Newhall Constable Jack Pilcher was killed in the line of duty, 89 years ago this week.
This month, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department remembers Constable John S. “Jack” Pilcher, who was killed in the line of duty almost 89 years ago, on June 4, 1925.
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He began his service as a peace officer in 1910, serving in the townships of Chatsworth, Calabasas and Newhall, in the era of Prohibition and outlaws.
At the time, the Los Angeles Times said that during his career he “engaged in numerous gun battles with rum-runners and bandits and in thrilling brushes with bad men and beat them to the trigger.”
Nine months before his own death, Pilcher’s close friend and deputy, Ed Brown, was killed in a gun battle with Gus Le Brun, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Nixle report from 2013.
Pilcher survived the battle only to die in an accidental shooting the next year.
The night before his death, Pilcher and Deputy Constables John Seltzer and James Biddison were staking out the Gage Ranch in Bouquet Canyon, hoping to catch burglars who had been their earlier.
When the suspects never returned, Pilcher, Seltzer and Biddison decided to remove the rest of the valuables from the ranch for safekeeping. While they were doing so, a large lizard ran into the house and under a bed, according to a LASD Nixle report released on Monday.
When Seltzer, who had joined Pilcher’s force earlier in 1925, bent down to scare the lizard away, his gun fell out of its holster, hit the floor and fired, accidentally shooting Pilcher in the head. He died an hour and a half later.
Pilcher was survived by his wife Emma, three children, father and brother.
His funeral services were conducted members of the Masonic Lodge that Pilcher founded in Newhall in 1922. He had been president of the lodge at the time of his death.
The stories about Pilcher’s work as a constable in Los Angeles County are numerous, according to the Nixle report.
Pilcher was first elected as constable of the Chatsworth Township in August 1910. He became constable for the Calabasas Township in 1919, when part of Chatsworth was absorbed into the city of Los Angeles and the remaining unincorporated portion was combined with Calabasas.
Pilcher moved on to become the constable of Newhall in 1922.
During his time in law enforcement, he faced everything from code violators and runaway children to bootleggers and gang members, including O.J. Carlson of the Jenks-Harris gang.
As part of the Dry Squad, Pilcher faced the passion and deathly violence with which bootleggers guarded their products, according to the Nixle report.
On one raid Pilcher and the squad discovered 10,820 gallons of wine on a ranch west of San Fernando.
“Constable Jack Pilcher is still remembered in the Santa Clarita Valley with fondness,” read the Nixle report. “Like his friend and partner, Ed Brown, his tragic line of duty death has at last been recognized and his name was enrolled on the monuments at peace officer memorial ceremonies in California and Washington, D.C. in May 2014.”
For more information about Los Angeles County Sheriff Department history, visit the museum at the STARS Center in Whittier or click here.
Lt. John Stanley of the Sheriff’s Department contributed to this report.
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Source: Santa Clarita News