On the afternoon of October 28, 1905, Decatur County Sheriff Martin Crawford Stegall was shot and killed in the line of duty. Sheriff Stegall was responding to the sound of gunshots just off the City Square in Bainbridge when he confronted the shooter, Augustus Goodman. Goodman shot the Sheriff three times at close range, striking him in the liver, stomach and right lung. Sheriff Stegall passed away the next morning, making him the first of six law enforcement deaths in Decatur County’s history.
Sheriff Stegall and five other law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty were honored at a ceremony held at the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday morning. Sheriff Wiley Griffin organized a dedication and remembrance ceremony during National Memorial Police Week for Decatur County Law Enforcement Officers who gave their lives in the line of duty. During his opening remarks, Sheriff Wiley Griffin quoted American Author George Orwell, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
Those honored were:
Sheriff Martin Crawford Stegall (Decatur County Sheriff”s Office): Represented by his great granddaughter Ms. Kay Powell, Sheriff Stegall was elected in 1904 and died in 1905. He left behind a wife and seven children. End of Watch: October 29, 1905.
Police Officer Samuel Brinson Arline (Bainbridge Police Department): Represented by his grandson, Mr. Terrell K. Arline, Officer Arline, also known as “Red”, died a week before his 37th birthday. He was a US Army Veteran of World War I and was shot and killed just two months before his only son was born. His son (also named Samuel) would eventually become an aerospace engineer and helped invent the fuel system that powered the rockets that put a man on the moon. End of Watch: October 14, 1927.
Game Warden Robert C. Sizemore (Georgia Game and Fish): Represented by Captain Rick Sellers of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Game Warden Sizemore is one of eight Georgia Game Wardens to be killed in the line of duty in Georgia. He was shot while investigating a potential crime near Climax. He left behind a wife and seven children. End of Watch: November 9, 1928.
Officer Norman Murkerson (Bainbridge Police Department): Represented by his son, Mr. Jerry Murkerson, Officer Murkerson was a World War II veteran and awarded the Purple Heart. He married in 1947 and joined the Police Department in 1952. Just a few days after his birthday, Officer Murkerson ate breakfast with his wife and left for his motorcycle patrol. Shortly thereafter, he was in an accident on Highway 97 North. He passed away from his injuries the next day. Officer Murkerson was a lifelong resident of Decatur County and has 23 direct descendants. End of Watch: November 17, 1953.
Lt. James M. West Sr. (Decatur County Sheriff’s Office): Represented by his friend and former law enforcement officer Reverend John Thomas, Lt. West was a World War II veteran and joined the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office in 1964. He was awarded the Decatur County Police Officer of the Year in 1978. Lt. West was stabbed by a female mental patient while responding to a call for help with her transportation to a mental facility. End of Watch: October 28, 1980.
Deputy Robert Armand Griffin (Decatur County Sheriff’s Office): Represented by Undersheriff Wendell Cofer, Deputy Griffin was a veteran of the US Navy and served his country for 20 years interpreting satellite images before returning to Decatur County to be closer to his family. He was passionate about technology and how its use could benefit law enforcement. He was killed in a tragic accident while responding to a call requesting help for a 14 year old child. End of Watch: May 1, 2008.