Type of Officer: Chief of Police
Jurisdiction: Abilene
County: Dickinson
Death Date: 11/2/1870
Added to Memorial: 1987
Circumstances of Death: Shot then decapitated
Thomas Smith, chief of police of Abilene, was well known for his effectiveness in that position. During the last week of October 1870, Smith, who was also an appointed deputy sheriff, was asked to serve a warrant for the re-arrest of a murder suspect, Andrew McConnell. Smith may have been acting in any one of his official capacities. McConnell lived in a dugout outside of town. Chief Smith and Officer James McDonald went to the location to serve the warrant. At the site, McConnell’s friend, a man named Miles who had given false testimony to originally saving McConnell from prosecution, was with him. When Smith informed McConnell he had a warrant for his arrest, McConnell shot Smith through the right lung. Smith, in turn, wounded McConnell and they began to grapple. Miles truck Smith in the head grabbed an axes and cut his “head nearly from his body.” Officer McDonald immediately returned to Abilene and a posse was raised. Several days later, police magistrate C. C. Kuney and James Gainsford, two of the original posse, captured McConnell and miles north of Clay Center with the assistance of Clay County Sheriff P. Rothman and two other men. The Abilene Chronicle wrote of Smith that he was “an officer who never shrank from the performance of his duty. He was a stranger to fear…..He came to this place last spring when lawlessness was controlling the town…and soon order and quiet took the place of the wild shouts and pistol shots of ruffians who for two years had kept orderly citizens in dread for their lives…It will be a long time before his equal will be found in all the essentials required to make a model police officer…In years to come, there will be those who will look back to the days when it required brave hearts and strong hands to put down barbarism in this new country and among the names of the bravest and truest [will be Tom Smith].”

Panel: 39