Officer William Leopold Cotter

Officer William Leopold Cotter

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, California

End of Watch Monday, July 27, 1903

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William Leopold Cotter

Officer William Cotter was stabbed to death as 13 prisoners escaped from the Folsom Penitentiary.

The prisoners, who were armed with knives and razors, attacked the prison staff. They stabbed and killed Officer Cotter and seriously wounded several other guards and the Warden.

The suspects then took the officer's guns and escaped from the prison by using the prison guards as shields as they fled. Two suspects were shot and killed during the ensuing manhunt. The remaining 11 were arrested and returned to prison. Two were executed for the murder, and one committed suicide in his cell.

Two members of the state militia were also shot and killed during the manhunt.

Officer Cotter had served with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for at least eight years, assigned to Folsom Penitentiary. He was survived by his son and two daughters.


  • Age 54
  • Tour 8 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Stabbed
  • Weapon Edged weapon
  • Offender Two shot and killed

correctional Facility, escape, escape attempt, prisoner custody

Most Recent Reflection

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Officer Cotter,
On today, the 120th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for the citizens of the state of California. There is no tougher job in Law Enforcement than that of a Corrections Officer.


United States Border Patrol

July 27, 2023

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