Officer Harold Humphrey Pearce

Officer Harold Humphrey Pearce

Independence Police Department, Iowa

End of Watch Thursday, January 5, 1956

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Harold Humphrey Pearce

Officer Pearce was shot and killed during an escape attempt by a teenage boy he had just arrested. Officer Pearce and his partner had arrested three boys and two girls after a short car chase and transported them back to the police department on the first floor of the Buchanan County Courthouse. They put the three boys in an internal room with Officer Pearce's partner watching them, and the two girls in an outer room. One of the boys jumped from a window when he was permitted to use the bathroom. The boy then retrieved a shotgun from the backseat of their vehicle, which had been transported to the police department.

The suspect re-entered the department and pointed the shotgun at Officer Pearce. He then demanded that Officer Pearce remove his pistol with his left hand. As Officer Pearce complied, the boy shot him once in the chest with the shotgun. After freeing the two girls the boy fled the scene but was later arrested.

The 18-year-old suspect was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. He was the youngest murderer to ever receive a death sentence in Iowa. His sentence was commuted to life in 1957. As of 2021 he remains in Fort Madison Penitentiary and is Iowa's longest-serving inmate and the 5th longest-serving inmate in the U.S. (The longest-serving U.S. inmate is in a Connecticut prison and has been there since 1950.)

Officer Pearce had been with the agency for two years and was survived by his wife, two daughters, mother, and brother.


  • Age 52
  • Tour 2 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Shotgun
  • Offender Sentenced to life

escape attempt

Most Recent Reflection

View all 8 Reflections

Officer Pearce, you were murdered ten years before I was born. I myself am now just weeks away from retiring from the Police. I thank you for your service and hope, maybe one day in heaven, I will drink a nice cold beer with you and tell you, we all still remember your sacrifice. God bless.

Detective Sergeant Michael Feeney
Metropolitan Police

October 17, 2017

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