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Fallen peace officers recognized

National Police Week is May 9 through 15 with National Peace Officers Memorial Day on Saturday.

Marion County has been fortunate with no officers dying in the line of duty in the past 30 years.

However, this national day of recognition assures that no fallen officer will be forgotten.

In the course of Marion County history, five law enforcement officers have died while serving their communities.

Marion City Marshal Virgil Elmer Healea, 51, was shot and killed March 10, 1916, while questioning two men at a local gas station.

Florence Police Chief Adolph J. Eichenberger, 65, was shot and killed Sept. 17, 1929, when he interrupted a burglary at a local store.

Florence City Marshal Dave Break, 70, was shot and killed Oct. 9, 1949, when he stopped a suspected drunk driver.

Florence Police Chief Robert Wesley Rau died Oct. 30, 1975, when his service revolver accidentally discharged.

Goessel Reserve Officer John T. Morgan, 47, was shot and killed May 22, 1979, when he responded to a domestic dispute.

Fallen officers

Virgil Elmer Healea, Marion City Marshal, was killed at 3 a.m. March 10, 1916, according to an article in the March 17, 1916, issue of the Marion County Record .

Healea, a night watchman, investigated Chas R. Lower and Louis L. Myers when they stopped at Winkley’s Garage in an attempt to fill up their automobile.

Healea questioned Lower and Myers and something about Lower and Myers made the Marshal suspicious. Healea called Wichita and other places to verify the statements of the young men and found out they were lying to him.

When he went to search Myers, Lower rose from a seated position and as Healea was distracted Myers pulled out his firearm and pointed it at Healea. Lower then revealed his own weapon and pointed it at Healea while Myers changed his focus to garage attendant Otto Gruener who witnessed the entire scene.

Lower ordered Healea to raise his hands, but the marshal did not respond. Lower then charged Healea and fired a round that hit Healea in the forehead, killing him instantly.

Healea never drew his sidearm.

Lower and Myers fled the scene, but were later apprehended near Lost Springs. They were tried in Marion County.

A.J. Eichenberger

Florence City Marshal A.J. Eichenberger was killed in the early morning hours Sept. 17, 1929, in front of the Stone Dry Goods store, according to an article in the Sept. 19, 1929 issue of the Peabody Gazette Herald.

The shooting and Eichenberger’s call for help aroused L.W. Draper and Charles Larkin, who lived nearby and found Eichenberger by the west side of the store, where he had fallen in the parking lot. He had walked from the front of the store to the parking area.

Draper arrived at the Marshal’s side while he was still alive, but the two bullet wounds in his chest rendered Eichenberger unable to speak with only minutes left to live.

Florence police officers deduce that Eichenberger interrupted a trio of robbers, trying to break into the Dry Goods store.

Eichenberger fired his revolver five times and 12 shots were fired. Five shells were found in the center of the intersection, indicating that at least one of the assailants had been stationed at that point.

Eichenberger’s shooters were never found.

Dave Break

Florence Marshal Dave Break was killed Oct. 9, 1949, when trying to take an open bottle of liquor away from a Fred Stanley, who was stopped in his car, according to an article in the Oct.13, 1949 issue of the Peabody Gazette Herald.

Break’s neighbors, Louis Johnson and Amos Brenneman, ran to Break’s assistance after Stanley fired several shots. Brenneman exchanged shots with the killer while Johnson tried to help the wounded Marshal.

Stanley then ran into his house and shot himself in the head.

Last modified May 13, 2010

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