On the west wall of the lobby of the Rapid City Public Safety Building lobby, adjacent to the temporary exhibit erected to honor recently fallen officers Ryan McCandless and Nick Armstrong, is a glass memorial case honoring Rapid City police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Two more plaques will soon be added to the seven memorial plaques displayed there. Among those seven is one for James Hawkes, a Rapid City policeman shot and killed while responding to an emergency call on Dec. 28, 1916, and, before the tragedy of Aug. 2, the last active-duty Rapid City police offer killed by gunfire.
Many of the details of that case have faded with time, and news accounts of the events leave many unanswered questions.
In the early morning hours of Thursday, December 28, 1916, patrolman James Hawkes, 54, responded to a disturbance call from the Garlick Hotel, at 430 St. Joseph St.
Accounts taken from the Dec. 29 issue of the Rapid City Journal indicate that the hotel’s proprietor, Claude Garlick, called in a report shortly after midnight, indicating that a female resident of the hotel and Garlick had been threatened by a local man named Ensley Spiking (spellings of Spiking’s first name vary between Ensley and Endsley, depending upon the source).
Spiking, 37, had reportedly become angry with a female resident of the hotel, asked Garlick for the loan of a pistol, and then threatened to shoot him for failing to promptly provide said pistol.
Hawkes responded to the call and was shot three times in the back as he entered the hotel. Witnesses reported that Spiking had appeared on the street and followed Hawkes into the hotel. Witnesses also said Spiking had called out to Hawkes seconds before the fatal shots were fired, “Where are you going, Jim?”
However, later newspaper accounts give no indication that Hawkes and Spiking knew each other.
After Hawkes was shot, Spiking reportedly ran back on to the street and seconds later allegedly fired shots through the front window at Garlick’s wife, who was seated in a front dining area of the hotel.
Spiking was apprehended moments later on St. Joseph St. in front of the hotel; he professed to have no knowledge of the crimes.
James Hawkes was declared dead at the scene.
His funeral service was conducted the day after his death at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and the body was soon transported by rail to Bernard, Iowa, where Hawkes had lived before moving to Rapid City. There, he was laid to rest beside his wife and child, both of whom had died at the time of the child’s birth.
The charges against Spiking came as a shock to many in the community who fondly remembered him diligently and tenderly caring for many diphtheria victims, after his own recovery from the illness during an epidemic that swept the city in 1890.
After a Jan. 1 hearing, Spiking was bound over to circuit court for trial and bond set at $25,000. South Dakota law allowed bail at the time, even for capital offences.
“Man accused of slaying James Hawkes ends all yesterday,” a front page headline of the Jan. 7 edition of the Rapid City Journal read. The article gives an account of Spiking’s suicide while being held in Pennington County Jail. As told by fellow inmate Ed Tuttle, Spiking grabbed a 3-inch pocket knife, which had been left on a table by Tuttle when whittling wood, and stabbed himself to death.
Tuttle reported that Spiking had been acting strangely, muttering to himself while frantically pacing the cell-block corridor.
A few days later, while preparing Spiking’s body for burial, the undertaker discovered a suicide note in Spiking’s pocket and four stab wounds to the abdomen, which apparently had previously gone unnoticed.
“I am not guilty of the that murder I am charged with, but I cannot endure the imprisonment” said the note of a man who instead chose to stab himself four times in the stomach, and for good measure, once in the breast.
From there the story, and its remaining participants fade from reports. Claude Garlick and his wife, who apparently lived in the hotel, soon disappeared from area phone books, and by 1939, the Garlick Hotel had disappeared from the pages of the Keiter Directory, a publication that listed Rapid City area businesses.
All that remains to tell the story of James Hawkes’ death is the glass-enclosed plaque in the police department lobby. And of the man, the inscription at the bottom of the plaque says: “Officer Hawkes was a quiet and unassuming man and was known as ‘the Lion James Hawkes.’”
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