NORTHEAST OKLAHOMA – Notorious gangsters Bonnie and Clyde were responsible for the slayings of nine law enforcement officers during their two-year reign of terrorizing the countryside with their killings and robbing banks.

One of their victims was Commerce Constable William Cal Campbell.

Campbell, 61, was killed on April 6, 1934, in a spray of bullets. He was Bonnie and Clyde’s last victim, according to published reports.

Campbell’s death is just one of many fallen police officers honored by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial during National Police Week.

President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week.

A memorial to the fallen father of eight children is located in front of Commerce City Hall.

National Police Week is observed each May and a candlelight vigil is set for May 13th to honor all fallen officers, according to the memorial’s website.

The names of officers who died during the previous calendar year, as well as the names of the newly discovered historical line-of-duty deaths, are dedicated and read aloud during the vigil, the website states.

“The city of Commerce lost a good officer needlessly to a cowardly act,” said Commerce Police Chief Ernie Shelby. “More importantly, a family lost their beloved father and husband.”

I have spoken with people that knew Cal and they told me what a good man he was and how he loved his job and the people of Commerce.

Commerce Police Chief Ernie Shelby

Cal was the Constable for Division 2 of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office which was based in Commerce, but he will always be considered a member of the Commerce Police Department, he said.

The killing occurred five days after Bonnie and Clyde killed two highway patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas.

Parker, Barrow and Henry Methvin were traveling the muddy back roads near Commerce when their car got stuck. A passing motorist frightened by the guns stacked in Clyde Barrow’s car sped away and notified Commerce Police Chief Percy Boyd.

The Commerce law enforcement officers drove upon the Barrow gang as they were trying to free the car out of the mud.

Gunfire ensued and Campbell was fatally shot in the abdomen, near his left hip and his lifeless body was left in the middle of the road. Boyd was shot in the head and taken to Fort Scott, Kan. where he was released.

It was never known who killed Cal Campbell.

About six weeks after Campbell’s slaying, police ambushed and killed Bonne and Clyde outside Gibsland, La., on May 23, 1934.

Cal Campbell and family

Law Enforcement Officers Killed in the Line of Duty

Lieutenant John M. Brown

  • Cherokee Nation Marshal Service
  • Age: Not Available
  • End of Watch: December 28, 1845

Brown was stabbed to death by Charles Smith in retaliation for the shooting death of an outlaw, Bean Starr, according to published reports.

Sheriff Jesse Sunday

  • Cherokee Nation Marshal Service
  • Age: 44
  • End of Watch: September 21, 1897

Sunday succumbed to gunshot wounds received the previous day in the town of Rose, Delaware County, Oklahoma while attempting to question Martin Rowe, a man wanted for the murder of a store owner and the Sheriff-elect.

Rowe was convicted of Sunday’s murder and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to ten years in prison at Tahlequah. Three months later Rowe escaped and went to West Texas and later joined the Army. While in the Army all charges were dropped, and he came out of the Army a free man.

Deputy Sheriff W. H. Corder

  • Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
  • Age: Not Available
  • End of Watch: October 23, 1917

Corder attempted to raid the small store belonging to Douglas Jones in Picher to search for illegal whiskey. He was not able to search the store and returned the next morning, where he entered the store and was shot at least five times by Jones and died within the hour.

Jones was convicted in late April 1918 of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in prison.

Chief of Police Charles Stricker

  • Commerce Police Department
  • Age: 45
  • End of Watch: October 22, 1919

Stricker was shot and killed while attempting to stop a car that resembled a stolen vehicle. When the chief stepped off of the curb to flag the car down, the driver sped up and drove towards the chief. Stricker began firing his weapon at the tires of the vehicle. The driver of the car, later identified as Earl Blanchard, then fired his weapon fatally wounding the chief.

Blanchard and his wife Vida were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Their conviction was reversed in 1922 by the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals and a new trial was ordered for each. Earl Blanchard was retried in 1923 but the trial resulted in a deadlocked jury.

Chief of Police C. M. Fly

  • Commerce Police Department, Oklahoma
  • End of Watch Sunday, April 27, 1924
  • Age: 56

Fly was accidentally shot and killed during a raid on a gambling house. As the officers attempted to break down the locked door it came off its hinges and the officers threw it onto one of the dice tables. One of the suspects in the room threw the table at the officers and it struck one of the officer’s drawn guns, which discharged. The round struck and fatally wounded Fly.

Constable William Calvin Campbell

  • Commerce Police Department, Oklahoma
  • Age: 60
  • End of Watch: April 6, 1934

Campbell was shot and killed by the gangsters Bonnie and Clyde.

Merchant Policeman L. O. “Jack” Dunaway

  • Miami Police Department, Oklahoma
  • Age: 33
  • End of Watch: June 12, 1934

Dunaway was shot and killed as he and two other officers investigated three suspicious men sitting in a car. The three officers surrounded the car and asked what the men were doing. The three men inside opened fire, killing Dunaway. Frank Shinn, 21, briefly escaped and Leroy Dennison, 19, was killed at the scene. Jess Howard, 25, an escaped murderer from Missouri died later, according to the city’s website.

Deputy Sheriff Gerald Orvin Hodge

  • Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, Oklahoma
  • Age: 30
  • End of Watch: January 3, 1935

Hodge was leading several other officers in the search for ex-convict Buster Cooper, 27, who was wanted for several armed robberies in the area. The officers went to the home of Cooper’s sister near Picher. When Deputy Hodge went to the door and ordered that it be opened, a man opened the door and started backing up. Deputy Hodge followed the man inside. As Deputy Hodge entered the house, Buster Cooper ran into the room and shot the deputy. The other officers then opened fire shooting Cooper 27 times, killing him.

