End of Watch: The Murder of Deputy Joseph Whitworth, Escambia County, Florida Sheriff’s Office

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An Excerpt from the book, “Some Gave All,” coming soon on Amazon

By Mike Simmons

Elmer Whitworth always excelled. As a boy, he won the best camper award on his Boy Scout campout in 1933. The next week he also was advanced in rank. But he didn’t just excel. He was also popular. While he was the best camper, he was also awarded “Best Campfire Entertainer.” Over the next few months, he was named in the “Best Patrol” twice, and twice more advanced in rank.

While a teenager, he excelled with the young people in social circles, being often named in the newspaper at parties and outings. During this time, he met Myona Brown. The two married on March 14, 1938. His first job was with Waters and Hibbert Funeral Home.

In 1953, he became a deputy with the Escambia County, Florida Sheriff’s Office. He enjoyed serving the people in the same county where he had grown up.

The Old Vagabond Restaurant was a Pensacola landmark. It was a favorite for getting a great meal at a good price. And…you were bound see someone you knew when you went in there! It was located on the southwest corner of Pace Boulevard and Pottery Plant Road. In 1958, the business was sold to a small unknown hamburger joint called McDonalds.

Deputy Whitworth was working the night of April 22, 1954, when he heard a call from fellow Deputy Roland Simmons. Roland noticed a driver driving near the speed of sound driving past The Vagabond at the intersection of Pace Blvd. and Pottery Plant Road (Fairfield Drive). Roland turned on his lights in an attempt to stop him. The driver didn’t stop but turned west on Pottery Plant Road. Roland followed him as they turned south on “T” Street, then down to Holland’s Trailers, 1717 N. “T” Street. When the driver stopped and got out of the car, Roland called to the man, John Rosique, to let him speak to him. Rosique ignored him and continued into his trailer, locking the door behind him. When several pleas from Roland outside the trailer went unanswered, he called for other officers.

The Vagabond Restaurant

Hamp Gandy, Jr., the officer in charge, arrived with Deputy Whitworth and other deputies. A shouting match between the lawmen and the suspect followed, with the suspect telling them to come back tomorrow. The deputies secured a warrant and read it to Rosique. No response. Gandy told him he had five minutes. Four minutes later, gunshots came from inside the house. The deputies wouldn’t return fire, because Rosique’s wife and baby were inside. Gandy then made the decision to shoot a canister of tear gas inside. It didn’t penetrate.

Soon after, Mrs. Rosique stormed out of the trailer and prepared to leave. Gandy approached her and asked what was the matter with her husband. She said he was just mean. After she and the baby left, Gandy ordered Whitworth to fire another canister – with more power than the first one – into the trailer. The canister bounced just outside the front door and began delivering its gas. That is when the shotgun fired. The deputies returned fire, and the shootout began. When it was over, Deputy Elmer Whitworth lay dead with a shotgun wound to his head.

The suspect was arrested and charged with murder. At his trial, he said he was in bed asleep when a tear gas bomb came through his window. He said he opened fire because he thought the deputies were criminals trying to kill him and his family. He was acquitted.

Deputy Whitworth had been with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for one year. He was survived by his wife and two sons.


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