Died in the Line of Duty


Officers Try To Run Down Hunters

Great Bend - An all-out effort to apprehend the men whose destructive target practice led to Great Bend's most grim tragedy when three local men were electrocuted on a little traveled county road was promised Wednesday night.

The full story of how and when George Winn, 43, plumber's helper, J. W. Murphy, south side farmer and Sheriff-Elect Alfred F. Jacka 52, met death in that order on a road two miles south of town was pieced together here Wednesday from graphs in the Central Kansas Electric Cooperative from a big collection of 22-calibre cartridges and from measurements.

At 5:22 p.m. Monday the REA's power graph showed a break. That was the moment when Winn heading home from work, drove into a low hanging 12,000 volt line.

The line struck the radiator of the car. Winn stopped, started to alight from the car, was electrocuted as he touched the ground.

Shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday Mrs. Winn, worried because her husband had failed to return home Monday night or Tuesday, appealed to Murphy who went to look for him.

At 5:58 p.m. Tuesday the power company's graph showed another short somewhere on the system. That was when Murphy walked into the high tension line after having left his car, when headlights showed the stalled Winn car and the body beside it.

When Murphy failed to return home his wife called the sheriff, Jacka, undersheriff who was due to take office as sheriff Jan. 8, and Deputy Garland Ballhorst set out to hunt.

The officers approached in their car, saw the Murphy car parked and some distance away spotted the Winn car in the glare of their headlights.

Bodies of the victims were only a few feet apart. Leaving their car and approaching the scene afoot by flashlight Jacka and Ballhorst started to investigate. The time was 7:58 p.m.

The undersheriff walked into the waist high electric line. There was a blinding flash. Ballhorst was but a step or two behind Jacka. Had he been even with the undersheriff or touching his person Ballhorst also might have been killed.

Jacka's body fell over the high line, pressed it downward so it touched a green limb on a tree. That caused a short circuit and the wire burned in two. The Central electric graph showed this break occurred at 7:59 p.m.

All three victims fell within 20 feet of each other.

Ballhorst ran back to the sheriff's car and radioed for help. Firemen and ambulances made the run.

Winn had been dead more than 24 hours. Rescucitators were brought into action and artificial respiration methods were employed on bodies of the farmer and the officer until nearly midnight.

City police and the sheriff's office covered the scene of the tragedy for clues Wednesday.

Police Chief Herb Browning announced Wednesday night that 98 empty cartridge shells both .22 calibre long rifle and regular .22 calibre ammunition were collected at the spot where the men stood while firing at insulators.

A half dozen insulators on the double crossarms holding the electric line were shattered. Only two that were hidden from the hunters escaped, according to Chief Browning and Sheriff A. W. Wehahn.

The electric line apparently sagged when the insulators were shattered. Officers are convinced the men who are guilty of the shooting saw it drop to within about four feet of the ground and hang sagging in a northwest to southeast diagonal course across the road.

A day long investigation narrowed the time of the shooting to a 24 hour period. Last motorist known to have driven the road so far as officers were able to learn Wednesday, made the trip late Sunday afternoon.

That places time of the shooting just before dark on Sunday or sometime Monday.

The road is used by few. There is no bridge across the Arkansas river at that point and nearest farmhouse is about a mile away.

Investigators said the farmer closest to the area told them he heard shooting Sunday and Monday but saw no one. He added that duck hunters have been numerous along the river at that point and he thought nothing of it. (Hutchinson News Herald, November 30, 1950, page 3)


Three Killed Near Elkhart

Elkhart - Three people were killed and six persons were injured Friday afternoon in a two-vehicle accident northwest of Elkhart at the intersection of two county roads.

Killed were Archie Jacobs, 21, of Elkhart; Diane Black, 29, of Midwest City, Okla. And her unidentified infant, who was believed to be about two months old.

All three were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident which occurred 12.2 miles north and seven miles west of Elkhart. The accident was reported about 3 p.m.

