It's always been important to me to understand and respect officers in my line of work who have passed away, especially ones who are killed in the line of duty. —Naples Police Chief Mark Watkins
SCOFIELD, Carbon County — Modern-day Scofield looks nothing like it did in October 1902, when this Utah mining town was still grieving the 200 coal miners who died 18 months earlier in an explosion at the Winter Quarters Mine.
A memorial to those men stands outside the town cemetery, where the rows of their wooden headstones bleach in the sun.
On Tuesday, a new headstone was unveiled in the cemetery, this one to a man who died serving his community but left no relatives behind to mourn his death.
"It's always been important to me to understand and respect officers in my line of work who have passed away, especially ones who are killed in the line of duty," said Naples Police Chief Mark Watkins, who traveled 270 miles roundtrip to attend a short dedication ceremony for Thomas Nalley's new headstone.
Nalley, 40, was one of six men deputized by Scofield Town Marshal Hugh Hunter on Oct. 5, 1902.
Hunter had received a complaint about a loud party, according to historical accounts from the time. The marshal was threatened by the partiers the first time he asked them to quiet down. During his second attempt to restore peace, Hunter got in a physical altercation with the group and was disarmed.
After deputizing Nalley and the others, Hunter returned to the home with reinforcements and made several arrests. But during the third encounter, Nalley was pistol-whipped by the homeowner.
"The owner of the house or bar was actually shot and killed by another deputy while he was pistol-whipping officer Nalley," said Jerry Pope, vice president of the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial board of directors.
Nalley was taken by train to a hospital in Salt Lake City, where he died nine days later. His body was returned to Scofield for burial, but his original headstone, which has since crumbled, made no mention that he had died in the line of duty.
The new headstone, placed by the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial, remedies that oversight and includes a medallion that signifies Nalley's sacrifice. It's the third headstone the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial board has erected this year for fallen officers from Utah's past.
"The people of Utah need to recognize those sacrifices," Pope said. "By doing this, we're bringing it and keeping it in the forefront."Comment on this story
Watkins, a Carbon County native whose department in Uintah County sponsored Nalley's plaque on the fallen officers' memorial at the state Capitol, agreed.
"I think we as a society need to keep reminding ourselves of things that happened in the past," the chief said.
"One of the key reasons for doing so is so we don't have those things happen again," he added, "so we recognize our officers are out there keeping everybody safe, that their lives are at risk, and hopefully we'll keep an open mind to what they actually do for the public."