{{featured_button_text}}

Of course, no one remembers Billings Police Sgt. Robert T. Hannah.

He died 115 years ago today.

But, it's not that no one living can recall his voice, or know how tall he stood. It's that few people even know what happened on that dark July night, the manhunt and search for his killers, or that he wasn't shot just once or twice, but five times before falling in a downtown alleyway between two bars where a parking lot now stands.

On that night, three agencies responded to the Owl saloon and gambling hall. Two masked gunmen were holding up the bar, and Hannah, along with a Northern Pacific detective responded. The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office soon joined the pursuit. 

When Hannah startled the robbers in an alleyway, they opened fire, each hitting him at least once. 

Now, officers from those three agencies have joined together once again — this time to remember Hannah — one of 10 officers listed on a granite memorial in front of the Billings Police Department which commemorates those who have fallen in the line of duty. 

Hannah's name is there, but few can recount the details of his murder.

However, Officer Brandon Ihde of the Billings Police Department, Deputy Robert Lester of the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Department, and Special Officer Justin Douglas of the BNSF Police are trying to carry Hannah's story back to their departments, which had a role in the century-old shooting.

"A lot of us in uniform can relate to the story and what happened," Lester said. "Even a traffic stop, or helping to change a flat tire can be dangerous."

"We want to keep his legacy alive," Douglas said. "We hope by telling their stories, we're helping to keep them alive. The tools we have today have changed, but we're still called into these situations." 

There are elements to the Hannah case that make officers cringe — like when three men, the mayor, the sheriff and the police chief, went to apprehend fugitives Ed Grady and Orton Moser.

"I read that and I am like, 'No, no, Sheriff. Wait for back up,'" Lester said.

Ihde loves local history and remembers thinking more about it when Billings Police Chief Rich St. John spoke to the department about the night Detective Alex Mavity died. St. John is one of the few remaining officers on the force who worked with Mavity, who died in 1989. 

"I had never heard the story and to know someone who was there," Ihde said. "That got me thinking about those other names. I hadn't even heard of Robert Hannah." 

For them, it's about honoring those who walked the same beats and traveled the same roads. It's not just about memorial markers or anniversaries.

"It picks up the torch," Ihde said. "When I am gone, some one else will have to do this job."

Lester, also a history buff, loves the idea of preserving not just Hannah's story, but all of the officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

"You know we've talked about it: What will your legacy be?" Lester said. "They call it service. People forget the name, but we have a legacy. My family will remember me, but most people won't know who I was or that I was here. But it was all these people who came before us and who laid the foundation. That's what this is about." 

Get the latest local news delivered daily directly to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
2
1
0
0
0