Jacobs was the driver of a southbound truck and had as passengers: Arthur Jacobs of Arkansas, Dwayne Jacobs, 14 and David Jacobs, 19. Both Arthur and Dwaye Jacobs were reported in stable condition Friday night at the Morton County Hospital, Elkhart. David Jacobs was treated at the Elkhart hospital and transferred to a hospital in Amarillo, Tex.

The driver of the second vehicle was Ralph Black, 27, of Midwest City. He, too, was transferred to Amarillo after emergency treatment at Elkhart.

Passengers in the Black car included Amanda Black, 3 and Wayne Brimm, whose age was believed to be 7 years old. The two children were reported in stable condition at the Elkhart hospital. (Hutchinson News, November 27, 1976, page 1)


James Johnson Shot During Gun Fight in Hoxie Office While Interviewing Resident about Mental Condition

Hoxie - Flags are flying at half-staff at the Sheridan County Courthouse today in honor of Sheridan County Sheriff James Johnson, who was killed in the line of duty Thursday afternoon.

In what started as a discussion, Johnson was shot and killed by a rural Hoxie resident at the Sheridan County Sheriff's Office.

According to Kyle Smith deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at around 1:20 p.m. Johnson and deputy were talking to Steven Paul Reitcheck, 35, about getting medical treatment and possibly being committed.

There had been a series of problems in the past Smith said.

Smith said Reitcheck's father was hit and killed by someone driving under the influence 2-1/2 years ago and that Reitcheck was in denial and had not come to terms with it.

Earlier this week, Reitcheck was caught digging up his father's grave. A couple of weeks ago, he took a sledgehammer to his tombstone.

At some point during the discussion, Reitcheck pulled out a concealed handgun, a gunfight ensued and both Johnson and Reitcheck were fatally wounded.

Johnson, 54, was declared dead in the ambulance en route to Colby Municipal Airport where he was going to be flown to Wichita, Smith said.
Reitcheck was declared dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

The KBI was called in to assist with the investigation.

Smith said there was a great out pouring of assistance from local agencies, including the Decatur County Sheriff's Office, Decatur County Attorney, Hoxie Police Department, Gove County Sheriff's Office, Norton County Sheriff's Office and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

It's devastating when you lose your sheriff, Smith said. It's a small community and we're dealing with it the best we can.

Smith said there already has been a stress debriefing for the deputies and a debriefing for the people who were present at the time. More counseling opportunities are being arranged.

Johnson was elected in 1988 after serving with the Hoxie Police Department. He followed in his father's law enforcement footsteps. His father was Hoxie's chief of police for about 20 years.

He leaves behind a wife, Linda and five adult children.

Ellis County Sheriff Ed Harbin has known Johnson professionally for six years and never heard a negative word about him.

He was a pretty decent guy, Harbin said. I sure hated to see what happened. It's tragic. You just sit back and go wow. Our hearts go out to his family.

Sheridan County Clerk Paula Bielser became sheriff by state statue, but she immediately appointed Gove County Sheriff Allan Weber to serve as interim sheriff of Sheridan County.

We're filling all of the shifts at this time with outside agency help, just to do the general patrol stuff, Weber said. You're going to have your regular stuff that has to be done everyday.

Weber plans to use assistance from the Kansas Highway Patrol, along with sheriffs offices in Decatur, Graham, Norton, Thomas, Logan and Gove counties and police departments in Oakley, Colby, Hoxie, Oberlin and Hill City.

In instances such as this, the central committee of the party of the deceased nominates to the governor a person to serve as sheriff to fulfill the unexpired term.

Sheriff Johnson gave his life to protect others, and he will not be forgotten, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement issued by her office.

The death of Sheriff James Johnson is a tragedy not only for the Sheridan County Community, but for law enforcement officers and Kansans across our state.

Attorney General Phill Kline submitted a request to Sebelius that flags be lowered to half staff at the Memorial Building which houses the Office of the Attorney General and at the KBI Headquarters to honor Johnson. (Alton Telegraph, October 1, 2006)

Back to Index Page

Copyright © to Kansas Genealogy Trails' host & all Contributors
  All rights reserved