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Fallen sheriff from 1906 honored with facility

Clackamas County Sheriff's Office opens John R. Shaver Building
by: Submitted photo, A newspaper headline from 1906, when Clackamas County Sheriff John R. Shaver was shot trying to apprehend robbery/murder suspect Frank Smith.

He may have died 100 years ago in the line of duty, but the memory of a former Clackamas County Sheriff lives on with the dedication of a new sheriff's office building bearing his name.

About 60 people gathered at the new John R. Shaver Sheriff's Office Building last week in Oregon City. The facility, located at 256 Warner-Milne Road, houses various special victims and forensic operations.

'People were talking about different names for the building, and then one name just stood out,' said Sheriff's Office Spokesman James Strovink. 'We wanted to dedicate it to Shaver because he was the first elected Clack-amas County Sheriff to be killed in the line of duty.'

Members of Shaver's family were present at the dedication, and proud to be part of his recognition.

'It was a huge honor to be invited to represent the family,' said Tammy Shaver, the great granddaughter of Shaver's first cousin. 'It speaks to all public servants in the line of duty, not just him.' She said Shaver was 'a fearless man and considered an upstanding citizen. He was unafraid to do what was right.'

That fearlessness led him to pursue murder suspect Frank Smith, a pursuit that would ultimately end his life.

The incident

'It was a homicide investigation gone terribly wrong,' said Sheriff's Det. Dan Kraus.

Smith had been put in jail after he robbed two Multnomah County post offices in April 1906, but he escaped and fled to Oregon City, where he killed police officer George Hanlon.

At around midnight on April 27, Shaver and Oregon National Guard Capt. O.D. Henderson confronted Smith in Woodburn, near a stretch of railroad tracks. Smith fired his .44 caliber revolver at Henderson and then at Shaver, Kraus said.

Henderson died shortly after the encounter and Shaver was taken to a Salem hospital where he died two days later. He was the first Clackamas County Sheriff to be killed in the line of duty, one of eight in Oregon history.

When news of Shaver's death reached Oregon City, the local police chief rang the fire bell and hundreds of citizens mobilized to help find Smith. A Spokane man eventually found Smith and shot him in the head.

'The dedication of the town was surprising and the response of the community for (Shaver's) burial was great,' Kraus said. 'It's nice to see that (happened) back then.'

The building

Today, the building dedicated in Shaver's name will help the sheriff's office streamline operations by bringing several key units and employees together under one roof, Strovink said.

The building will include the Child Abuse Team (CAT), the Major Crimes Unit, the Criminal Reconstruction and Forensic Team (CRAFT), as well as a few other operations.

'We were overcrowded at the South Station,' said Sheriff Craig Roberts. 'We had our IT people living out of a trailer. This consolidates operations and solves a lot of problems.'

CAT, which Roberts instituted, is the only unit of its kind in Clackamas County, he said. Comprised of one sergeant and six detectives, the team is dedicated to coordinating child-abuse investigations.

The Major Crimes Unit is staffed with one sergeant and seven detectives. The specialized unit supports the Patrol Division by investigating major incidents such as homicides, serious assaults and robbery.

CRAFT has two full-time evidence technicians on staff who investigate fatal and serious-injury crashes. Unit members are able to reconstruct crashes and map diagrams of crime scenes.

'The building consolidates and unties groups so we can better supervise, coordinate and improve teamwork among these units,' said Sheriff's Lt. Debbie Brent. 'In other words, it brings people together who should be working together, so we can use their talents as a team to better serve the citizens of Clackamas County.'

The building once housed the Internal Revenue Service. The federal government deeded the building to the sheriff's office on Feb. 5, 2004. Remodeling and upgrading projects included new security features (including a fence and alarm system), an emergency power generator, wall demolition, electrical system improvements, new furnishings and bringing the facility into compliance with building codes.

Other new features include a conference room, a break room and two new interview rooms with recording capabilities, Strovink said.