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New Hero Search Owen Karl Bender
- Sep. 08, 1965 -
(253)

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Florida Highway Patrol Patch
Resided: (Miami-Dade County)
FL, USA
Born: Oct. 01, 1916  
Fallen: Sep. 08, 1965
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 48 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Florida Highway Patrol
2900 Apalachee Parkway  
Tallahassee, FL   32399   USA
(850)617-2301
County: Leon
Dept. Type: State/Police
Hero's Rank: Captain
Sworn Date: 1959
FBI Class: Crash
Weapon Class: Vehicle
Agency URL: Click Here
On The Job: 6 years
Bio: Owen Karl Bender was born on Oct. 1, 1916, in Youngstown, OH, to Elmer C. Bender and Irene Wilson King Bender. His father was born in PA on Nov. 15, 1883, to Uriah and Arma Bender. His mother was born on Sept. 12, 1883, to Charles M. and Sarah J. King. Census records indicate that Elmer's parents and Irene's father were also born in PA while Irene's mother was born in England. Marriage records in Armstrong County, PA, indicate that Irene Wilson King, 18, of Kittanning, PA, and Elmer C. Bender, 22, of Jefferson County, PA, married in Kittanning, PA, on March 11, 1903.

Elmer and Irene Bender are listed in the 1910 census of Armstrong County, PA, in the city of Kittanning along with their only child at that time, Paul C. Bender, 3. The Bender family apparently moved from PA to Youngstown, OH, around 1914. The 1920 OH census lists the parents and Paul C., 13, King, 8, and Owen K., 3. The five children of Elmer and June Bender who lived to be adults were Paul C. (born 1907), King (born 1911), Owen K. (born 1916), June (born 1921 in Baltimore) and Elmer (born 1926 in Baltimore). The Bender family moved to the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore in May of 1921 and moved into a house on Beach Ave. which members of the family occupied through the mid-1960's. Owen Bender's father, Elmer, died on Dec. 27, 1931, and was buried in Brookville, PA, in the Bender family plot by his father. He worked from around 1921 until his death in 1931 as a printer at Waverly Press. Owen's mother died (at age 85) on Nov. 23, 1964, at the house on Beach Ave. in Hampden (Baltimore). She was buried in the small graveyard adjoining the St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Hampden which she and other members of the Bender family attended for over 40 years.

Owen Bender attended P.S. 55 Elementary School and Robert Pool Jr. H.S. in Hampden. When he graduated from Jr. H.S. in 1935 he was one of two recipients from the entire city of Baltimore to be awarded a medal by the American Legion "for courage, honor, service, leadership and scholarship." He then attended a vocational school on a scholarship from Waverly Press to learn to be a printer and became an apprentice with Waverly Press after graduation. Owen Bender, 21, was first listed in the Baltimore City Directory in 1937 and was described as a "compositor" at Waverly Press. According to the 1965 obituary in the Baltimore Morning Sun, Bender worked at Waverly Press for "many years" (probably over 20 years) and then moved to S. FL. Bender worked in printing his entire working life as that was his (full-time) occupation at the time of his death in Miami.

Owen married Martha Wann of Baltimore around 1941 as the 1942 Baltimore city directory listed Owen as married to Martha. Martha Wann's father, O. Ernest Wann, lived in Baltimore as early as 1916 and, according to city directories, was also a printer. Ernest Wann and Owen Bender (& Owen's father, Elmer) worked together at Waverly Press. The Benders and the Wanns also lived in the same Baltimore neighborhood (Hampden) and were members of St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 40th St. and Rolland Ave. On Jan. 4, 1943, Owen Bender, 26, joined the Air Corps in Baltimore. However, he was hospitalized with a "bad heart" for 9 of the 10 months he served and was discharged on Oct. 22, 1943, from Lowry Field in Denver, CO (where he had been hospitalized).

Owen Karl Bender and Martha W. Bender moved to Miami in 1959 when Owen was 43. Owen and Martha are listed in the Miami City directory for 1960-1965 with Owen being described as a printer. At the time of his death he was employed by American Stamp Works of Miami. The couple lived at 1410 N.W. 87th Terr. in Miami. Owen Bender was also Vice Commander of the Harvey Seeds American Legion Post (#29) in Miami. He had joined the 185 Hellenic Post of the American Legion in Baltimore in 1944 and rose to the rank of Vice Commander in the Post. He transferred his membership to the Miami Post in 1959.

Shortly after World War II, the American Legion Post in Miami worked with the FHP to form the Florida Highway Patrol Auxiliary composed exclusively of members of the American Legion, all veterans of the Armed Services. This organization was jointly sponsored by the American Legion and by the Florida Highway Patrol. Owen Bender was Captain of the Dade County Unit of sixty-seven men at the time of his death.

