Sheriff John S. Degman

Sheriff John S. Degman

Colfax County Sheriff's Office, Nebraska

End of Watch Tuesday, January 12, 1886

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John S. Degman

Sheriff John S. Degman was killed as he delivered breakfast to an inmate in the county jail.

Sheriff Degman put the inmate's meal on the window and turned to leave. As he did so, the inmate, who had a long history of criminal behavior and who had recently been arrested on charges that he had abused his family and raped his own daughter, hit him on the back of the head with a piece of firewood that Sheriff Degman had allowed him to keep in his cell. The inmate then struck Sheriff Degman at least twice more, fracturing his skull.

The inmate escaped from the jail but was caught in the yard by the former Colfax County sheriff. The former sheriff called for Sheriff Degman to come and get his prisoner and became alarmed when he got no response. He ran to the jail and discovered Sheriff Degman unconscious on the floor. Sheriff Degman succumbed to his injuries soon after.

Sheriff Degman's killer was returned to the jail, but a mob of two hundred men arrived that night and overpowered the officers guarding him. The mob seized the prisoner and hung him at the north side of the courthouse.

Sheriff Degman had served with the Colfax County Sheriff's Department for two years but had only acted as Sheriff for 10 days at the time of his death. He was survived by his mother, a sister, and three brothers, one of whom served as a city marshal before being appointed to the position of Colfax County Sheriff following his brother's death.


  • Age 35
  • Tour 2 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Assault
  • Weapon Blunt object; Firewood
  • Offender Lynched

Most Recent Reflection

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Sheriff Degman,
On today, the 130th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for the citizens of Colfax County.


United States Border Patrol

January 12, 2016

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