Nearing the 150th anniversary of his death, Mobile Police Department (MPD)’s earliest known fallen officer was honored during this year’s National Police Week.
Mobile’s law enforcement community gathered at Public Safety Memorial Park on Thursday for its annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service to honor the lives of 15 serving and retired officers who died in 2021.
Those to be remembered and honored at the service were:
- William “Bill” Thompson Sr., Chaplain, Mobile Police Department
- Wesley “Wes” K. Sansing, Retired, Mobile Police Department
- Johnny L. Thompson, Retired, Mobile Police Department
- John W. Hicks, Chaplain, Mobile Police Department
- Thomas C. Ernest, Retired, Mobile Police Department
- Michael A. Shavers, Retired, Mobile Police Department
- William “Bill” Mingus, Retired, Mobile Police Department
- Julie G. Thomas, Retired, Mobile Police Department
- Tommy Wayne Cheatham, Retired, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
- Alvin Leo Abbett, Retired, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
- Oscar Davis Kyles, Retired, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
- James “Jim” Young, Retired, Mobile County Sheriff’s Office
- Larry Lavender, Retired, Mobile County Sheriff’s Office
- Patrick Pyle, Retired, Mobile County Sheriff’s Office
- Clarence Washington, Active, Alabama Port Authority
In addition to those lost in 2021, retired MPD major Wilbur W. Williams also honored the life of Officer Jeremy Lynch, 37, who died June 3, 1872, as the result of being stabbed while on duty, making him the earliest known officer death for MPD. The rediscovery of Lynch’s death brings MPD’s list of fallen officers to 22.
Williams is MPD’s historian emeritus and said he stumbled upon records of Lynch’s death by coincidence two to three years ago. Research efforts since that time to dig through old newspaper clippings and confirm facts culminated on Thursday with the official recognition of Lynch during the memorial ceremony.
Discovering the forgotten officer
Lynch was a 23-year-old Irish immigrant who came to Mobile in the 1850s. He gained citizenship on Nov. 20, 1858. Records indicate Lynch had joined the Mobile Police Department as early as 1866.
Williams said it was very common for Irish immigrants to be hired as law enforcement at that time.
In 1872, a new police chief, William Barlow, had been recruited to oversee the department. Williams said the hire was interesting as Barlow had previously been employed by the Mobile Register.
Barlow immediately started efforts to revitalize the department, according to Williams, and the first thing he proposed was that the Mobile City Council issue new badges and uniforms.
This proposal was recorded in city council meetings that Williams ran across while doing research in the Mobile’s city archives.
Williams said he was following up on this new badge order attempting to piece some parts of the department’s history together. During his research, he ran across a mention of Lynch being killed in the line of duty.
“I knew his name wasn’t on our list of slain officers,” Williams said.
The event of his slaying
Poring over thousands of feet of microfilm, Williams said he found that on Monday, May 27, 1872, Lynch was on foot patrol on Royal Street. Between Madison and Canal streets, Lynch and his partner encountered a brawl in a large crowd. Williams said Lynch pushed through the crowd in an effort to detain an individual at the heart of the fight and was stabbed in the chest.
The wound was life-threatening and punctured Lynch’s left lung, and he was treated at an officer’s quarters on Conti Street. He was later moved to his residence on South Lawrence Street.
While being treated, Lynch told other officers he recognized who assaulted him as a man named Nat Sylvester, and a large-scale manhunt was launched immediately but without success. It wouldn’t be until July 1879 that Slyvester would be apprehended in Pensacola. He was returned to Mobile where he was tried, convicted and condemned to life in prison.
Lynch succumbed to his injuries on June 3, 1872. A newspaper clipping at the time described Lynch as well-respected and one of the most efficient officers on the force. A funeral was held at St. Vincent’s church with all of MPD’s 91-man force dressed in their new uniforms and badges.
“I’m proud for this officer to be afforded his rightful place in history in the Mobile Police Department,” Williams said. “We all give some, but officer Jeremy Lynch gave all.”
Marking his place in history
Lynch’s death is now the earliest account of a fallen officer in MPD history. Officer Edward McGrath Morris who was killed in 1901 was previously the earliest account.
According to records kept by Officer Down Memorial Page, Lynch is Alabama’s third-oldest account of an officer killed in the line of duty. Montgomery Constable Silas Goree was killed Jan. 1, 1829; Cherokee County Sheriff Lansford Stallings was killed Dec. 4, 1845.
Williams said Lynch’s name will be engraved on the fallen officer memorial at Public Safety Memorial Park. He said MPD Police Chief Paul Prine has already submitted the application to the Law Enforcement Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C., for inclusion on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Despite a comprehensive search, Williams said there are no known photos of Lynch, and the closest thing that has to represent him is one of the original badges MPD officers were commissioned at the time. Williams said he does know Lynch was married with four children but has not been able to trace his genealogy to any living descendants. Making matters more complicated, there was a second officer named Jeremy Lynch serving in MPD at the time.
“This has been a most interesting history project for me. I look at it as the same principle in the military to ‘leave no man behind.’ I don’t want to think that there has been a person that gave his life for the citizens of Mobile who have disappeared in history,” Williams said.
He asked that anyone with possible genealogical connections or information on Lynch contact him by email at [email protected]
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