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New Hero Search Thomas C. Dillon - Nov. 19, 1972 (364)

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Bethel Police Dept. Patch
Resided: AK, USA
Born: May. 27, 1941  
Fallen: Nov. 19, 1972
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 31 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Bethel Police Dept.
Bethel, AK   USA
Dept. Type: Municipal/Police
Hero's Rank: Chief
Sworn Date: 1970
FBI Class: Homicide - Gun
Weapon Class: Firearm
Bio: Thomas Clifford Dillon, 31, was born on May 27, 1941, in Smithport, NC, to Bennett Randolph Dillon, Sr., and Hazel Marie Eastridge Dillon. He was the fourth of nine children (Peggy Ann, Bennett Randolph, Jr., James Harold, Thomas Clifford, Myrtle Marie, Frances Louise, Jerry Edward, Joy Elizabeth, and Joanne Teresa). His father was born on Feb. 25, 1914, in Henry County, VA, to Oscar Theodore and Eula Mae Dyer Dillon. His mother was born on April 21, 1913, in Little Laurel, NC, to Solomon T. and Emma Loura McCoy Eastridge.

Tom graduated from Hereford H.S. in Parkton, MD, in 1958, but preferred hunting and fishing to school activities. He served in the U.S.Army from 1961-1964 and was was assigned to Bonholder, Germany, where he served in the military police (Co. C., 382nd MPBN). After his discharge from the Army in 1964, Dillon worked as a prison guard at a federal prison in Toronto from 1964-1965. He moved to Alaska in 1966 and worked in logging camps in southeastern AK before moving to Bethel in 1967. He was an avid outdoorsman and often said that working in "bush" AK was the realization of a life-long dream. To accomplish that goal, and to fulfill a lifelong ambition to be a police officer, he applied for the job of Chief of Police in Bethel in 1970 and became the town's first chief in the spring of 1970. He had been Chief in Bethel for 2 & years at his death. Chief Dillon was known for his "easy-going manner" and for his "ever present sense of humor."

Chief Dillon married Elizabeth Spein of Bethel in 1972. Elizabeth, was the daughter of a "Laplander" and an eskimo woman. Her father came to AK from Lapland when the U.S. imported reindeer herds from Norway.

Survived by:
Elizabeth ( - Wife

and his son Richard Matthew, 3 weeks; his father, Bennett Randolph Dillon, 58, and mother, Hazel Marie Eastridge, 59, of Parkton, MD; and by his siblings, Peggy Ann Dillon Pearce, 36, Bennett Randolph Dillon, Jr., 35, James Harold Dillon, 33, Myrtle Marie Dillon Kitzmiller, 29, Frances Louise Dillon Froelich, 25, Jerry Edward Dillon, 22, Joy Elizabeth Dillon Davidson, 20, and Joanne Teresa Dillon Cornett, 18, all of MD.

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: Elmer J. Nicholson, Jr.
  
Location: AK   USA   Sun. Nov. 19, 1972
Summary: Bethel Police Chief, Thomas C. Dillon, 31, was shot and killed on Nov. 19, 1972, while trying to disarm a former employee who was threatening citizens at a cab company. He became the first and only police officer killed in the history of Bethel.

Around 7:00PM on Sunday, Nov. 19, 1972, Chief Dillon was called to the Yellow Cab Co. garage in downtown Bethel to resolve an "altercation" between the cab company owner, Norman Wallace, and Elmer J. Nicholson, Jr., 21, a former cab driver, who was "holding Wallace at bay with a 12 gauge shotgun."

According to the record of the AK Supreme Court, Nicholson had been drinking since the prior evening and had "consumed a large amount of alcohol that night and continued drinking the next morning" (the day of the murder). Nicholson first approached Wallace carrying a dead puppy claiming that a Yellow Cab "had killed his puppy." Wallace took Nicholson to his garage as he tried to determine if, in fact, one of his cabs had run over the puppy. "Nicholson sat on the floor, rocking back and forth with the puppy, stating, 'Yellow Cab will pay.'"

Nicholson subsequently left the garage and went to his cousin's home where he picked up his 12-gauge shotgun and some shells. He then returned to the garage with the shotgun in hand and fired twice into the furnace and once into the wheel of a truck. He then left the garage and got into a Yellow Cab demanding that the driver call Wallace and tell him to meet him at the garage. When Wallace arrived at the garage in a cab Nicholson, at gunpoint, demanded that he get out and told him that he "was going to kill him."

At this point Chief Dillon arrived on the scene and pointed his pistol at Nicholson telling him to drop the shotgun. However, Nicholson turned and trained the shotgun on the Chief. Dillon persuaded Nicholson to "drop the muzzle of the gun toward the ground" and agreed to go with him inside the garage (perhaps so that Nicholson could show him the dead dog). However, at this point Nicholson apparently pointed the shotgun again at Dillon and "opened fire." Dillon pulled his service revolver and "fell to the ground while firing." Both Dillon and Nicholson were wounded in the "shootout." Dillon was taken to the Public Health Service Hospital in Bethel where a "frantic effort" by the physicians was made to keep him alive. A call for blood donors went out and several citizens responded by giving blood. However, Dillon was pronounced dead "sometime after 10:00PM that same evening" (3 hours after the shootout).

Nicholson "fled across the river" where he "remained for some time" before returning to the scene. He was arrested a half hour later that evening. He was wounded in the abdomen and was treated for his wounds (which "were not serious") at the Bethel hospital and then was taken to Anchorage where he was treated at the AK Native Medical Center and then taken to the state jail.

Disposition: However, that conviction for first-degree murder at the first trial was overturned by the AK Supreme Court on Nov. 4, 1977, which ruled that the prosecution had withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. Records at the AK Dept. of Corrections indicate that Elmer J. Nicholson was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison and thus the second trial resulted in a lesser conviction and sentence. Nicholson was paroled on Jan. 12, 1977, after serving only 4 years on his 20 year sentence.

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

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN ALASKA, 1867-1998

By Dr. Wm. Wilbanks FL International University

To be published by Turner Publications in early 1999

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