On December 25, all Vandalia Police officers wore mourning bands in remembrance of fallen Vandalia night watchman Benjamin Eddleman, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Christmas Day 1899.
In 1899, night watchman Eddleman resided in Vandalia with his family, he earned $25 a month with local merchants and others supplementing his salary.
At about noon on Christmas day 1899, Eddleman ordered Edward Spencer, of Vandalia, whom had been drinking, was armed with a knife and causing a disturbance, to leave the local saloon at gunpoint.
At about 2 p.m., Spencer returned to the saloon armed with a revolver. Coming in the front door and starting back into the middle room, Spencer advised the proprietor, John Adkins that there would be no trouble whereupon he then passed into the room where night watchman Eddleman was standing. Spencer then surprised Eddleman, grabbing him by the throat and shooting him in the head, killing him instantly.
Spencer then backed out of the saloon and ran south. He was later apprehended by the mayor and locked up in the calaboose.
Spencer was later indicted, tried, and convicted of Second Degree Murder in Audrain County Circuit Court in 1900 and sentenced to 10 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary. The conviction was later appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court and denied. In rendering his judgement, Judge James Britton Gantt stated, “In view of the facts disclosed, the defendant (Spencer) should esteem himself very fortunate in receiving so slight a punishment for so grave an offense.”
Night watchman Eddleman -dleman was survived by his wife and two children.
Vandalia Chief of Police Christopher Hammann stated ‘mourning bands are a way to honor and respect fallen officers.’
“All of us at the department were initially unaware of Night Watchman Eddleman’s sacrifice until we began doing research about another fallen Vandalia officer, Orville Rosenstengel,” Chief Hammann added.
“The loss of any law officer despite the circumstances, time, or place is always heartbreaking. I can only imagine what pain and hardship night watchman Eddleman’s family went through on Christmas day 118 years ago. The department is currently working on a memorialization for Eddleman. We have placed a picture of him inside the department next to fallen police officer Rosentengal and are currently working on funding to obtain a memorial plaque honoring his sacrifice to place at the entrance of the police department. Night watchman Eddleman is currently memorialized at the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial in Jefferson City, panel seven, column seven, row one. The police department will honor Night Watchman Eddleman’s sacrifice by working diligently to protect and serve the community he once called home. We kindly ask residents to be mindful of the ultimate sacrifice of this Vandalia public servant and all those past and present who continue to sacrifice in the service and protection of others.”