End of Watch: The Death of Pensacola Police Officer Herbert Hatcher

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from the book “Pensacola’s Finest,” available on Amazon

Officer Herbert “Tommie” Hatcher

One of the darkest days – perhaps the darkest day – in the story of the historic Pensacola Police Officer occurred on Sunday, January 15, 1939. It’s never a good thing when an officer is forced to shoot and kill a person, but it’s even worse when that person is the son of a fellow officer – one who has just killed a third officer. Nothing good about it.

Officer Arthur Bobe was a proud Pensacola Police Officer. He referred to his son as “Junior.” Junior was a senior at Pensacola High School. He was a quiet boy. But during the Christmas break, he suddenly changed. He wanted to quit school and join the Navy. On January 14, 1939, he told them that he was going out to a dance. 

That that evening, he visited the Palafox Inn and caused a disturbance. As he was leaving, he told clerk Glenn Wallace that he was going to get a gun and would be back to kill him. He went across the street to Gilmore’s Service Station, where he confronted the attendant and asked if there was any money in the cash register. When the attendant said there was, Junior said that he would be back.

Herbert “Tommie” Hatcher was a favorite police officer among the kids. He influenced hundreds of boys when he took over the school patrol. He even formed The Knothole Gang so underprivileged kids could get into ball games at Legion Field for free. Tommie was soon promoted to Motorcycle officer, but he broke his ankle in an accident.

Captain Riley Simmons

On January 15, 1939, he was riding with Captain Riley Simmons on the night shift when they were advised of a robbery occurring at The People’s Café, 223 E. Wright St. The two lawmen started that way. As they arrived, Tommie jumped out and ran into the café just as the armed suspect was coming out. The suspect shot Hatcher twice in the abdomen. He then bent down and took Hatcher’s gun from his hand. Captain Simmons hastily fired one shot that missed the suspect, who opened up with both guns on Captain Simmons. Simmons took aim through the front plate glass window and fired twice. One round struck the suspect in the head and the other in the chest. He was dead before he hit the floor. Simmons ran to Hatcher’s side and checked on him, then summoned an ambulance. Officer Hatcher was rushed to the hospital but died at 4:45 AM.

Captain Simmons took both revolvers from the suspect He recognized one as belonging to Officer Hatcher, but the other weapon was also familiar. It looked like a police-issued handgun. It belonged to Officer Bobe.

Officer and Mrs. Bobe buried their son on Monday, January 15, in St. John’s cemetery after a brief ceremony at their home. Officer Hatcher was survived by his wife Eunice and their children – Herbert Jr., Tommie G., and Almedia Hatcher. The body was viewed on January 17th at Officer Hatcher’s home, 926 E. Lloyd Street, then taken to Sacred Heart church for the funeral service conducted by the Reverend Campodonica, pastor of Sacred Heart. The burial also took place at St. John’s cemetery. Over 100 School Safety Patrol boys joined in the procession.

It was a terrible time for the Pensacola Police family.

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