· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge: Line-of-Duty Deaths·
It’s September 1, 1927. Reno County Sheriff Fay Brown is driving to Wichita to attend a funeral service for a Wichita motorcycle officer who was killed in a pistol battle with bandits.
Fay understood death, or at least the ramifications of death. When both his parents died while he was a young child, his life drastically changed. Fay was farmed out, adopted by George Gorman, an elderly farmer, and raised with the help of George’s grown daughter, Mary, still living in their Indiana home.
In a lucid moment before Nancy Orilla Pressnall’s death, Fay’s dying mother told him he’d been a loving son, then tried to explain her unfortunate circumstances, concluding, “It’s not the way I planned it or wanted it, but it’s the way it is.”
Fay considered Joseph Marshall, 28, the fallen Wichita police officer. His death was not the way he had planned it or wanted it, but he had understood the risk every time he put on his uniform. So had his wife, Marie Fair. Joe was shot and killed while on duty attempting to apprehend three fleeing felons who had held up a business in Newton.
Joseph left behind his wife and two boys, Marvin, 4, and Luther, 5.
Fay wouldn’t be talking to the little boys at the funeral. He didn’t know them and he would probably never know them. But if he had a minute with the youngsters, he considered: What would I say?
Try and remember the good times with your father because the memories will gradually fade away. Keep your mother close, help her, and pray she stays in good health. You can overcome this deep personal loss; I did–mostly. Count on your brother. My brother, Dallas, was my hero. And, if you never have children, they’ll never be orphans.
Undersheriff Ed Cunningham had wished Fay well when the sheriff departed for Wichita. Ed was the man in charge whenever Fay was out of the county—whether on business or on the rare occasion when Fay and Cora traveled to visit relatives.
About the time of the Wichita funeral, Ed realized he had been aimlessly driving around town. Unconsciously, he had driven by 208 Ave G west, the Hutchinson address where he had been shot in the face by a bootlegger the night of August 18, 1923.
Ed felt a severe headache coming on. He pulled his car over and recognized Methodist Hospital, the place he was taken after being critically injured.
The undersheriff parked his car and massaged his left cheek bone, his lower ear, and the muscles of his neck. Ed recalled his close call with death, but he’d survived with minor complications. Managing headaches was better than the alternative six feet under.
If Ed had attended the Wichita funeral, he would have driven his motorcycle. Joe Marshall was, or had been, a motorcycle cop, just like Ed had been for a time when he was on the city force. Marshall was also shot in the face, but he was riding in the side car when he and his partner attempted to stop the armed bandits.
Ed knew that individual officers wouldn’t be missed at the funeral because a large crowd was expected. Lawmen from around the state would gather to pay their respects.
Since Marshall had been a police officer for only two years, there would be many attendees who had never personally met Joe. But lawmen often felt a bond with one another as though they were family. Another family member had unexpectedly died. Marshall, like many before him, had made the ultimate sacrifice, losing his life while attempting to stop dangerous criminals.
Both Ed and Fay remembered Reason Sherman Monroe, who answered to his middle name. Sherman was a Hutchinson police officer killed in the line of duty on July 2, 1924. Fay and Ed had both worked with him when they were on the city police force. Monroe covered a beat in the south end of the city. Before that, Monroe had worked for twenty years as a guard at the reformatory, (also known as the Kansas State Industrial Reformatory, or KSIR).
Sherman, 57, was survived by his wife, Angie Rachel Davison Sherman, 60, and a brother. They had no children.
Monroe was murdered by Maynor Cheek, 30, who had come from Mangum, Oklahoma, and who did odd bits of carpentry work around Hutch.
The Hutchinson Police were called after Cheek had a family row. Cheek had slapped his wife, Margaret Smith, 22, and drew a gun on her after he became angry. She had plans to go downtown and refused to stay home. After Maynor’s assault, Margaret told him, “You’re a coward to pull a gun on a woman.”
When Monroe responded to the call at 202 Ave B west, he learned that Cheek had walked to the Brubaker grocery store on Adams Street, between Avenue A and Avenue B, while holding Harding, his two-year-old son. It sounded innocent enough, father and son going to purchase cookies, but Officer Monroe also learned that Cheek wasn’t just carrying his baby; he was reportedly carrying a gun.
Officer Monroe didn’t hesitate. He went directly to the store about 8:15 p.m., on Tuesday, July 1st. When he was within twenty feet of the grocery, he observed Cheek with the small boy on his left arm. As Monroe approached, Cheek drew the gun with his right arm and fired, then fired again, and again. Because of the danger of hitting the child, Monroe was unable to return gunfire.
Three of Cheek’s steel jacketed bullets from his .25 calibre automatic, ripped into Officer Monroe. The Hutchinson officer’s wounds included one through the left lung, just above the heart, and two in his right arm.
After the shooting, according to investigating officers, Cheek ran to his home, returned Harding, grabbed more shells for his gun, and declared to his wife, “I got one of them and I’ll come back after you.” He then ran west on Avenue B and escaped.
A three-hour manhunt ended when Cheek was captured about 11 o’clock in an alley at the rear of 715 North Monroe Street. He had apparently been headed to his wife’s parents’ house.
In critical condition, sinking slowly, Monroe was able to maintain consciousness while at Grace Hospital, reporting details of the shooting. The following day, July 2nd, he died.
Monroe, born in Tennessee, and Angie Rachel Davison, born in Indiana, were married in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1899.
In Reno County, the hand of justice moved quickly. Cheek plead guilty to a charge of first degree murder, was convicted, and sentenced to imprisonment for life in the state penitentiary. All this occurred prior to the victim’s funeral.
Cheek was taken to Lansing on July 5, 1924, just four days after the fatal shooting took place. Undersheriff Fay Brown accompanied the prisoner.
Fay recalled talking to Cheek at the county jail and on their trip to Lansing. Cheek told him that he never intended to shoot Monroe, that the only thing he remembered was the officer coming up to him and asking, “What’s the trouble?” It was wishful thinking, but Cheek kept hoping that his parents, living in Gray, Oklahoma, wouldn’t learn of what he’d done.
Margaret Smith Cheek filed for divorce several months after the judge sentenced her husband to life in prison. There were times Margaret and Harding missed Maynor. However, Harding, who witnessed the murder of Sherman Monroe by his daddy, had nightmares to overcome. Together, Margaret and her son were ready to start a new life, out of the control of a controlling man.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.