Posse Member James R. Appelgate

Posse Member James R. Appelgate

Benton County Sheriff's Office, Oregon

End of Watch Tuesday, October 25, 1955

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James R. Appelgate

Posse Member James Appelgate was shot and killed by a prisoner during an escape attempt.

On Sunday, October 23, 1955, two men were arrested on charges of car theft. The suspects were kept in the jail in Grants Pass until Monday when they were returned to the Lane County jail in Eugene by a Deputy Sheriff. At the Eugene jail, one suspect pulled a gun he had kept hidden in his belt and forced the deputy to give up his car keys. The two suspects took off in the Sheriff s Patrol car headed northbound on Oregon 99W to Junction City before turning toward Monroe. About four miles north of Junction City, they pulled over a civilian car carrying a family of five. The suspects locked the family in the patrol car in the prisoner's cage, stole the civilian car, and drove toward Corvallis.

The civilian driver managed to get out of the patrol car and call the Corvallis police. City Police Officer B.C. Branson stationed himself beside the highway in south Corvallis and soon spotted the car coming into town at about 80 miles an hour. Officer Branson caught up with the men when their car failed to make a turn from Jefferson Street onto First Street and the car went up over the railroad tracks and crashed into a tree. The suspects jumped from the car but the officer was able to detain one of them.

The other suspect took off down the street and was spotted running by Posse Member Appelgate, who was returning home from drills with the Sheriff’s Posse with his 16- year-old daughter and her friend. Posse Member Appelgate flagged down a police officer and told him he had seen the suspect running down the street. The officer got in Posse Member Appelgate' s truck with the girls and they raced to the alley behind Ben's Associated Service Station at Third and Van Buren streets. The officer got out of the truck and went around to the front of the gas station to ask the attendants if they had seen the suspect.

When the officer returned to the truck he found the suspect with a gun pointed at Posse Member Appelgate and the girls. The suspect said he wanted the pickup to make his getaway. Posse Member Appelgate, fearing for the safety of the girls, got into a scuffle with the suspect. Three shots were fired and the other officer ran around the car and was also shot at twice by suspect, who then dropped his .45 Colt automatic and took off running.

Posse Member Appelgate died the next day from his serious injuries. No one was sure if the suspect had been hit, but he took off and wasn't found until Oct. 25 after one of the biggest man hunts in Salem involving state, county and city law enforcement officials. The suspect was finally spotted in a restaurant in Monmouth and was taken into custody by Police Chief Edward C. Leum, who later turned him over to the Oregon State Police for questioning and Salem General Hospital for treatment of a minor bullet wound. It is believed the suspect shot himself in the struggle with Posse Member Appelgate. The suspect was later returned to Corvallis where he was charged with first degree murder. He entered a not guilty plea and in December was found guilty by a jury of second degree murder and later sentenced to life imprisonment in the Oregon State Penitentiary. He was paroled on October 19, 1967.

Posse Member Appelgate was survived by his wife and three children.


  • Age 39
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Paroled in 1967

Most Recent Reflection

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This hero was my uncle. I remember the day that we received this news, and even though a child at the time, could not imagine how terrifying it must have been for him to see his daughter and her friend's lives threatened.
The next day, when we heard he had passed away from the gunshot wounds, was so shocking and painful as he left a very young family behind.
I don't think we totally understand how our law enforcement officers are put in harms way continually and are instantly forced to make decisions for the greater good. Way too often it is a sacrificial act of courage that ultimately takes their life. We owe them such a debt of gratitude, and especially during this climate of violence and disrespect for these brave men and women. Thank you so much for your service.

Teri Applegate Harold

February 18, 2021

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