call of a breaking and entering near North Baltimore. As he was traveling on Route 25 south of Ohio 281, he lost control of his cruiser as it veered off the road and overturned. Bryant, 27, died as a result of his injuries.

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