Officer killed in 1913 to get a headstone

Bloodiest episode in Utah law enforcement history claimed deputy

Published: Sunday, Oct. 25 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

BINGHAM — Local historians call it the bloodiest episode in Utah law enforcement history.

In November 1913, Rafael Lopez, a traveling miner who was working in one of the Bingham Canyon mines at the time, killed five law enforcement officers and a civilian in one week before fleeing the state.

On Nov. 2, nearly 96 years after the slayings, one of those killed in the line of duty will have a permanent headstone placed in his honor in the Bingham Cemetery.

The string of officer killings started Nov. 21, 1913, when Bingham Marshal William J. Grant, along with Salt Lake County deputies George O. Witbeck and Nephi S. Jensen, went to Saratoga Springs to arrest Lopez, who was wanted for murder in Bingham Canyon. He had killed a man he thought was trying to steal his girlfriend.

The posse, however, was ambushed, and all three law enforcement officers were shot and killed. Eight days later, newly appointed sheriff's deputy James Hulsey, 39, and posse member Vaso Mandarich, 35, went to Bingham Canyon to arrest the shooter, who was believed to have holed up in the mine after returning to the mining community. While they were inside the mine attempting to light a fire to smoke the suspect out, they too were ambushed and shot to death.

Historians believe Lopez fled the state shortly after. He was killed in a shootout with Texas Rangers in 1921.

It is believed that all of the Utah law enforcement officers he killed were buried. But over the years, the grave site of Hulsey, who was not married and did not have any family in Utah, was forgotten and eventually vanished from the public record.

"He probably had a headstone at one time; it was probably wooden," said Robert Kirby, vice president and historian of the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial. "Over the years, he kind of fell into a black hole. No one really knows where he is buried. This particular guy was never lost to us, we just never knew where he was buried.

"A lot of these guys came into these mining camps, became police officers, got killed, had no family, so they put them in a hole with a wooden cross," Kirby said.

After researching the case and going through old records, Kirby and sheriff's deputy Randy Lish narrowed down Hulsey's final resting place to the Bingham City Cemetery. Mandarich also is buried there. Although they have a general idea where Hulsey's remains might be buried, based on the dates on other tombstones, his exact burial spot in the cemetery remains unknown.

Now, the sheriff's office will honor Hulsey on Nov. 2 with an honor guard, a 21-gun salute, a motor squad escort, a mounted posse escort and the placement of a permanent headstone.

Honoring those who paid the ultimate price while protecting Utah's citizens only to be forgotten later has become a mission for Kirby. Earlier this month, he helped organize a memorial for Ernest Berry, Utah's first game warden to die in the line of duty in 1914.

Kirby, who was instrumental in getting the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial constructed on the grounds of the Utah Capitol, is on a quest to make sure every Utah law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty has a headstone.

"You make laws that you expect people to obey. Those laws are just theories until you get men and women willing to put their lives on the line to make them fact," said Kirby, a former police officer. "Sometimes these men and women get killed doing that. Frankly, it comes down to the fact lawmakers would just be making a bunch of noise if not for men and women willing to risk (their lives.)"

Sadly, Kirby said, there always will be names added to the Law Enforcement Memorial.

"I don't want to treat them like they're disposable. They were willing to put their life on the line," he said.

There are seven more known fallen officers that need headstones, Kirby said. One of them was also buried in the Bingham Cemetery.

Bingham officer John C. Morrissey was killed in 1895 when he was accidentally shot by another officer trying to make an arrest. The suspect pulled a knife on the officer, and the officer responded by trying to hit him with the butt end of his gun, a common tactic back then, Kirby said. The gun went off when the other officer hit the man, however, and the bullet struck Morrissey.

Next, Kirby said, a deputy marshal in Scofield, 40-year-old Thomas Nalley, likely will receive a headstone. He suffered a head injury and died in 1902 while responding to a disturbance. The suspect in that case was shot and killed by other officers.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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