Chief of Police Lester Arthur “Chester” Shearhart

  • Vinita Police Department, Oklahoma
  • Age: 44
  • End of Watch: May 4, 1945

Shearhart and two other officers went to a farmhouse while searching for a forgery suspect, Silas Hardrick.  When they arrived at the farmhouse, the farmer told the officers the man they were looking for was in the barn behind the house. While the officers went to the barn, Hardrick came out of the house and hid in a ditch with a twelve-gauge shotgun. Locating no one in the barn, Shearhart came back to the front of the house. As he came back around to the front of the house and Hardrick fatally shot him in the heart

Hardrick, 75, maintained during his trial that his shotgun accidentally discharged. On September 13, 1945, Hardwich was acquitted of Shearhart’s death.

Deputy Sheriff John Doyle Lawrence

  • Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office
  • Age: 54
  • End of Watch: Monday, May 20, 1957

Lawrence was shot and killed when he and his partner stopped a vehicle driven by Jack D. Sloan, 27 who had just shot and wounded two state troopers.

They located the car near North Miami and followed it on a rural road before stopping it approximately one mile west of the city. As the officers approached the vehicle Sloan exited and opened fire, striking Deputy Lawrence in the neck. Deputy Lawrence’s partner was able to return fire and wound the suspect.

Sloan was later found in his home, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

William Kirby

  • Jay, Oklahoma Police Chief
  • Age: 42
  • End of Watch: Nov.  23, 1974

Kirby suffered a fatal heart attack while struggling with a man he had just arrested for being drunk in public.

The man started resisting as he and a sheriff’s deputy took the man into the jail. The two struggled with the prisoner up three flights of stairs until getting him into a jail cell.

Kirby collapsed moments later.

The man was charged with first-degree manslaughter in connection with Kirby’s death.

Police Officer John Henry Kerr

  • Picher Police Department
  • Age: 40
  • End of Watch: March 18, 1987

Kerr was killed in an automobile accident while in a high-speed pursuit.

Patrolman Brian Jeffery Tunnell

  • Miami Police Department
  • Age: 27
  • End of Watch: June 5, 1988

Tunnell was shot and killed while serving a felony warrant on Russell W. Haines. During the struggle, Haines was able to get control of Officer Gary Anderson’s duty weapon and fatally shot Tunnell. Anderson shot and killed Haines, according to the city’s website.

Trooper Randy Joe Littlefield

  • Oklahoma Highway Patrol
  • Grove, Okla.
  • Age: 36
  • End of Watch: January 15, 1990

Littlefield was killed when he was struck by a pickup truck while directing traffic around a stalled vehicle on State Highway 20 three miles east of Jay.

Chief of Police Donald E. Rhodes

  • Quapaw Police Department
  • Age: 43
  • End of Watch: October 28, 1995

Rhodes suffered a fatal heart attack after pursuing a dangerous driver. He was at the scene of an accident when a truck approached and screeched its tires. Fearing the suspect may have been intoxicated, Rhodes gave pursuit and was able to arrest the suspect. Shortly afterward, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Special Deputy Vernie Roberts

  • Delaware County, Oklahoma Sheriff’s Office
  • Age: 65
  • End of Watch: July 19, 1999

Roberts was shot and killed with his own weapon while transporting Slint Tate, 16,  from one juvenile facility to another.

Roberts was driving and his wife, Betty Jean, a reserve deputy, was in the front passenger seat. Tate, who was in the back seat, reached and grab Betty Jean Roberts around the neck and demanded Roberts pull the vehicle over and surrender his gun. After stopping and exiting the vehicle, a struggle ensued, and Tate gained control of the weapon and fatally shot Roberts twice. Tate stole the vehicle and was later captured after a short manhunt.
Tate was tried as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder on January 10, 2001, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Sheriff Jack Harkins

  • Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department
  • Age: 61
  • End of Watch: Dec. 11, 1999 

Patricia and Jack Harkins, who were married for 40 years, attended a party the night of the fatal stabbing. During the party, the couple began arguing over a custody issue involving their grandchildren. After the party, they left in separate cars.

Harkins died from a stab wound to his chest from a kitchen steak knife. Patricia pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree murder and served 11 months in prison.

Patricia Harkins testified during a reduced sentence hearing that in the last two years of their marriage, Jack had become abusive to her. She refused to answer the prosecutor’s additional questions about the abuse allegations.

Prosecutor David Anderson refuted her testimony that there had never been any evidence of abuse.

Deputy Sheriff Sean Freedom Cookson

  • Craig County Sheriff’s Office
  • Age: 23
  • End of Watch: February 27, 2017

Cookson succumbed to injuries sustained five days earlier when he was involved in a vehicle crash while en route to mandatory training.

Police Officer Matthew Ryan North

  • Bernice Police Department
  • Age: 34
  • End of Watch: March 20, 2021

North suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after confronting an armed felon.

The man produced a handgun and another officer was able to grab the gun as North, and other officers immediately took the man to the ground and took him into custody. A large amount of narcotics and currency were recovered from the home.

North began to experience chest pains during his next shift and sought medical treatment. He was discharged from the hospital but passed away after returning the following day.

Police Officer Lewis Franklin Cantey

  • Grand River Dam Authority Police Department
  • Age: 69
  • End of Watch: June 18, 2021

Cantey died due to complications from contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.

Sergeant John Lee Trout, Sr.

  • Bernice Police Department
  • Age: 66
  • End of Watch: August 25, 2021

Trout died from complications as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty.

Sergeant Shelby Dean Blackfox

  • Cherokee Nation Marshal Service
  • Age: 30
  • End of Watch: November 6, 2001

Blackfox was killed in a motorcycle accident while en route to meet a drug informant in Delaware County.

The motorcycle he was riding went out of control as he negotiated a curve. He was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Sources: The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc. and the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial