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  • Writer's pictureDerryl Dumermuth

Police Deaths

A career in law enforcement can be fraught with danger, as illustrated on January 17, 2005, when Corporal Trishon Jackson and Officer Jeremy Jones came very close to losing their lives during a routine traffic stop on South Laspina Street. A pair of brothers from Earlimart stands accused of firing on the two officers, inflicting life-threatening injuries. During the 134-year history of Tulare, three local police officers have made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.

On October 17, 1903, Tulareans celebrated the burning of the Irrigation District bonds that had once crippled the city for a decade. Particularly raucous, no doubt fueled with generous quantities of alcohol, was the crowd gathered that night on Front Street in front of Barrett's Saloon. Town Marshall George Martin attempted to clear a path on the sidewalk, and all complied with his order to move except William Janes, a Tipton saloon-keeper. Martin took his arm and led him through the saloon into the alley on the way to the city hall jail in the 100 block of South K Street. A struggle ensued, somebody fired a pistol and shot Martin in the abdomen - a "gut shot." He was helped up the stairs to Dr. John Barnes Rosson's office in the Quilty (later Anderson) Building on Kern Avenue and K Street's southwest corner. Tulare doctors Blodget, Wilson, Field, Bering, and Alford came to assist Rosson. Dr. Bond of Lindsay, Dr. Eaton of San Francisco, and Dr. Taggart of Los Angeles offered their assistance in town to join in the bond-burning celebration. Taggart led the surgeons, and Martin seemed to be recovering, but he succumbed at six o'clock the next morning.

Meanwhile, Assistant Marshalls Court Smith and Robert Carter escorted Janes to jail. From there, County Sheriff Collins sent the prisoner to the more secure facility in Visalia. Hundreds attended Martin's funeral at the Christian Church, located at that time on the northeast corner of Tulare Avenue and G Street. The following week Smith was named Marshall to succeed Martin. Janes' trial, precisely three months later, resulted in a hung jury - in the retrial one month later, the jury found him not guilty. The defense lawyer had convinced the panel that the shooting might have been an accident.

Thirty-seven years after Tombstone's famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral," Tulare had its own "Gunfight on South K Street." On October 6, 1918, thirty-year-old Damaso Quiroz burglarized the home of Ray Bowen on North F Street, stealing a pistol. When somebody reported the crime to Constable Robert A. Carter, he went looking for Quiroz and found him in the 200 block of South K Street in front of the Poultry Association Store. Carter demanded his surrender, but instead, Quiroz drew a pistol and started firing, hitting the constable four times. Then Quiroz calmly walked up to the prone Carter and fired a fifth bullet into his head. By this time, a crowd had gathered and found that the shooter's weapon was empty and pursued him north on K Street. At Kern Avenue, Will Triplet overpowered Quiroz, even though Quiroz had viciously struck Triplet several times with the blank gun. By this time, an even more massive crowd had gathered and talked of lynching, but Sheriff Court Smith arrived and transported the killer to the jail in Visalia. Quiroz was tried, convicted, and met the hangman's noose at Folsom Prison. Carter, a widower, left five children ages 13 to 19. A bizarre coincidence - Carter, an assistant Marshall in 1903, aided in George Martin's killer's arrest.

In 1923 Tulare organized the city's first police department, with John R. McDonald as chief. On January 11, 1947, the department attempted to serve a bench warrant on 42-year-old Frank Hall, who had failed to appear in court to answer burglary charges and assault with a deadly weapon. Dee Engleman, a high school boy who worked part-time as a bellboy at Hotel Tulare, discovered the fugitive hiding in the hotel basement. Hall threatened to kill him if he revealed his whereabouts to the police, but the brave young man notified the authorities. Police Chief Carlton Kinder, Captain Leon Epps, and nine other police officers confronted the lawbreaker who had retreated to a storeroom in the basement, locked the door, and refused to surrender. Soon Hall began firing his pistol through the closed wooden door. A stray bullet struck motorcycle officer Richard Wellington Smith, and he died at the scene. The police were making preparations to introduce tear gas into the storeroom when they heard a final gunshot - Hall had used his gun to commit suicide. Smith was a 29-year-old Army Intelligence veteran of World War II. His widow, Edna Mae, and a Tulare Police Officer accompanied the body to Indiana for burial. In remembrance of his sacrifice, a short street east of Hillman Street between Prosperity and Cross Avenues has been named Richard Smith Avenue.

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