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In Memoriam: Salt Lake City officer shot, killed while driving robbery suspects

Salt Lake City Police Sergeant Owen T. Farley died after he was shot driving his suspect’s car, 63 years ago today.

A Salt Lake City police memorial describes how on May 23, 1951, Farley was staking out a car parked near 300 S. State Street, one that investigators believed was used in an Ogden robbery. When the 37-year-old Farley spotted Don Jesse Neal and Wilma Tully return to the car, he arrested them.

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But Farley’s vehicle had vapor-locked – so he loaded the duo into their own car. Farley took the wheel, sat the woman on the front passenger seat and put the handcuffed man between them, according to the memorial.

They only made it a few blocks. As the memorial tells it, Farley was driving north on State Street when the man pulled a handgun that was hidden in the seat and shot Farley in the stomach.

An officer pulled Bill Farley, the sergeant’s son, out of high school and drove him to the hospital. During the ride, he heard over the police radio that his father had died.

The suspected shooter was later found hiding in a business at 500 S. Main Street – a separate online memorial for fallen officers adds that he had been hiding in a locker. The woman was arrested at a Wendover motel, according to the memorial, and "testified against the male suspect, who was subsequently executed by firing squad in 1955."

Farley, buried in Heber City Cemetery, was survived by his wife and three children.

You can now see Farley’s picture in the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building’s lobby, which was recently transformed into a museum for the police and fire departments.

The city also dedicated a plaque to honor his sacrifice, near where he was shot. The plaque can be found on an exterior wall of the Broadway Center.

— Michael McFall

Twitter: @mikeypanda

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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