Sheriff Jess Sarber Tribute

On October 12, 1933 Sheriff Sarber and his wife along with Deputy Wilbur Sharp had just finished their evening meal and were seated in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office when three visitors arrived. Deputy Sharp answered the door and let the visitors in the Office. The men told them they were Officials from the Indiana State Prison and they wanted to see inmate John Dillinger. Dillinger was in the Allen County Jail on a robbery charge awaiting trial.

The Sheriff asked, “Where are your credentials? One of the men pulled a gun from under his coat and said “Here is our credentials., we want Johnny.” At the same time Sarber attempted to retrieve his gun from his desk drawer and the criminal fired twice at Sheriff Sarber, hitting him once.

Mrs. Sarber and the Deputy were then locked in the basement of the Sheriff’s Office, and Dillinger was freed from the Jail. A small boy walking in the alley of the Jail, heard the cries for help coming from the basement of the Jail, and notified the Lima Police Department to respond. They found Sheriff Sarber unconscious on the floor of the lobby of the Jail. He was rushed to Lima Memorial Hospital where he died at 8:05 p.m., just over two hours after the shooting. It took several hours to rescue Mrs. Sarber and Deputy Wilbur Sharp from the furnace room in which they had been lock. Finally a cutting torch was used to cut through the door of the room to free them.

An intensive nationwide manhunt was inaugurated throughout the United States for the killers of Sheriff Sarber. Identified as the assailants were Harry Pierpont, Charles Makely, and Russell Clark. All of the members of the “Dillinger Gang” (except Dillinger himself) were later captured in Tuscon Arizona and returned to Lima to stand trial for this murder, in March of 1934. These men were convicted of this crime. Pierpont and Makely received a death sentence, while Clark received life sentence. Dillinger would then be killed in a shootout in Chicago in July of 1934.

Memorabilia of this event can be seen at the Allen County Museum.