After the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, Kentucky National Guardsmen were posted in Newport at the C&O Railroad Bridge where it crossed the Licking River. On July 11, 1917, near daybreak and after a night of binge drinking, five soldiers were caught stealing milk from a saloon at Hodge and Brighton Streets. The saloon’s owner, Frank Bahlman, held three – Quartermaster Sergeant Matthew White and Privates John Short and James Powell – at gunpoint and called Newport Police Headquarters. Two others got away.
Sergeant Kolhoven, Patrolman Charles Mullen, and Patrol Chauffer Thomas Hollihan responded. After arresting the three, they found a fourth, Private George King (24) of Company C, Second Kentucky Infantry, at 9th and Patterson Streets. Sergeant Kolhoven got out of the car to arrest King. When advised of his arrest, King yelled, “Like Hell you are!” leveled his rifle and shot Sergeant Kolhoven in the abdomen. He then held the other officers at bay with the rifle and, after a short time, he fled.
Sergeant Kolhoven died before doctors could reach him. His body was taken to his home at 1109 Central Avenue.
Sergeant Kolhoven was survived by his father, John Kolhoven, and sister, Mrs. Anthony Freiberg. The funeral was held from Mrs. Frieberg’s home at 1106 Central Avenue with services held at Corpus Christi Church at 9 a.m. on July 17, 1917. Included in the attendance were the members of the Newport Police Department, Newport Lodge of Elks, Madison Club, and Sons of German Pioneers. He was then escorted to and buried in St. Joseph Cemetery on John’s Hill Road in Wilder.
After killing Sergeant Kolhoven, Private King fled to the National Guard camp on the Licking River where he reported to Sergeant E. A. Gillespie saying, “I have killed a man.” He was then taken to Newport Police Headquarters where he was charged with Murder. When word got out that Sergeant Kolhoven had been murdered, groups of men began to gather at the jail. Newport Mayor A. J. Livingston quickly took action and ordered Private King removed to Covington.
The other three soldiers were brought to court in the morning and each was convicted of Petit Larceny and sentenced to one year in jail. Those cases were appealed to the Governor Stanley. On July 19, 1917 a writ of habeas corpus was filed for the three soldiers and a hearing was set for July 21 in front of Judge Wolff. Judge Wolff dismissed the Petit Theft charges and remanded them back to Police Court with charges only of drunkenness and disorderly conduct. On July 23, 1917, the cases were continued to July 25 and then again to the 28th. Their final disposition is not known.
Private King’s father, Simon King, petitioned the United States Attorney to file for a writ of habeas corpus for his son. In Lexington, Lieutenant W. Clarke Otte, Judge Advocate of the First Brigade, Kentucky Infantry recommended to the Central Department of the U. S. Army that King be court martialed rather than tried in a civil court. On August 11, 1917 the Campbell County Grand jury announced an indictment for Murder of King. In Frankfurt, Federal Judge Cochran, on September 24, 1917, ruled that the military authorities have exclusive authority to try soldiers for cases of alleged murder. King was taken to Camp Stanley following the ruling.
King’s Court-martial was held in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on November 20, 1917. All the witnesses were civilians and law enforcement from Newport, including the Campbell County Coroner and Newport detectives. King was defended by Lieutenant Otte, Lieutenant Logan Rock, and Lieutenant Colonel Frank L. Ripley of the 149th Infantry. Their sole defense was that the officer was reaching for his own revolver when shot. Captain Keith W. Wise, Judge Advocate, argued for the government. The proceeding ended on the 22nd and the decision of the court was sent to Washington for review before it was announced. Washington approved and it was announced that he had been acquitted because “the officer made a motion as to draw a revolver.”
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This narrative was researched and revised on July 5, 2013 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President, with research assistance from retired Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society Historian. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.