Patrolman George S. Lentz | Hamilton Police Department

Patrolman George Lentz
Patrolman George Lentz

Age:     49
Served:  10 years
April 25, 1908 to August 6, 1918

George Lentz was born October 20, 1868 in Fairfield Township, Ohio, along with two brothers and a sister, to Walter and Margaret (Schambach) Lentz who immigrated to the United States from Germany after they married.  George began his adult life as a farmer and, for a time around 1900, he owned the farm with a partner.  He was working as a salesman when he married Emma Seramm June 26, 1906 and moved to 262 Walnut Street in Hamilton.

George was appointed a Hamilton Patrolman when, during June 1908, Mayor Thad Straub increased the Hamilton force by fourteen officers.  By 1911, he was one of 26 patrolmen on the department.  As the population increased, the complement decreased to 24 patrolmen in 1914.  Patrolman Lentz celebrated his 10th anniversary during June 1918.

About then, John B. Ledford (35) had moved from Kentucky to Hamilton and took a job at the Mosler Safe Company.  On the evening of July 20, 1918, Ledford was out looking for trouble and carried with him a four-pound hammer as a weapon.  During the early morning of Sunday, July 21, 1918, Patrolman Lentz deemed it wise to take the hammer from Ledford, who by then was highly intoxicated.

Ledford went to his home on Shuler Avenue near the Miami & Erie Canal, where he lived with his wife and six children, retrieved his Winchester .32-20 caliber rifle, and went hunting for Patrolman Lentz.  He stopped first at the Mosler Safe Company and inquired of the guard who had taken his hammer from him.  When the guard replied that it had been Patrolman Lentz and Ledford informed the guard that he would “get” the officer.

Ledford found Patrolman Lentz at 1:20 a.m., on Shuler Avenue near the Fire Department’s Company No. 7’s Hose House.  He approached Patrolman Lentz, stuck the rifle in his left side, and discharged the weapon.  The bullet ripped through a lung and his diaphragm.  Patrolman Lentz was able to strike Ledford, knocking him into a state of semi-consciousness.

Several firemen and citizens apprehended Ledford, though he resisted.  The fireman and citizens turned Ledford over to Inspector of Police Dulle, Detectives Hetterich and Mueller, and Officers Leonard and Johnson.  They locked him up in the Butler County jail fearing that Ledford would be lynched.  Dr. Edward Cook was called and he had Patrolman Lentz removed to Mercy Hospital.

Initially, there was hope that Patrolman Lentz would recover.  He fared well on his second day, later developed a fever, but then was able to sit in a chair within a week.  However, he took a turn for the worse and, sixteen days after the shooting, on August 6, 1918, at 11:30 p.m., he died.

Patrolman Lentz was survived by his wife of 12 years (and widowed for a 2nd time), Emma F. Lentz, stepsons, Frank A. and Henry W. Seymore; siblings, Mrs. Barbara Hafertepen, Mrs. Mary Leugers, and Joseph Lentz; and step-brother, Nicholas Fries. He was predeceased by his oldest brother, Fred Lentz who died suddenly 3 months prior.  His funeral was held at his home at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, August 9, 1918, and at St. Joseph’s Church.  He was buried in St. Stephens Cemetery in Hamilton, Ohio.

Mrs. Lentz was voted a pension of $25 per month, the highest permissible at the time.

Hamilton Police Chief Charles Sticker, signed a warrant against Ledford on Wednesday, July 7, 1918 for Murder of the 1st Degree and he was arraigned on Thursday morning, July 8.  On July 10, 1918 Coroner Edward Cook examined 15 witnesses at his inquest and determined that Patrolman Lentz came to his end through homicidal violence by Ledford.

Never was there a clearer case of 1st Degree Murder, but on September 18, 1918 Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Walter S. Harlan announced that on the 13th, the Grand Jury brought back an indictment for 2nd Degree Murder.  He was arraigned on September 19, defended by Attorney Robert Shank, and pleaded Not Guilty.  Judge Harlan set a trial date of September 24.

The case was delayed and began on November 11, 1918, with Judge Clarence Murphy presiding.  On the 22nd, a jury returned a guilty verdict for only Manslaughter.  We do not know what sentence was given, but before December 1919 he was already being considered for Pardon by the Board of Pardons.

Almost 100 years ago, a letter to the editor regarding this case resonates still today: “The trouble is not with our courts.  Only last week Judge Harlan denounced the laxity of the Board of Administration when sentencing another murderer, John Helton.  The law may be satisfied but public opinion is not.”

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© This narrative was revised July 9, 2017 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Director, based on his research and research provided by Joyce Meyer, Price Hill Historical Society, and Cincinnati Homicide Detective Edward W. Zieverink III, Greater Cincinnati Police Museum Historian.  All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.