No one knows better the danger that a tense circumstance can present than police in the United States. Constantly under pressure to control people who are guaranteed rights that provide them a wide latitude of no control, the scenarios that citizens can present range from the mundane to sheer terror, even for a trained professional. With that thought, we continue to reflect on moments in the history of law enforcement we wish we could get back, the sacrifices of those that have paid the ultimate price on our behalf.
Cheyenne is a true jewel of Great Plains, and serves as a gateway to the best parts of The Rocky Mountains. It is the largest city in Wyoming, but it’s still rather small when compared to the rest of the large cities in the US, sporting a population of around 60,000. Cheyenne is home to F.E. Warren Air Force Base, the oldest and longest serving base in the US Air Force. The city’s name is a tribute to the native people that called the area home, the Cheyenne People, who were given the name by the Sioux Nation. Cheyenne was a hotbed of activity in the territorial days, because the city itself sprang up overnight, due to its importance to the Union Pacific Railroad which crossed through the location of the town. Cheyenne continued to build and expand its footprint during this time. As the realization of Statehood came upon the territory, the people of Wyoming located their Government Capitol in Cheyenne in 1886 by amassing typical buildings that conformed to the expectations of a State-level capital district during the era. By 1890, when Statehood was awarded, Cheyenne was the epicenter of the upper plains, a bustling town of over 11,000. Since that time, Cheyenne has grown exponentially in most decades, though there has been some periods of mass exodus, particularly the 1910s.
Officer Charles Henry Edwards, Jr.
Officer Edwards, Jr. was a two-year veteran of the Cheyenne Police Department. What information is available about Officer Edwards, Jr. suggests he was a professional officer, and dedicated father to his son. At the time of the incident, Officer Edwards, Jr. was a single father. On January 19th, 1907, Officer Edwards, Jr.’s 32nd birthday, he and his partner, Officer Holland, heard the noise of glass breaking at West 16th Street (Renamed Lincolnway) and Carey Avenue, which was then Ferguson Street. Upon arrival, he found that a Ray H. Prestler had thrown another man through the plate glass of the Senate Saloon along Carey Avenue. Prestler ran, and Officer Edwards, Jr. chased him through an adjacent alley. It was during an initial struggle that Prestler turn into Officer Edwards, Jr.’s body and stabbed him, puncturing his right lung, Officer Edwards, Jr. fired his revolver twice, missing Prestler both times. Officer Edwards, Jr.’s grasp of Prestler was broken, and the chase continued, into the ground floor of the Becker Hotel, which led into the LeBaron restaurant at the opposite end of the alley, where Officer Edwards, Jr. affected a detention of Prestler, and handed him over to the Chief of Police Stevens, at which point he collapsed from his injury. He was seen by a doctor, who treated the wound and bandaged him. The doctor stated that Officer Edwards, Jr. should recover from his injury, though he was noted as stating that the wound was very close to an intercostal artery, which would have caused certain death had it been severed.
However, Officer Edwards, Jr. condition became gravely worse later the following day, as he contracted pneumonia. The original doctor and a second re-examined Officer Edwards, Jr., and determined he had an equal chance of surviving or succumbing to his condition. The following day, the doctors confirmed that Officer Edwards, Jr. would not recover from his wounds. In light of his situation, he married Loretta Fisher on his deathbed, so that his son would have a mother. Officer Edwards, Jr. had been courting Ms. Fisher for the year prior to the incident, so the marriage was not as shocking as it might have been if he married a stranger. A full 24 hours later, Officer Edwards, Jr. died as a result of his injuries and illness, in his father’s home.
Officer Edwards, Jr. was a popular officer in Cheyenne, and well-liked by much of the citizens. His death was record in the local newspaper in much the same spirit as he was thought of and remembered, a diligent officer who was brave, strong, and noble. His badge number, 13, was worn previously by James Green, another well-known police officer who was also shot, but survived his wounds. The badge was retired by Cheyenne Police in 2014 out of respect to both officers, but they took an extra step and named the agency’s community center after Officer Edwards, Jr. where a painting of he and his son, Charles III, hang in remembrance. Charles III went on to serve his country in both World War I and II, attaining the rank of Colonel, and afterwards obtaining his law degree in Chicago.
On August 31st, 1907 Ray Prestler was sentenced to 35 years in prison for 2nd Degree Murder. However, Frank L. Houx, who had become acting Governor of Wyoming, after John B. Kendrick left office for the US Senate, pardoned Prestler on December 18, 1916. In Volume of the Wyoming State Senate Journal the reason listed shows as “Christmas pardon.” While there is a lot that can be drawn from this terrible turn of events, one conclusion that was reached was the Houx came from a Confederate family, and the Officer Edwards, Jr.’s father was a member of the Union Navy.
Officer Edwards, Jr. had further tragedy in life prior to his death, when his twin daughters died in 1901, shortly after his first wife had passed from pregnancy complications. Regardless of all the pain he suffered, in the end his last statement recorded was to his father, “I did my duty and captured my man, and now am not afraid to die.” If only we all could be half as stoic in the face of death.
In memory of Officer Charles Henry Edwards, Jr.