Ten Kansas roadways — including a highway near Sedgwick County — will soon be dedicated to fallen law enforcement officers.
The closest memorial to Wichita — a stretch of U.S. 81 from U.S. 166 north to the Sedgwick County line — will be renamed for Trooper James D. Thornton, who was killed in 1973.
Thornton, who had earlier retired from the Army, stopped to check on a hitchhiker on Interstate 80 near the east edge of Topeka. While searching the hitchhiker’s bag, he was shot and killed. The hitchhiker, who was wanted for murdering his father in New York, was fatally shot by a Topeka officer when he refused to surrender, the highway patrol said.
Some of the troopers for which the highways will be named are from the Sedgwick County area.
Trooper Ferdinand (Bud) Pribbenow will be memorialized on Kansas 96 from its western junction with Interstate 235 to the eastern city limits of Mount Hope.
Pribbenow was born in Wichita in 1934, served in the Navy, and joined the Kansas Highway Patrol in 1959. Shortly after 8 p.m. on July 11, 1981, Pribbenow was shot in the chest after he stopped a speeding motorist on the turnpike north of the El Dorado interchange. The suspect was arrested after a gunfight with police, the patrol said.
The Trooper Conroy G. O'Brien Memorial Highway will be U.S. 50 from K-96 in southwest Hutchinson.
O’Brien was from Hutchinson and studied at Wichita State University before patrolling throughout Wichita and the Kansas Turnpike.
He stopped a vehicle about 44 miles east of Wichita on May 24, 1978. The patrol said what happened immediately after is uncertain, but at about 6 a.m., a truck driver reported that a patrol car was stopped with its lights flashing and a trooper was lying in the ditch. O’Brien was found dead with two gunshot wounds to his chest.
Three men who were wanted for a string of armed robberies were arrested after a shootout at around 7:30 a.m. that morning.
The Lt. Bernard C. Hill Memorial Highway will be on U.S. 59 from U.S. 56 north to the southern city limits of Lawrence.
Hill was born in Lawrence in 1915 and joined the highway patrol after serving in the Military Police until 1946. He transferred to Wichita in 1960. He was driving east on the Kansas Turnpike near Andover on May 28, 1967 during a heavy rainstorm. A car that was being toward by another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction jackknifed and crossed the median. The towing car overturned, caught fire and hit Hill’s patrol car head-on, the patrol said.
Hill was pronounced dead at the hospital, and the passenger of the westbound car also was killed in the collision, the patrol said.
Other law enforcement officers who will be memorialized are Master Trooper Larry L. Huff, Trooper Jimmie Jacobs, Master Trooper Dean A. Goodheart, Trooper John McMurray, Trooper Maurice R. Plummer and Master Deputy Brandon Collins.