Survived by:
Martha Wann Bender - Wife

three brothers, Paul C. Bender, 58, of Glenn Burnie, MD, King Bender, 53, of Toronto, Canada, and Elmer Bender, 40, of Pennsylvania; and one sister, June Bender Sarrach, 44, of Wheaton, IL.

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: Thomas Cleverly Conner
  
Location:   Miami Beach, FL   USA   Wed. Sep. 08, 1965
Summary: Owen Karl Bender, 48, a Captain in the auxiliary corps of the Florida Highway Patrol, was fatally injured when a taxi-cab struck him as he directed traffic at a roadblock on the Julia Tuttle Causeway on Sept. 8, 1965. He is the only auxiliary officer of any Dade law enforcement agency ever killed in the line of duty and is the only one of 108 Dade officers killed in the line of duty from 1895-1995 whose name is not inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Captain Owen K. Bender, head of the FL Highway Patrol's 67-man auxiliary police force, spent the entire day of Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1975, supervising a roadblock in Florida City for the FHP during Hurricane Betsy. Bender had gone home to supper when he was called out again. One of his auxiliary officers had failed to show up at a roadblock assignment on Miami Beach and Captain Bender volunteered to cover for him. He was still working at 10:00PM when he was killed.

At 6:00PM on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1965, Captain Bender and a second FHP auxiliary officer, Sgt. Thomas F. Ryan, joined a roadblock on the Julia Tuttle Causeway between Miami and Miami Beach. The roadblock was setup in Miami Beach, 12 mile from the Miami City limits, to "restrict causeway traffic because of dangerous driving conditions in Miami Beach" due to the heavy rain from Hurricane Betsy. The main task of the roadblock was "turning back sightseers." The roadblock was being manned by an FHP trooper, three auxiliary troopers (including Bender), and two Miami Beach police officers.

At 10:03PM, Bender, 5'9" and 172 lbs., was dressed in his FHP auxiliary uniform, and was standing in the center lane of the three-lane east bound side of the Causeway "checking the identification" of a vehicle he had stopped. Bender and Trooper Byron Kirkland saw a 1963 Yellow Cab Chevrolet approaching them in the inside lane and realized that the taxi was not going to stop even though the roadblock was marked by a "blinking yellow light" and the officers "tried to wave him down with a red flashlight." Both Kirkland and Bender "ran for the median" (between the eastbound and westbound lanes of the Causeway) to avoid the approaching taxi.

The taxi driver, Thomas C. Conner, 61, of Miami, apparently saw the two officers at the last minute and applied his brakes. The taxi then "skidded 173 feet, struck the left rear of the vehicle parked in the center lane, and then "glanced off and hit Mr. Bender with the left front, knocking Trooper Bender 28 feet and 7 inches, and skidded to a stop 32 feet later."

The Florida Traffic Accident Report indicated that Trooper Bender "skidded out of control on the wet pavement for 173 feet, sideswiped a parked car, then crashed into the barricade." Trooper Byron Kirkland "managed to leap to safety, but Bender, of 1410 NW 87th Ter., was struck." Bender was thrown 27 feet by the impact and received compound fractures of both legs, a fractured skull and internal injuries. He was rushed to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach by an Eastern ambulance and arrived at the Emergency Room at 10:23PM. Bender arrived "in a comatose condition, blood pressure 140100, pulse 84, and a diagnosis of a fractured skull, fractured right tibia and fibula, and fractured ribs."

Bender was pronounced dead two hours later (at 12:02 AM on Sept. 9) by Dr. Ehlert of Mt. Sinai Hospital. Martha Bender was notified of her husband's death by Trooper M.G. Wagner.

The death certificate listed his cause of death as an accident caused by "marked cerebral contusions, skull fractures, and blunt impact of head." The medical examiner's report also indicated that he had a fracture of both legs, a fracture of the right shoulder and multiple fractures of the left ribs.

Disposition: The final FHP accident report by Trooper J.M. Hardy of Homicide Investigation concluded that: ...Owen K. Bender met his death in an accidental manner directly caused by the negligence of the driver of the 1963 Chevrolet, Thomas Cleverly Conner, in failing to have his vehicle under control and by not exercising extreme caution when first seeing the emergency lights. A citation was issued to Thomas Cleverly Conner by Trooper B.P. Kirkland for failing to have his vehicle under control, Citation #386583-B. It is the opinion of this investigating officer that there is insufficient evidence to bring any further charges against Thomas Cleverly Conner.

The case was sent to "JP court on Miami Beach under Judge Berkman" but the outcome of the case is unknown.

Source: Book       Excerpted in part or in whole from Dr. Wilbanks book-

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN DADE COUNTY, FL, 1895-1995

by William Wilbanks

Louisville: Turner Publications

1996

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