Kan. CO who died in line of duty to get headstone 94 years after death

Deputy Benjamin Franklin Hill was killed during an attempted jailbreak on Aug. 16, 1927


By Jason Tidd
The Wichita Eagle
        
WITCHITA, Kan. — The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office is dedicating a new tombstone to a deputy who was killed in an attempted jailbreak nearly 94 years ago, but never had a headstone to mark his final resting place.

The gravesite dedication ceremony for Deputy Benjamin Franklin Hill's headstone will be at 1 p.m. Sunday at Highland Cemetery, 1005 N. Hillside in Wichita.

Deputy Hill, who was known as Frank, died in the line of duty on Aug. 16, 1927, during an attempted jailbreak at the Sedgwick County Historical Courthouse.

Deputy Benjamin Franklin Hill is the only Black deputy of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office who has been killed in the line of duty.
Deputy Benjamin Franklin Hill is the only Black deputy of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office who has been killed in the line of duty. (Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office)

"Last year, during Police Week, members of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office traveled to the gravesites of our fallen deputies to place wreaths in honor of their service and ultimate sacrifice," Lt. Benjamin Blick said in a news release. "During this process, we discovered Deputy Hill's gravesite did not have a headstone to mark his final resting place. Active and retired law enforcement officers, the Greater Wichita Ministerial League and the Honore Adversis Foundation have since donated the required funds to purchase a headstone for Deputy Hill."

Hill is the only Black deputy of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office who has been killed in the line of duty. He was survived by his wife, Lulu Hill, and his 6-year-old daughter Lucia Hill.

Prior to his service with the sheriff's office, Hill was a lieutenant in the Wichita Fire Department.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Facebook event for the dedication states that law enforcement officials "worked to correct" the oversight after finding Hill did not have a grave marker. Hill and his wife were "very prominent business people in the African American community," with Lulu Hill operating a beauty shop above the Dockum pharmacy on Douglas decades before the sit-in.

The escape attempt

Archives of the Wichita Evening Eagle show that first-degree murder charges were filed against Jim Morris, Bill Bradshaw and Floyd Brewer the same day the trio was accused of shooting and killing Hill as they tried to escape the jail. Morris's wife was charged the next day after being accused of assisting in the attempted jailbreak.

Fellow prisoner Lonnie Long was credited with foiling the jailbreak.

Long had four more days to serve on a petty larceny charge when he heard a gunshot as he was working on the third floor. He saw three men taking the keys from the jailer's body and immediately spread the alarm. He warned the cook, who locked the kitchen door, cutting off the escape route.

The Eagle reported at the time that Morris's wife, Mary, had brought lunch to the jail for her husband shortly before noon. The woman yelled to her husband and waved a handkerchief as she left the jail, which officers regarded as a signal to start the escape attempt.

Hill was taking the lunch to the cell when he was confronted by the three suspects, who demanded the keys, then shot him in the side when he refused to hand them over.

Investigators determined the escape plans had been in the works for several days or weeks, with multiple inmates overhearing the conversations.

A gun was smuggled into the jail. The .38 caliber pistol was later found in a bookcase. They inmates made a blackjack club out of tinfoil wrapped in socks. The jail cell had four sawed-off broomhandles, which led officers to believe at least 10 men were planning on participating in the jail riot.

Bradshaw admitted that he snuck a steel file into the jail by hiding it in his shoe. Two steel saws were found hidden in beds, as well as pieces of sawed-off jail bars.

Police were searching for a possible getaway car that sped away after the jailbreak was failed.

Eight days after Hill's murder, the three men were sentenced to life in prison.

Mary Morris was charged with aiding in the escape attempt, but the charges were later dropped after the county attorney said there was insufficient evidence.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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