After the loss of Officer Faulkner and Sheriff Schofield, I remembered what the sheriff said when he dedicated OFFICER DOWN. He was referring to the officers that died in the line of duty here in Peoria, Illinois. “I dedicate this book in their memory may they never be forgotten.” Let me tell you about four dedicated police officers that lost their lives protecting the citizens of Peoria. Oh, you don’t know them, they are long forgotten, and that’s why I called them “The Forgotten Four.”
CONSTABLE ARTHUR SMITH
Constable Arthur Smith was his name, a tough law officer that had to play politics to be able to do his duty as a police officer. In his time, Peoria elected five constables, and the folks in town considered them “Their Police Officers,” simply because constables were elected lawmen.
It was June 12, 1922, Constable Smith and his partner, Joe Turner were on patrol out near what is now known as Newman Golf Course. It was a rainy, coolish night and the two men expected little trouble. They drove out Easton Road, a narrow, gravel county road where they spotted two cars off to the side of the road. Turner, the driver, stayed in the car, as Smith got out to investigate, calling out as he did so. “Hello over there,” he yelled. The silence of the night was shattered by a single shot, then Bang! Bang! Bang! Three more rang out in rapid succession. Moments later Constable Smith was dead. He was all of thirty-four when he died, leaving a wife and two children.
OFFICER CHARLES E. DeBOLT
It was July 4, 1924, a busy, busy time in the Peoria parks, thousands of people in fact, used to use the parks, and park district police officer Charles E. DeBolt, like his fellow officers were busy indeed. “Chuck,” as his friends called him, was once a city cop, but now he was doing what he really wanted to do, ride a motorcycle, enforce the law, and get paid for it. Only twenty-six, Officer DeBolt was a happy man.
He paid special attention to the kids, talking to them, warning them of dangers, kidding with them. They loved Officer DeBolt, and he reveled in their attention. Presently stationed in Grandview Park, “Chuck” was kept busy keeping the holiday and Sunday drivers in check. He despised speeders, reckless drivers that endangered the folks that walked beneath the shade trees. That July 4th, he sat on his cycle talking to some young picnickers when he saw an open touring car race by. Chuck pulled on his cap and roared after the speeding car. Moments later the cycle’s front wheel began to slide on loose gravel and Officer DeBolt lost control. Soon he was airborne… then he thudded to the ground. Officer DeBolt died seconds later. Young, easy going DeBolt left a widow, a fourteen-year-old daughter, and sadly a two-week-old daughter to fend for themselves.
OFFICER DAVID GAUL
It was August 4, 1937, it was hot, and the parks, as usual were loaded with folks trying to get some relief from the awful heat. Peoria Park District Officer David W. Gaul was fretting over a very large group of kids that were picnicking in Bradley Park over where the tennis courts were. He had decided to stay right there and look after them. He parked his motorcycle under a tree and stood out in the middle of the street, right there by the Oriental Bridge. He meant to keep the kids out of the street and make himself visible to the cars. He was doing just that when his attention was called to a car coming around the bend. The officer waved as he walked forward. The 1930 Coupe struck the officer, tossing him in the air. He landed some twenty feet away with a sickening thud. Officer Gaul had multiple wounds, as well as broken legs and arms. He died soon after they got him to Saint Francis Hospital. Officer David Gaul had a brother and three sisters, thankfully no wife or kids.
OFFICER CHARLES BARDEN
It was the last week of August 1938, a month of hot, sticky, miserable temperatures, and on the twenty-fourth, Officer Charles E. Barden was relieved to look up and see clouds. Folks had been praying for rain, maybe today was the day. He’d been having trouble with his motorcycle, and when he reported over to Glen Oak Park, he was told to take it over to maintenance and have it fixed. He drove from the garage at Northmoor and tested the cycle out North Knoxville. On the way back he looked down to check the kickstand. Suddenly he was off the side of the road and before he could regain control, he was heading for a huge truck parked in front of the old Illinois Police Headquarters there on Knoxville. He slammed into the steel grill of the truck and was impaled there when workers ran up to him. Officer Charles Barden died moments later. Charles Barden was a police officer all of six weeks. For years he had made good money as a laborer and rose to business manager for Local 165. Still, he had a hankering to be a police officer and when the chance came, he never looked back. He died doing the one thing he loved more than anything, except for his wife, whom he left behind. Barden was thirty-four when he gave his life in the line of duty.*
After these four stories were published I spent almost two years getting all of them accepted on police memorials. With the help of a lot of people they have their own Stone Memorial at the entrance to Lower Grand View Drive and are on the police monuments in Springfield, Illinois and Washington, DC.