Sheriffs in America have played a significant role in the history of our nation, and the sheriffs of Ohio are no exception to this heritage. A brief study of the history of Ohio reveals that Ohio sheriffs have contributed greatly to the development of the Buckeye State.
Until Ohio achieved statehood in 1803, the position of sheriff was filled through appointments made by the colonial governor. The first sheriff on record in Ohio was Colonel Ebenezer Sproat. At the time he was appointed in 1788, Sproat’s jurisdiction covered all of Washington County. This enormous area of land included all of eastern Ohio from the Ohio River to Lake Erie.
After statehood became a reality, only three public offices in Ohio were filled through the electoral process system. The position of sheriff was one of them. Through this new system, William Skinner became the first elected sheriff in the Buckeye State. Since the early 1800s, Ohio sheriffs have been elected on the county level by the people they serve. By virtue of this process, this office has become the oldest law enforcement position in the United States. It is also the only remaining law enforcement office to be filled through the election method. The term of office for county sheriffs in Ohio is four years.
In each of the 88 counties of Ohio, the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer. His primary duties are to provide common pleas court services and corrections on a countywide basis along with full police protection to the unincorporated areas of the county. However, the sheriff also maintains full police jurisdiction in all municipalities, townships and villages. To become consistent on a statewide level, Ohio sheriffs and deputies wear a standardized uniform, and all patrol vehicles are marked in the same manner.
Within Ohio, sheriff’s offices have probably one of the most extensive sets of responsibilities to those they serve. By statute, they must provide:
- Line law enforcement
- Court security and service of papers
- Jail operations
- Extradition process
- Transportation of prisoners
Adapted from information provided by the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association.
We have a solemn obligation to our fallen officers, their families, our department and our community, so that their sacrifices will not be diminished by time.
July 1, 1929 – Walter T. Hoffman
Oct. 10, 1933 – Leo Flanagan
May 29, 1956 – Ray Westover
April 30, 1967 – Herbert I. Wexler
Deputy Sheriff Walter T. Hoffman
Tour of Duty Ended: July 1, 1929
Years of Service: Five years
On July 1, 1929, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Deputy Sheriff Walter T. Hoffman died as a result of injuries sustained in an accident at Huron and Locust streets.
Hoffman was on his way to Dorr Street to investigate a complaint when he swerved his motorcycle in an attempt to miss a truck. However, his motorcycle skidded, and he was thrown under the truck’s wheel. Hoffman was transported to Toledo Hospital, but his injuries were too extensive, and he passed away.
Hoffman had recently been appointed by Sheriff Joseph Zimmerman to the position of motorcycle highway patrolman. He was a member of the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office for five years, having been appointed as a deputy sheriff by Sheriff Charles Emmert. Hoffman was survived by his wife, Irene; his mother, Sarah; and his brother, George.
Deputy Leo Flanagan
Tour of Duty Ended: Oct. 10, 1933
On Oct. 10, 1933, at 1:30 a.m., Deputy Leo Flanagan was killed while attempting to arrest a murder suspect on Wamba Drive.
Flanagan, along with Sheriff David Krieger, went to a home on Wamba Drive to arrest Floyd Baldwin, who was wanted for murder in connection with a holdup at a Sylvania golf course. A gun battle ensued, and Flanagan was shot. Upon further investigation, it was determined that while attempting to apprehend Baldwin, Flanagan was accidentally killed by a fellow officer.
According to the Oct. 10, 1933, edition of The Blade, Flanagan was transported to Toledo Hospital for treatment. While undergoing a blood transfusion from his brother Joseph, Flanagan died.
Flanagan was survived by his brother, his parents and a sister.
Deputy Sheriff Ray Westover
Tour of Duty Ended: May 29, 1956
Years of Service: Three years
On May 29, 1956, at 7:26 a.m., Deputy Sheriff Ray Westover was fatally shot at Navarre and Wynn roads after he stopped a stolen car occupied by three men.
Westover was carrying out his assigned duties wherein he was checking on school buses. He responded to a call for assistance by State Highway Patrolman Robert Newell, who was in pursuit of a stolen vehicle.
Upon stopping the suspect vehicle, three suspects were detained. Newell and Westover searched two of the men, but the third man ducked into the car and grabbed a Luger pistol. He ran around the car, and Westover pursued. The suspect, later identified as John Bowens, fired one shot, which killed Westover.
Bowens then fled the scene in the stolen vehicle and struck two pedestrians. Ann Martin was killed as she assisted a blind man across the street. The man was severely injured.
Bowens was subsequently arrested and charged with the killing of Westover.
Westover was survived by his wife, Dorothy, and children Ray Calvin, Robert, Bruce and Cheryl.
Deputy Sheriff Herbert I. Wexler
Tour of Duty Ended: April 30, 1967
Years of Service: Three months
On April 30, 1967, Deputy Sheriff Herbert I. Wexler was dispatched to a reported disturbance in the 600 block of Donovan Road in Jerusalem Township. While responding to the call, Wexler made a U-turn at the intersection of State Route 2 and Teachout Road and then crashed with another vehicle. Wexler was transported to St. Charles Hospital where he was pronounced dead from a skull fracture. Wexler had been employed by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office for only three months at the time of his death.
Wexler was survived by his wife, Elizabeth; his daughter, Erika; and sister, Francine. Wexler was a member of the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. He was also a veteran of the United States Air Force.