Remembering two Knoxville officers killed in century-old crime on National Police Week

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – National Police Week is underway. It is honored every year in May and pays special recognition to the law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

During this year’s National Police Week, Jack Neely of the Knoxville History Project took us back in time to help spotlight the Knoxville Police officers who lost their lives in a shooting more than a century ago.

“It was a dangerous place,” Neely said of South Central Street in the 1900s. “It was the saloon district. It was a popular place, it was a lively place, it was a fun place some of the time, but it was also a very dangerous place.”

It was also the place where two KPD officers were shot and killed.

Neely said patrolmen Mike Wrenn and O.L. Jarnigan went to a brothel to make an arrest on January 1, 1908.

“He didn’t want to be arrested. He may have had something to drink that day, it was a holiday, and so forth. But he just shot them both and killed them right away. It was quite a trauma for the city, it got some national attention, it was mentioned this was unusual for two policemen to be killed the same night,” said Neely.

Along the stretch was another police shooting that Neely described as even more infamous. It happened a few years earlier, but the crime scenes were just blocks away.

“It had to do with a particularly infamous outlaw who was in town. His name was Harvey Logan, also known as Kid Curry,” Neely said.

The two officers called to arrest him were William Dinwiddie and Robert Saylor.

“They went in to arrest him and Kid Curry didn’t like that idea. He had killed guys before, and he shot both officers right there in the pool hall,” Neely said.

And while so much about South Central Street has changed over the last century, Neely also reflected on what has stayed the same.

“It’s a dangerous job today and it certainly was then, too. It’s not for everybody certainly to go out and go in to unpredictable situations and have to respond to them, sometimes with lethal force, sometimes facing lethal force,” he said.

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