End of Watch: Escambia County, Florida Sheriff Cary Ellis

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End of Watch Tuesday, September 25, 1923

Pensacola Chief of Police Andrew Cary Ellis had been Escambia County’s sheriff before but had failed to be re-elected. Since then, he had been wearing a badge, but now he was to put on his old one again. The sheriff’s old and new friends were glad to see him in his old position again. He met new challenges, including people who were ready to test him. But he was up for it. Sadly, not for long.

They all knew her. Escambia deputies and Pensacola police officers knew Susie McLane. They had had numerous dealings with the mentally unbalanced woman. She had been arrested several times, including the time she stabbed the man. The man lived but steered clear of McLane after that.

She stayed at 2009 Petterson Street, but the 50-year-old woman didn’t live there. She had been occupying the house on and off for a while. The homeowner, Hurley Cobb, made it clear that he had never given her permission to stay there, and he wanted her evicted – again. He brought a contempt of court order to Sheriff Cary Ellis to remove her and place her in custody. Ellis had put McLane out before, and it looked like he would have to do it again.

She was seen at the house recently by several deputies, so Ellis knew what he had to do. The sheriff said that he wanted to put her out “without hurting the poor old soul.”

September 25, 1923 – 99 years ago today – Sheriff Ellis and two deputies arrived at the house and greeted the woman through the door. She wouldn’t open it and she closed the blinds. He talked to her through the door without success, so he started to force the door open. Gunfire erupted from inside the house. McLane shot twice at the lawman but missed.

As soon as Ellis got the door open, McLane, who was standing directly in front of him, fired at almost point-blank range with a .32 caliber revolver, breaking his neck. The other officers returned fire. McLane was dead before she hit the floor. Sheriff Ellis died within a few minutes. Just like that, the most popular man in the county was dead.

The funeral took place at the sheriff’s home the next afternoon at 4:30. A procession of 2000 people then followed the hearse to St. John’s Cemetery for the burial. Following the funeral, Deputy Thomas Cusach was sworn in as temporary successor by Judge Jones. Sheriff Ellis was survived by his wife and three daughters.

Sheriff Ellis, thank you for your sacrifice to keep this county safe. Rest easy, Sir.


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