City Marshal John T. Thompson | City of Covington

Age: 38
Served: 11 months
April 20, 1868, to February 27, 1869

 

On February 5, 1869 about 6:30 p.m., Florence resident John Bentley was on his way home with a load of groceries in his wagon. He was stopped by three highwaymen about one hundred yards above Louisburg and robbed of his money and silver watch. Two brothers, Bernard and Henry Dressman, came upon the scene and chased the robbers all the way to Covington where they found and informed City Marshal Thompson.

In order to head them off, Marshal Thompson responded to the Covington and Cincinnati (Suspension) Bridge and found three men who matched the descriptions exactly. Two had already paid their toll and were crossing the bridge. Marshal Thompson arrested the third while he was transacting his toll. As they quietly walked from the bridge, the prisoner suddenly pulled a pistol and shot Marshal Thompson in the abdomen and ran.

Marshal Thompson was carried to his home at 77 East Third Street across from City Hall. Doctors Kearns and Quirner responded. They found that the bullet had entered his abdomen, but were unable to find the ball, which they believed came to rest near the spinal cord. He spent the night quietly, but they considered his condition very critical.

Within 48 hours, several men had been arrested on suspicion. Two were released after questioning. Another was arrested on suspicion on February 8; and another in Brookville, Indiana on February 19. These all were released and two more were brought in on March 1.

By February 8, Marshal Thompson’s condition had improved substantially. His physicians were confident of recovery by February 10. But, he deteriorated through the month and on February 28 he died at 3:21 p.m. His autopsy showed that the bullet caused pressure to the spinal cord which eventually, and inevitably, caused his death. He was the first Covington law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty.

Marshal Thompson’s funeral was held in the afternoon of March 2, 1869, at the St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati and was conducted by Father Verdin. He was buried in Linden Grove Cemetery. The procession through the streets was one of the largest ever witnessed in Covington. It was composed of citizens on foot and in carriages, the Catholic Benevolent Society, police force, firemen, City Council, and nearly every officer in the Covington government.

The investigation into the marshal’s death continued. On the day of the funeral the Coroner held an inquest. He ruled it a homicide, but without any indication as to suspects. The two remaining suspects were released on March 3. Suspects continued to be found, questioned, and released into 1870, but the case was never solved.

This narrative was researched and revised on January 23, 2013 by retired Cincinnati Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society. If anyone has any information, artifacts, archives, or imagesof this officer or the incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Director at Director@police-museum.org.