Sheriff James Rufus Lauer

Sheriff James Rufus Lauer

Northumberland County Sheriff's Office, Pennsylvania

End of Watch Wednesday, May 27, 1959

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James Rufus Lauer

Sheriff Lauer was shot and killed in McCandless Township near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as he and a deputy transported a prisoner to the Western Penitentiary. During the drive near the intersection of Perry Highway and Pine Creek Road the suspect was able to grab Sheriff Lauer's .38 caliber service revolver.

The sheriff then jumped into the backseat in an attempt to regain control of his weapon and subdue the prisoner. During the struggle the suspect shot Sheriff Lauer in the abdomen. The deputy was able to stop the vehicle and attempted to aid Sheriff Lauer, but was chased away from the scene by the suspect. The suspect fled on foot but was turned himself in 12 hours later during a massive manhunt. He was being taken to Western Penitentiary to serve a 4 to 10 year sentence for armed robbery.

The 50-year-old suspect had been in New York and Pennsylvania prisons for the past 19 years. He was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death on May 20, 1960. Three years later he was awarded a new trial and sentenced to life. He was denied clemency on May 8, 1973.

Sheriff Lauer had served with the Northumberland County Sheriff's Office for 16 years. He was survived by his grandmother.


  • Age 53
  • Tour 16 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Officer's handgun
  • Offender Sentenced to life

prisoner custody, transport

Most Recent Reflection

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Rest in peace Sheriff Lauer.

Rabbi Lewis S. Davis

January 16, 2023

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