Remembering fallen officers in Jackson County

If you walk into the Seymour Police Department lobby, a quick turn to the left will bring three plaques into view.

Those plaques are not awards for notoriety, but a memorial for the city officers who have fallen in the line of duty.

The plaques feature the Seymour police badge on the top, and each officer is pictured along with their story and date of their death. Two were shot, while a third was struck by an intoxicated driver.

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An Indiana State Police trooper also was shot in the line of duty in Jackson County, and he is honored with a stretch of road named after him.

This week was National Police Week, where many throughout communities across the nation highlight the contributions made by officers each day.

As the week has drawn to an end, local police have remembered those who have fallen here.

Here are the stories of each who were killed in the line of duty in Jackson County.

John Pfaffenberger, June 6, 1934

Pfaffenberger, 38, was shot as he was trying to stop a vehicle carrying two men who robbed a gas station 5 miles west of Seymour.

The chase continued until it reached Tipton and Chestnut streets, where Pfaffenberger was shot in his right side.

The two men who killed Pfaffenberger received life sentences. They had stolen seven gallons of gasoline before the incident took place.

Pfaffenberger was reported to have been an officer who was “slow to be aroused, but who went about his duty in a determined way when he saw force as necessary” in a June 7, 1934, report in The Tribune announcing his death.

The Tribune also reported that he was well-known and worked as an officer “to the best of his abilities.”

He, who is buried at Riverview Cemetery, was survived by his mother, wife and five children.

Earl D. Brown, Aug. 31, 1955

Brown was shot by a man as he responded to a report of an armed man acting strange on State Road 11 about 400 feet south of the Jackson-Bartholomew county line.

Brown, 42, was shot twice, once on the left side and the other in the abdomen. He had served as a trooper since Oct. 16, 1940, and was stationed at the Seymour Post in 1946.

Brown was survived by his parents, two brothers, wife and two children.

On the 57th anniversary of the shooting, the state named the stretch between the 44- and 45-mile-marker on State Road 11 after Brown. His children traveled from Wisconsin and Ohio to attend the ceremony.

Donald M. Winn, Nov. 7, 1961

Winn was shot Oct. 28, 1961, while he and another officer were searching Dependable Auto, 209 E. Second St., after a citizen reported hearing glass breaking there.

Gunfire broke out between law enforcement and two burglars as the officers investigated the report.

Winn, 38, was struck in the lower right side of his chest. He was taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, where he underwent surgery. He died 10 days later.

Winn was an 11-year veteran and served as chief for nearly a year. The local Fraternal Order of Police lodge bears his name. He was the son of an Indiana State Police sergeant.

The two men received life sentences for Winn’s murder.

Jack W. Osborne, Aug. 15, 1981

Osborne was a five-year veteran of the Seymour Police Department and was assisting the Indiana State Police at a crash on Interstate 65 near the 48-mile-marker.

Osborne was checking the damage to a guardrail along the interstate when a man from San Francisco struck him. That man was found to be driving under the influence.

The city’s assistant police chief at the time, Max Pearcy, said Osborne was an “above-average officer.”

The man was convicted and sentenced to two years for Osborne’s wrongful death. In 1980, Osborne had been recognized three times for his work on two armed robberies and a theft.

He was survived by his wife and three siblings.

Local law enforcement leaders share thoughts

Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer is all too familiar with the dangers of the job. On May 8, 2014, he was shot twice in the line of duty.

Meyer said there were some doubts about whether he would want to return to law enforcement after he was shot, but he ultimately knew he had to.

“This is my calling,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

Looking back on that time, Meyer said he feels grateful.

“It’s actually happy memories because I wasn’t seriously hurt,” he said.

But when Meyer considers the families of those who have died in the line of duty, it’s almost too much of a thought to bear.

“I always think about the families who may lose their father, husband or son,” he said as he became emotional.

Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said many from the community have reached out throughout the week to thank officers.

“It’s always good to hear from the community and have a positive interaction with them because most people call the police during their most challenging times,” he said.

Abbott said now is the most demanding time in law enforcement because of how society has changed. He said there aren’t enough courts, rehabilitation facilities, mental health care and more.

That doesn’t even take into account the role social media plays in an officer’s daily routine.

Those issues present challenges because police are caught in between a number of situations.

“We have to play nearly all those roles to help people every day,” he said.

But Abbott said the career is a rewarding one.

“Getting to help people each day is about as good as it gets,” he said.