Paul Whitehead pulled over the car in the early morning of Aug. 10, 1967, not knowing three fugitives who’d escaped from an Indiana state prison were inside, armed with shotguns.

His partner, Detective Paul Merritt, would later say they stopped the 1966 Pontiac Bonneville after it pulled out of a gas station at 29th and O streets because “it was from out of state and kind of beat up.”

Whitehead and Merritt shined their cruiser lights on the Bonneville and approached from the back. Whitehead took the driver’s side to check IDs while Merritt stood behind the car on the passenger side.

Whitehead asked the men to get out, and two of them did -- holding 12-gauge shotguns. In the firefight that followed, the 30-year-old father of three was shot at close range.

Whitehead died, one of six Lincoln police officers killed on the job over the department's 143-year history. More than 70 officers, City Council members, relatives and residents honored them Monday as part of National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which is itself part of National Police Week.

Police caught James Byrd at the scene because he was hurt in the firefight. They caught the other two -- Arthur Murray and Howard Crooks -- a few hours later after a search including more than 100 officers.

The men had escaped a week earlier by scaling a 42-foot prison wall at the Indiana State Penitentiary.

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The other five Lincoln officers killed in the line of duty are: Charles Hall, who died March 31, 1917; Marion Marshall, Sept. 9, 1932; Richard Leyden, Sept. 26, 1949; Frank Soukup, Dec. 16, 1966; and George Welter, Feb. 9, 1968.

The Nebraska State Patrol held a ceremony in Grand Island earlier Monday, honoring the 137 law enforcement officers killed across the state. Three of them died during the past year, and their names will be etched into the Law Enforcement Memorial’s granite walls.

They are Scotts Bluff County Corrections Officer Amanda Baker, Union Pacific Railroad Special Agent William Ransom and Oconto Town Marshal Frederick Schlote.

In Lincoln, officers wore dress uniforms, brought in their color guard, sang ”Heroes Behind the Badge” and wore black elastic bands over their badges. Chief Jim Peschong read off the fallen officers' names and told the stories of how they died on duty.

“It’s an acknowledgment that he was killed while doing something intrinsically good,” Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly told the crowd.

He said the annual memorial serves not just the relatives and friends of those who died, but the community as a whole.

“Their stories live on in a way that would not be possible without a yearly gathering,” he said. “Society makes a decision to retain these stories by this verbal, audible, visual ceremony, all to leave a lasting impression on the mind.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7395 or jedwards@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSEdwards.


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