Patrolman Benjamin Franklin Duncan II| Latonia Police Department

Age: 59
Served: 3 years

Frank was born during 1848 to Benjamin Franklin Duncan I and Moaning Duncan in Gallatin County, Kentucky. He and Scott W. “Dock” Hopkins were life-long friends in or around Glencoe, Kentucky. By all accounts, they remained friends up until Dock Hopkins killed him.

After 1870, Frank moved from Gallatin County and began a family with his new wife, Mary, who, by 1898, gave birth to ten children. Frank made a living as a house painter, but sometime after 1900 he joined the Latonia Police Department. By 1908, they were residing at 140 Oakland Avenue in Rosedale. His brother was a minister of the Latonia Christian Church. His oldest daughter, Grace, was a school teacher. Frank Duncan was a respected and well-liked member of the community, known to be a “splendid officer and a kind-hearted and courteous gentleman.”

Dock Hopkins operated a saloon at 741 Main Street (now Decoursey Avenue) with his brother Ed. There were occasional problems at the bar including, a year or two earlier, a killing in the bar. There was also a general complaint about saloons remaining open past the midnight closing time, and that fights and gambling were common. Eventually, a group called the Latonia Law and Order League, made up of congregations from multiple churches, called for strict enforcement of liquor laws and the dismissal of police officers who failed to enforce those laws.

Between midnight and 1 a.m. on the morning of June 19, 1908 Patrolman Duncan went into his old friend Dock Hopkins’ saloon, apparently to close it down. An argument ensued and Hopkins pulled a Colt .41 caliber revolver and shot Patrolman Duncan in the back and chest.

Latonia Police Chief John Hamlon and his officers responded, as did a crowd of 500 people intent on lynching Hopkins. Dr. T. B. Winnes was called, but Patrolman Duncan was dead before the doctor arrived. Kenton County Sheriff George H. Davison was called and took with him Deputies Jack O’Meara and Charles Rothenhoefer and Special Deputies Sheets and Walker in a Covington patrol wagon. Upon his arrival, he found Patrolman Duncan’s unfired revolver several inches from his hand and Hopkins barricaded in a room inside the saloon threatening to shoot anyone who tried to enter.

The Latonia officers had already fired several shots through the door, but they missed Hopkins. Hopkins finally allowed Deputy O’Meara to enter and O’Meara talked him into surrendering. Hopkins, either “drunk or overly excited,” told the sheriff that he would not let anyone tell him what time to close his saloon. He was put in a patrol wagon and taken to the Kenton County jail.

Patrolman Duncan was survived by his wife, Mary D. (Norman) Duncan; nine children, including Grace L. Duncan (30), Norman O. Duncan (27), Florence M. Duncan (24), Benjamin F. Duncan III (22), Mona Eyre Duncan (21), Frank Duncan (20), Sallie O. Duncan (18), Edward P. Duncan (16), and Forrest B. Duncan (10); four sisters, Mrs. J. D. Lindsey, Mrs. Mary Brown, Mrs. Lou Taylor, and Mrs. Mattie Poland; and one brother, Rev. P. H. Duncan.

Visitation was held at the Duncan home on Oakland and conducted by Rev. H. C. Runyan on Sunday afternoon, June 21, 1908. Many wreaths, from police officials, the fire department, and individual friends, surrounded the body. On Monday morning, June 22, the remains were taken to Glencoe, Kentucky. A large contingent of former neighbors and friends, in a long line of vehicles stretching 1½ miles, took him to the Ellis Family Cemetery at Sayresville and Dry Creek Roads in Sparta. He was buried next to his parents, Benjamin and Moaning Duncan.

A coroner’s inquest returned a verdict of Murder. One bullet had entered the lower edge of Patrolman Duncan’s left shoulder blade, went through both lungs, and out his right side. One had entered in the breast and came out near the lower edge of the right ear. These indicated that he was shot once from the side and once in the back. Two other bullets lodged in the wall behind where Duncan was standing. Hopkins admitted shooting Patrolman Duncan, but asserted that it was done in self-defense.

The Kenton County Grand Jury indicted Hopkins for Murder the next day and the judge refused to allow Hopkins out on bond. A court date of July 6, 1908 was set for the trial, but the only witness could not be found. On August 4, 1908 the judge set a bond and Hopkins was released. The Duncan family sued Hopkins on September 25, 1908. On December 13, 1912, after numerous delays and without the witness having been found, both the criminal and civil cases were dismissed. Hopkins was never prosecuted.

Covington annexed Latonia the following year during 1909.

This narrative was revised May 31, 2014 by retired Cincinnati Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer, Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President with significant research conducted by retired Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society. If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding this officer or incident, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.

 

Walter Tilman Duncan, Lena Roxana Duncan, Roy Edwin Duncan, Edna Murl Duncan, Emmett Anderson Duncan, Louis Jeanette Duncan, Glencoe, Kentucky, F. W. Hopkins