Chief Ambrose Metcalfe

Chief Ambrose Metcalfe

Harlan County Police Department, Kentucky

End of Watch Sunday, April 17, 1949

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Ambrose Metcalfe

Chief Ambrose Metcalfe was shot and killed as he and his wife got out of their automobile in front of the Shields Cafe in Shields. Two men were arrested by state police several hours later and charged with his murder.

In 1943, Ambrose Metcalfe was appointed chief of the newly formed Harlan County Police Force, which was set up at the insistence of Harlan County citizens who demanded more vigorous law enforcement, especially for alcohol violations, in their legally dry county. His six-year career was a stormy one, with numerous run-ins with both the lawless and other law enforcement officers. It was not the first attempt at killing him. A few weeks prior, dynamite caps were placed in his engine, causing his car to explode. And he had shot and wounded during a raid.

The cafe that Chief Metcalfe was killed in front of belonged to one of the suspects. Chief Metcalfe had raided the cafe on several occasions and had charged the suspect with illegal possession of whiskey.

On October 28, 1949, in spite of the fact that Chief Metcalfe's wife and another witness testified that they saw the suspect shoot her husband five times, he was acquitted. The second suspect was not indicted by the grand jury. On November 14, 1949, he was shot and killed by an unknown gunman as he left the Harlan Theater.

The Harlan County Police Department no longer exists. Chief Metcalfe was its first and only police chief. No one would take his place. He was a United States Army World War II veteran and was survived by his wife and son.


  • Age 29
  • Tour 6 years
  • Badge Not available
  • Military Veteran

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Acquitted


Most Recent Reflection

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Chief Metcalf,
On today, the 75th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice-not just as a Law Enforcement Officer but for our Country as well when you served with the U.S. Army during World War II. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.

BPA Mike Casey
United States Border Patrol(Retired)

April 17, 2024

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