A Quiet Salute to a Friend: Officer Michael Farnsworth

On December 5, 1971, five men entered the Quality Motel on Main Street and forced their way into the room of Davenport Police Patrolman Leon Washington. The men hit Officer Washington and tied him up, then stole three automatic pistols, a revolver, and a shotgun. It is possible that the men also tried to rob the motel offices—in any case, an alarm went off, alerting the police.

Patrolman Sam L. Raley and his partner Patrolman Michael Farnsworth, who had joined the department in August, were among the first officers to arrive on the scene. They observed four men fleeing from the motel and tried to stop them. The suspects started shooting and the police returned fire.

Patrolman Raley was lucky—three bullets just missed him. Patrolman Farnsworth wasn’t. The twenty-nine year old man died of a gunshot wound to the head shortly after being rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital.

The police, joined by Scott County deputies and five squads from the Iowa Highway Patrol, cordoned off a two block area and searched the motel and surrounding buildings. Four suspects were arrested and charged with first degree murder.

A continuous honor guard of uniformed police officers stood at either end of the casket as more than 400 people visited Runge Mortuary to pay their respects to Michael Farnsworth, the first Davenport Police Officer to be killed in the line of duty since 1958.*

Donations for the Farnsworth family were sent to the Police station by people all over the Quad-Cities—over $800 was collected in two days. A clothing store offered to give Mrs. Farnsworth a dress for the funeral. The city paid the funeral expenses, and Davenport Memorial Park donated two burial plots to the family—a gift that was usually given only to war veterans killed in action.

The funeral, held at the First Presbyterian Church, was attended by almost 200 police officers, active and retired, from as far away as Dubuque, Iowa, and Galesburg, Illinois. All members of the Davenport Police Department and Fire Department, barring those on shift duty, were present, including Patrolman Leon Washington.

“His death in responding to the Call of duty deeply touches us all,” said Reverend Dr. Donald Blackstone. “[We must] increase out respect for, and appreciated of, and cooperation with out law enforcement officers and agencies. . . if we will seriously undertake and implement these changes, the death of Michael Farnsworth will not be in vain.”**

After the service, a double line of police officers formed and an honor guard of six officers in full dress uniform escorted the coffin as the pallbearers carried it to the hearse. One of these pallbearers was Sam Raley.

Officers stood at attention long the route to the cemetery, which led past the Police Station, its doors draped in black. Flags all over the city were flown at half mast. Once the procession reached the cemetery, officers lined the path from the hearse to the gravesite.

Davenport police officers are not often lost to us in the line of duty, though they willingly put themselves at risk for us every day. Perhaps it shouldn’t take a funeral to remember how important they are to our community?

*Detective William Jurgens was shot while coming to the aid of another officer on July 16, 1958.

**Arpy, Jim. “Hundred Mourn Slain Officer,” Times-Democrat, December 9, 1971, p.1.

Sources Used:

Arpy, Jim. “Hundred Mourn Slain Officer,” Times-Democrat, December 9, 1971, p.1.

“Shooting of Officer at Motel Follows Holdup,” Times-Democrat, 6Dec1971, p.1

“Quiet Salute to a Friend,” Times-Dmeocrat, 8Dec1971, p.1.

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