Captain John Olin Sanders

Captain John Olin Sanders

South Carolina Department of Corrections, South Carolina

End of Watch Sunday, December 12, 1937

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John Olin Sanders

Captain John Sanders was stabbed to death by six inmates during an escape attempt from the South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia, South Carolina.

The escape attempt started when one of the six inmates entered Captain Sanders' office to discuss a personal matter he had made up. As the two spoke, a second inmate entered the office without permission. The two inmates tied up Captain Sanders and demanded that he bring a car to the door so they could escape. When Captain Sanders refused the demand, one of the inmates stabbed him. The other four inmates then entered the office.

Captain Sanders summoned his assistant and apprised him of the situation and the inmates' demands. The assistant called for reinforcements, and more than 200 law enforcement officers responded to the penitentiary.

After a 3-hour standoff, tear gas was fired into the office. As officers stormed the office, an inmate stabbed Captain Sanders in the chest, just below the heart. All six inmates were taken into custody. They were all convicted of murdering Captain Sanders and executed in the electric chair on March 24, 1939.

Captain Sanders had served with the South Carolina Department of Corrections for seven years and had served in law enforcement for 37 years. He had previously served with the Anderson Police Department, Anderson County Magistrate's Office, Anderson County Sheriff's Office, and the South Carolina State Constabulary. He was survived by his wife, four sons, and one daughter.

South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia was the primary state prison until it was demolished in 1999.


  • Age 61
  • Tour 37 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Stabbed
  • Weapon Edged weapon
  • Offender Executed in 1939

escape attempt, prisoner custody

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“No job is more dangerous or more thankless than a correction officer.” - Unknown.
Thanks for all your help Capt. We gonna take over from here.

Sgt Desmond Weston

June 29, 2022

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