Justice is Served

Published by


The death of Escambia County, Florida Deputy Joseph Gassman

Deputy Sheriff Joseph Gassman was born in 1910 in Pensacola and he grew up in the same town. In his heart and soul he was a Pensacola native! In 1957, he decided he wanted to be a lawman. He tried his hand and immediately loved it!

Sundays are historically quiet in the law enforcement world. It gives officers time to catch up on tasks, and to even relax a little – sometimes. On Sunday morning, January 30, 1966 – 57 seven years ago – Deputy Gassman was serving warrants.

Joe Gassman

Norva and Augusta King were a married couple who lived on the northeast corner of 9th Avenue and Chase Street. Things were not going well for them. King had been in and out of trouble his entire adult life, frequenting jails and mental facilities, mostly in Miami. But Norva had had enough. She went to the court and had a warrant sworn out for his arrest. Today was the day.

About 7:45 AM, 55-year-old Deputy Gassman knocked on the door. When King learned who he was, the old deputy talked in his quiet, soothing way to him and talked him into coming with him. What Gassman didn’t know is that King had been on a rampage the past few days and threatened to kill law enforcement officers. This was his opportunity.

As the two men were walking out the front door, King suddenly swerved and, facing the deputy, wrestled the older man’s gun from the holster. He then reached and grabbed a large knife and immediately – in the presence of his wife, mother, aunt, 19-year-old stepson and 15-year-old stepdaughter – began plunging the big knife deep into the deputy’s chest. After inflicting eleven deep, unrecoverable stab wounds, King ran out the back door, jumped into his car, and sped off.

The family member sat for a few seconds in unbelief. What had they just witnessed? Did he really do that? Then the stepdaughter ran to the neighbor’s house and the police were notified.

Within seconds, Pensacola Police detectives Frank Mathews and Bill Haven arrived. They ran into the house, prepared to take whatever lifesaving measured they needed to. But they soon discovered that it was no use. Deputy Joseph Gassman was dead.

Soon, every lawman in the county was on the lookout for the suspect. They searched high and low for any car that matched the description. About 15 minutes later, Florida State Trooper H. D. Jones came spotted a car that matched the description at the corner of Brent Lane and Davis Highway. But the car was abandoned. However, there was a bloody knife inside.

Trooper Jones, thinking that the driver couldn’t have gotten far, radioed his find and began searching. He soon saw the suspect running along nearby Interstate 110, and, with other officers responding, he gave pursuit.

When the suspect saw the trooper, he diverted into an open field alongside the Interstate highway. Trooper Jones pursued on foot, firing several warning shots into the air. The suspect slowed, stopped, and put his hands in the air in surrender.

Deputy Gassman’s funeral took place on February 3 at the First Methodist Church downtown. He left to mourn his passing his wife and three children.

The suspect’s lawyer said his client was mentally incompetent. But State Attorney William Frye didn’t think the jury would buy it…and they didn’t. Guilty of premeditated First Degree Murder without mercy. The suspect was going to get the death penalty.

Until someone brought up that one of the jurors slept through the jury instructions. They had to go back to the drawing board and try him again. This time, the jury found him guilty, but with mercy. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Deputy Gassman

On February 28, 2010, the suspect was strangled to death by another inmate who was also serving a life sentence. The incident occurred at Zephyrhills Correctional Institute between Tampa and Orlando. Justice has its way of being served.

%d bloggers like this: