VANDALIA — In 1962, President Kennedy named May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the City of Vandalia is honoring one of its own fallen officers this week.
Lt. James E. Bohanan was killed in the line of duty in December of 1969 during an investigation with the United States Secret Service and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office of a major counterfeiting operation in the Dayton area.
“This points out that any community, large or small, can suffer a police tragedy,” said Vandalia Police Chief Douglas Knight. “It reminds all of us at the Vandalia Police Department how fragile life is and how quickly things can change.”
According to Vandalia police, Bohanan was the victim of mistaken identity during a struggle to arrest at least two suspects at what was then the Ramada Inn on Little York Road. When Bohanan went to aid an officer in the arrest, he was mistaken as a possible suspect and was shot in the confusion of the arrests.
Bohanan left behind a wife, Barbara, and two daughters, Darlene and Donna.
Knight spoke to Bohanan’s widow in 2009.
“She was very pleased that the people of Vandalia still honor and remember her husband,” said Knight.
After his death, the residents in his neighborhood, the Randler Dell subdivision, raised money for the brass memorial plaque that is at the entrance to the Vandalia Division of Police. What was then Lockbourne Drive was renamed in his honor to James E. Bohanan Memorial Drive, and the Vandalia Municipal Building and Justice Building that houses the Division of Police and Vandalia Municipal Court are located there today.
Prior to his death, Bohanan had served the City of Vandalia since 1957. He was promoted to a Lieutenant in 1959.
He graduated from the Dayton Police Academy in 1952 and served with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy before being promoted to sergeant.
In recognition of Police Memorial Week, and in honor of Bohanan, a Vandalia police cruiser with a wreath is parked at the intersection of National Road and James E. Bohanan Memorial Drive to remind citizens of Bohanan’s sacrifice in the line of duty.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.