The more things change, the more they stay the same (Part 2)
Of the four men arrested in connection with the burglaries and incident resulting in the murder of the officers, Arthur Buck, was the only one convicted of murder. The remaining suspects, convicted of various lower level theft and burglary offenses, served out minor sentences. After pleading guilty to Officer Devaney’s murder, Buck was sentenced to life imprisonment. Six months later on November 12, State’s Attorney Hergistad deciding since Buck already admitted to the facts of the case, plead guilty in Officer Devaney’s murder, and was already serving a life sentence, dismissed the remaining count of murder resulting from Agent Gowin’s slaying. Nearly a year after the killings, on March 27, 1919, a trial charging another of the accused killers, Clark Ticknor, with the officers’ murder was underway. Buck was brought back to Minot from the North Dakota State Penitentiary in Bismarck to testify, as he had previously implicated Ticknor in the shootings when he initially confessed to his involvement in the incident. Although once on the stand, Buck recanted and took responsibility for killing both officers. The murder charges against Ticknor were dismissed. With this dismissal, no further charges for the officers’ murders were ever filed, and nobody was ever convicted for the murder of Agent Gowin. On March 11, 1920, Buck, and three other inmates, escaped from prison. Buck was never recaptured.
Officer Devaney, (47 at the time of his death) was survived by his wife Mary (Egan) and five children; William, Mayme, Alice, Margaret, and Francis. Mary remained in the family home (where the Minot Daily News now stands) raising the five children alone, taking in boarders to help make ends meet. Where the home stood was in view of the Ward County Jail, which initially housed the man convicted of killing Officer Devaney, a sad and constant reminder of that terrible night. As they became adults, the Devaney children eventually moved to different parts of the country leaving this sad chapter of their lives behind them. Officer Devaney was the first of two Minot Police Officers killed in the line of duty and is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in south Minot.
Agent Gowin (44 at the time of his death) was survived by his wife Sarah (Kimball) and two sons Frank and Francis. Sarah for a time stayed remained in North Dakota, however returned with her boys to her family in Fulton, Missouri after a couple of years. Agent Gowin was also survived by three brothers, Ira (who also farmed in Glenburn), Harry and Burt. Agent Gowin is buried at Bethany Lutheran Cemetery in Glenburn, North Dakota.
In the hundred years following this tragic incident, North Dakota and Minot have seen tremendous growth; most of it very positive. What hasn’t changed in that century’s worth of advancement is the constant attention to duty demanded of our law enforcement officers. Despite these changes in technology, economics, law, medicine, and policing, our state and local law enforcement officers often call upon each other for assistance in handling investigations or major incidents. Our growth belies an immutable truth, obvious to all those who carry the designation of “Peace Officer”. That is there are instances where every law enforcement agency in this state, regardless of size, must lean on each other for help.
Echoes of Officer Devaney’s decision to voluntarily back-up Agent Gowin are still heard today. In recent history, such conduct of our law enforcement officers in the region, and from around the nation, remains the norm. The floods of 2011 in Minot immediately saw North Dakota officers and Federal agents coming to help the Minot Police Department and Ward County Sheriff’s Office. Minot Police Officers joined nearly every other law enforcement entity in North Dakota, and officers from several other states, in response to the call from the Morton County Sheriff in the months-long civil unrest and protests of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Each Minot Police Officer who went volunteered to be assigned, with some of them committing to several rotations, doing their part in keeping the peace in a rapidly changing and volatile policing environment. No Minot Police Officer had to be ordered to assist and no position went unfilled. Four Minot Police Officers, joined by officers and deputies from several other jurisdictions, answered the call for assistance by the Rolette County Sheriff in January 2017. That call being a request for rural patrol assistance to ease the burden on a Sheriff’s Office in the midst of an investigation and processing the grief of the Line-of-Duty murder of Deputy Colt Allery. Day to day in North Dakota, our SWAT teams, Bomb Squads and Drug Task Forces are made possible by the joint efforts of agents, deputies, and officers of the state, counties, and cities they serve.
Aside from formal Emergency Management Assistance Compact manpower requests, or participation in shared budget joint teams; North Dakota Peace Officers will simply just lend a hand when they see it is needed. Helping a neighboring department execute an arrest warrant, interviewing a witness, taking a follow up report, or stopping on a lonely stretch of highway when they see an officer of another department on a traffic stop, knowing the feeling of being alone to face dangers of the profession. Officer Devaney and Agent Gowin faced those dangers together. Law enforcement officers today, especially in this region and state, remain instinctively drawn to share the burden of those dangers identically to those officers a century ago. The willingness of residents like Vac Barta to report criminal activity and the heroism of Chauncey Jones, a man who wasn’t in law enforcement, but put himself at risk to aid these officers during the investigation and his later willingness to face the killers at trial is also often still a trait shown by North Dakotans. A recognition of duty in the service of the community, regardless of profession, when it comes knocking. These officers’ sacrifice, in the fraternal performance of duty, and the willingness of two area residents to stand with them, and the examples of the similar conduct by the following generations of Peace Officers and community members, serve as comforting reminder that sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.