Originally posted on May 11, 2022
The term “end of watch” is used by police and firefighters to designate that an officer has died while in the line of duty. It is used less often to designate that an officer is retiring. Next week is National Police Week, established to honor America’s law enforcement community. Peace Officers Memorial Day on the Sunday of that week commemorates those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. In honor of National Police Week, Linda Willard recognizes the five High Point police officers whose watch has ended.
Officer James William Witcher was the first High Point officer to fall in the line of duty. He left behind a wife and two daughters. Witcher was 37 at the time of his death and is buried in the Hickory Chapel Wesleyan Church cemetery in High Point.
Officer William Witcher responded to a fight outside a moving picture theater on September 13, 1913. Police Chief Ben C. Ridge and another officer also responded. While attempting to arrest a suspect, a scuffle ensued and at least one shot rang out. The crowd that had gathered then immediately ran in all directions. Officer Witcher was struck in the stomach, and he reportedly said that the Chief had shot him. There were also reports of someone in the crowd shooting and running away. Chief Ridge denied having fired the fatal shot and opened his service revolver to show that all the bullets were still in the chamber. Officer Witcher died two days later, insisting to the very end that he had been shot by Chief Ridge.
Excerpt from an article in The Review, a weekly High Point newspaper, September 18, 1913. The headline read, “Officer Shot Down Saturday Night … A Deplorable Affair.”
Officers Reaves and Claywell were both fatally shot on June 10, 1925. Reaves died that day; Claywell on June 18. Both men were married. Reaves is buried in Currie, North Carolina. Claywell had previously been with Statesville Police Department and is buried in Iredell County.
Officers Carey James Reaves and Fred Guffy Claywell were both shot while raiding a liquor and gambling party on June 10, 1925. (According to Reaves’ death certificate, the shot was received in a “pistol duel” while raiding a “crap game.”) John Whitener was later convicted of the shootings and received a 50-year term in prison. He died while in prison a few years later.
Captain Allen Jerome Morris is the highest-ranking officer of the High Point Police Department to be killed in the line of duty. He was married with three children and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in High Point.
On September 16, 1928, Captain Allen Jerome Morris and Officer Bill Friddle answered what they probably thought would be a routine call out for drunkenness. Garland Franklin Shipwash, a 25-year-old local furniture factory worker, decided to stop by the Do-Drop-In Café on East Russell Street. The Do-Drop-In was known as a “beer joint,” and Shipwash was known to be a “mean drunk.” As Morris and Friddle were arresting him, Shipwash appeared calm. The officers didn’t bother to place him in handcuffs, walking the young man toward the police station holding on to him by his belt. Then they noticed Shipwash attempting to unbuckle the belt, and he informed them that he had “gone about as far as I’m going.” Shipwash franticly began to attempt an escape. While Morris and Friddle wrestled their prisoner to the ground, Shipwash kicked Captain Morris in the stomach. Officer Friddle stated that Morris fell over dead. The official cause of death was a heart attack. Morris had a history of heart-trouble, and the fatal heart attack was triggered by the kick to the stomach.
Shipwash was jailed and faced charges of manslaughter, drunk and disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. The manslaughter charge was later changed to murder, but then dropped. He was fined $70 and given a suspended sentence of three months. The 1931 City Directory shows Shipwash still living in High Point and working at the Myrtle Desk factory.
Master Police Officer III Shelia Dianne Twyman died from injuries sustained while on duty. She was the mother of three children and grandmother of four at the time of her death. She is buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Greensboro.
A thirteen-year veteran of the High Point Police Department, Master Police Officer III Shelia Dianne Twyman was on a routine patrol in the early hours of December 20, 2001, when her patrol car was struck by a tractor-trailer truck which had run a red light. She died three days later from her injuries. The truck driver was charged with failure to stop and misdemeanor death by vehicle.
In May 2000, the names of Witcher, Reaves, Claywell, and Morris were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, after research by former High Point Police Department Lt. Gordon Whitaker documented their deaths. For more information on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, see this link: https://nleomf.org/memorial/.
See the City of High Point Police Department’s webpage devoted to officers who fell in the line of duty and a list of deceased HPPD members here: https://www.highpointnc.gov/1513/Fallen-Officers (click on the graphic).
Linda’s research for this blog post includes the book A Pictorial History of the High Point Police Department by Roy J. Shipman. It is available for research at the Heritage Research Center at the High Point Public Library and for sale at the High Point Museum. Access to The High Point Enterprise newspaper and to Ancestry.com are also available at the Heritage Research Center.
Linda is an active member of the High Point Historical Society, the High Point Preservation Society, and Friends of John Coltrane among other local history and cultural organizations. Her love of history has led her to research Quakers and High Point’s African American community, including the High Point Normal and Industrial Institute/William Penn High School and Oakwood Cemetery’s “Colored Section.” Linda won a publication award in 2020 from the North Carolina Society of Historians and its Award of Excellence in 2021.