End of Watch: The Unsolved Murder of Okaloosa Officer Kenneth Baldwin

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Okaloosa County Airports Police Department, Florida

End of Watch Friday, September 11, 1987

The whole world held its breath for a few days in 1962. The USSR placed missiles less than 100 miles from Key West, Florida, obviously as a threat to the American Nation. The new president, John F. Kennedy, would now have to prove what he was made of. After the stare-down was complete, the missiles were removed, and Kennedy became a hero – at least for that incident.

Also in 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. And…Marilyn Monroe serenaded President Kennedy on the birthday with the most unforgettable rendition of “Happy Birthday” ever!

American soldiers in Vietnam

But the whole world was gearing up for conflict. There was unrest in several places across the globe, and the United States was looked at as the world’s police. As a result, in 1962, Kenneth Baldwin, a 17-year-old kid found himself serving in the U. S. Army in Vietnam.

Old photo of Columbus, Mississippi

Kenneth was born in Columbus, Mississippi in 1945. Some joined up and some were drafted. Whatever the case, Kenneth was one of the thousands that became part of the United States Army headed for the conflict in Vietnam. He eventually promoted to sergeant, earning several commendation medals.

Serving in combat teaches you a lot – mostly about yourself. Kenneth found out a lot about himself. He also found two other things across the world. He found that he liked army life, so he stayed in until retirement, 20 years later, in 1982. He also found Su-Kanya, who later became his wife. Both decisions seemed to fit him well.

During his career as a soldier, Kenneth and Su-Kanya built a family – Sunan, Kenneth, and Sherry.  

Okaloosa Air Terminal

In 1982, Kenneth retired from the Army and, with his wife and two youngest children, Kenneth Jr. – 15 and Sherry – 13, moved to the town of Fort Walton Beach. In early 1986, he began a second career as an airport police officer at the Okaloosa Air Terminal. On Christmas Eve 1986, Officer Baldwin was one of the team of Okaloosa officers that captured and arrested three men in cocaine-related charges at the terminal.

On September 11, 1987, the small Okaloosa Air Terminal airport had closed for the night and Officer Baldwin was the lone officer on duty for the shift[1]. At 1:50 AM, the 42-year-old Officer called in and made a routine security check. It would be his last. Forty minutes later, a newspaper deliveryman found his body in front of the terminal. He had been shot five times in the upper body and then run over on his shoulder and facial area.

It appeared that a vehicle had pulled up in front of the terminal when Officer Baldwin approached it. There is no indication that anything other than aiding the public is what Baldwin was doing. The automobile tire tracked his blood 20-30 feet from his body.

Because the crime was committed on airport property, the FBI conducted the murder investigation, assisted by the Air Force Officer of Special Investigations, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department. FBI Agent Doug Jones and his team put every available agent on the case. Officer Baldwin’s keys, radio, gun and wallet were undisturbed. Nothing was missing from outside or inside the terminal. No motive or suspect was ever identified, and the case is still unsolved.

While the murder didn’t garner much attention, an officer lost his life in the line of duty protecting and serving the people of Okaloosa County, just like he swore to do. After many years, a wife is husbandless and three children – now grown, don’t have a father that they can come to for advice, encouragement, and love.

A piece of Okaloosa County died that day.

Officer Kenneth Baldwin

[1] “No motive, no suspects in airport officer’s death.” Pensacola News Journal. September 12, 1987. Accessed December 15, 2022. https://www.newspapers.com/image/267531458/?terms=%22Kenneth%20Baldwin%22&match=1

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