An Officer's Sacrifice

Sacrifice is a part of the American story--the sacrifice of comfort of safety, and even of life in the name of forging a better life for oneself or one's family or in the name of protecting others against harm. Those tasked with protecting society are often those who sacrifice the most; from the military protecting our borders to the police protecting our streets.

This is the Forgotten History of An Officer's Sacrifice.

Darius Quimby was not a wealthy man. He was not a man of privilege or prestige. He was a working man, an honest man, a man who believed in serving his fellow men no matter their wealth, privilege, or prestige. At the young age of 20—the youngest age he legally could—he became a police officer so that he could serve his community of Albany County, New York.

Whiting Sweeting was a wealthy man; a man of privilege and prestige from a prominent family with a doctor for a father and a mother whose family of origin was equally well-to-do. But Whiting Sweeting didn’t want to serve anyone but himself.

On a cold January night, he was drinking as he usually was at his local tavern. He was wanted by the police, though, and they came looking for him with a warrant. They couldn't find him in the tavern or at his house, but found tracks in the newly fallen snow leading into the woods behind it. Quimby and the other officers followed and found Sweeting standing on a rock. An officer yelled for Sweeting to surrender and made a move to take him into custody. Sweeting resisted and, because he was drunk, grew belligerent. He jumped off the rock and pulled a knife.

Quimby ran in to help his fellow officer, and Sweeting stabbed him. The man who lived to serve others died saving another's life. At trial, Sweeting was remorseful, but insisted that he didn't mean to kill anyone. The judge, however, disagreed.

"The officer was in the lawful execution of his office—the men assisting him were acting the part of faithful, good citizens," he said. "If a man lifts his hand against another, with an intention to kill him, and kills some bosom friend, it is murder. If a man resist an officer before he is taken and death ensue, it is murder.

"Let this be adduced to correct a wrong idea that is entertained by people, that they may resist officers, doing their duty. Officers doing their duty are under the protection of the law."

Sweeting was convicted and sentenced to death. While awaiting execution, he not only admitted his guilt, he made a lengthy, impassioned plea to others not to follow his example; to value life and to respect all of God's children...even the police.

"I chose darkness rather than light, death rather than life, and vice rather than virtue, because my deeds were evil," he wrote. "I had no desire of the knowledge of God, and was to all good works reprobate—I had adopted the most corrupt and vicious principles imaginable."

Whiting Sweeting was hanged a few days later. He had committed society's most heinous crime, and it would echo through history because it was the first crime of its nature in America.

On January 3rd, 1791, Constable Darius Quimby--a man who dedicated his short life to serving others--became the first officer in the United States ever killed in the line of duty.