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Ken & Kris BilderbackBootleggers. Moonshiners. Those terms conjure up images of The Dukes of Hazzard and Smokey and the Bandit, romanticized as comically inept cops chasing wily outlaws in their hot rods.

Once upon a time, Forest Grove had its own humorous episode involving bootleggers and a traffic stop gone wrong. Or at least it seemed humorous, until a police officer was shot and killed in the line of duty.

The tale begins in the early morning hours of May 15, 1928, when deputy sheriff Oscar Duley and his partner, Alfred Schendel, pulled over a car driven by suspected bootleggers in front of the Masonic Home.

The deputies thought they had disarmed the three suspected bootleggers, but suddenly one of the suspects pulled a second concealed revolver and got the two officers to surrender. By the time help arrived, the patrol car was found with its headlights and spotlight blasted out — and the officers nowhere in sight. A massive search for Duley and Schendel ensued. Hours later, the two were found a few miles away in Hillsboro.

They told their superiors they had been kidnapped by the bootleggers and driven into Portland where, at the corner of Sixth and Sheridan streets, the kidnappers suddenly released them and returned their service revolvers. Now stuck in Portland, 30 miles from their patrol car, the officers decided to call friends in Hillsboro to come pick them up. After arriving in Hillsboro, they called their supervisors to say that they were fine.

Prohibition had been a rough time for local law enforcement. The law was flagrantly ignored, and bribery was common, or at least rumors of it. This case had the earmarks of another farce, and the alleged kidnapping of two law enforcement officers drew some skeptical coverage. Within two months Duley quit the police department.

Duley eventually moved to Eugene, where he became a Lane County deputy sheriff. It was in that role in 1930 that Duley visited a remote farm near Marcola to check on reports of a still. What happened next made headlines statewide and this time no one was doubting the deputy’s mettle.

The bootlegger met Duley at the door, and shot him in the heart at point-blank range. Three other deputies responded to check on Duley. One, the son of the county sheriff, escaped with bullet wounds to both thighs. Another was wounded in an arm and a leg. Deputy Joe Saunders, also a former Washington County resident, took a bullet to his heart. Deputies Duley and Saunders both lay dead and more than 50 men with bloodhounds launched one of the

biggest manhunts in Oregon history.

Deputies pursued the suspect, Victor Sutherland, for three months before cornering him in a remote forest cabin. Once again Sutherland came out, guns blazing, but this time the deputies were ready for him, and he died in a hail of gunfire. That brought the death count to three in a case involving a paltry 10 gallons of moonshine.

Victor Sutherland killed Oscar Duley, but remained a folk hero to some Oregonians for battling the law. Two suspects in Duley’s earlier kidnapping were sent to prison, but not for the kidnapping. Instead, suspects William “Snoose” Johnson and Amos Jones were convicted of armed robberies of post offices in Roy, Aloha and Columbia City.

Forest Grove’s Oscar Duley twice found himself at the wrong end of a gun as a cop confronting moonshiners, showing how dangerous the enforcement of Prohibition laws could sometimes be.

Historians Ken and Kris Bilderback write an occasional column for the News-Times. This column contains excerpts from “Law and Order at the End of the Oregon Trail,” a 2015 book by Ken and Kris Bilderback.

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