Fish Warden William Etheldred Shoemaker

Fish Warden William Etheldred Shoemaker

Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania

End of Watch Thursday, September 22, 1921

William Etheldred Shoemaker

Fish Warden William Shoemaker was the first Pennsylvania Fish Warden to be killed in the line of duty. Warden Shoemaker and his son, who was acting as a Special Deputy Fish Warden, had completed making an arrest in LaRaysville. They were traveling home following the road that paralleled the Wyalusing Creek when they spotted a lantern light and two men in the creek.

Warden Shoemaker walked down to the creek leaving his son in the car. He found two suspects spear fishing without a license. He ordered both suspects out of the creek and followed the first suspect up the bank. As they walked up the bank, the second suspect grabbed Warden Shoemaker’s .38-caliber revolver and shot him in the back of the neck.

The second suspect fled the scene down the creek and through the woods. Warden Shoemaker’s son, thinking the gunfire was a distress signal, came down to the creek bank and was able to apprehend the first suspect. The first suspect showed Deputy Shoemaker’s son where he was. Along with some passers by, they were able to transport Deputy Shoemaker to a local doctor’s residence. Deputy Shoemaker was transported to a nearby hospital by train where he was diagnosed with a severed spinal cord and was paralyzed from the neck down. Over the next month, he regained sensation in his shoulders and partial use of his arms. However, complications arose and Warden Shoemaker died on early in the morning of September 22, 1921.

The second suspect surrendered the day after the shooting. He was charged with first-degree murder. His attorneys argued self-defense and went to trial. The trial lasted six days and the jury deliberated for four hours. The verdict was not guilty of murder, but guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The suspect was sentenced to nine to ten years in prison and $100 fine.

Fish Warden Shoemaker served two years as a Warden with the Pennsylvania Game Commission prior to serving eighteen years as a Fish Warden with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. He was survived by his wife and two sons.

The son, who was with Warden Shoemaker the evening he was shot, left law enforcement after that fateful night. His other son was appointed to take his father’s position as Fish Warden.

Bio

  • Age Not available
  • Tour 20 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Incident Date Thursday, August 25, 1921
  • Weapon Officer's handgun
  • Offender Convicted of voluntary manslaughter

Most Recent Reflection

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As a current DWCO with the PFBC since 1985 I truly appreciate Warden Shoemaker's dedication and service in protecting the environmental resources of PA. As most people probably know conservation officers patrol in secluded environs and usually without backup readily available. It takes a brave, conscientious and dedicated individual like Warden Shoemaker to perform the duties of a conservation officer and sadly his life ended due to a tragic, thoughtless incident.

Dave Eichler, Deputy WCO
PA Fish & Boat Commission

December 27, 2015

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