Town marshal honored 89 years after he was slain

By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch The memory of Dolar LaPlant, the only Eatonville Police officer to die in the line of duty, is brighter today than ever. Last Saturday, 89 years after he was gunned down in q struggle with a shooting suspect, LaPlant became a posthumous recipient of the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. And a new headstone, donated by Crimestoppers of Tacoma-Pierce County, was placed at his gravesite in Puyallup to call further attention to his heroism. The recognition resulted from efforts by Rhonda Snowden, LaPlant's great-great granddaughter. She lobbied to have him nominated for the Medal of Honor, which is awarded through the Washington attorney general's office to officers of the peace who are killed, seriously injured or exhibit particularly meritorious conduct while on duty. Snowden, who lives in Spanaway, was at last Saturday's ceremony at Woodbine Cemetery. She was joined by other relatives of LaPlant, including his great-granddaughter, Marya Severson, who lives in Eatonville. Also in attendance were law enforcement representatives, including Eatonville Police chief Jim Heishman, who with Mayor Mike Schaub presented the medal to La Plant's family. Heishman nominated LaPlant for the medal after being contacted by Snowden and Mike Severance, who retired last year as a Seattle Police officer. Snowden, who heard of Severance in news reports after he helped obtain tombstones for the unmarked graves of three former Seattle policemen, asked for his help in honoring LaPlant. Severance started researching and learned from the secretary of the Medal of Honor Committee, which reviews nominations, that LaPlant had never been recommended for the award that was created in 1994 by an act of the Legislature. An article from the front page of the Sept. 5, 1926 edition of the Seattle Daily Times, headlined "Town marshal slain" and "Eatonville officer is shot down,GÇ¥ described how La Plant was trying to arrest a man who allegedly fired shots at a house during a dispute with someone living there. The suspect shot La Plant, wounding him in the chest, and then in a struggle with the suspect, La Plant wrestled the gun away and shot the suspect. The suspect survived, but La Plant died that night in a hospital. The Daily Times reported La Plant, who'd been Eatonville's marshal for only three days when he died, was "a veteran peace officer and well-known in Pierce County.GÇ¥ LaPlant became better-known May 6 at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony for the western Washington region. Snowden, a guest speaker during the event at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood, was invited to tell LaPlant's story. The ceremony also included a reading of the names of officers killed in the line of duty. La Plant has been one of the names for years, but it wasn't until the past year that an effort was made to make him a Medal of Honor recipient, too. Snowden was nervous about her speech but excited that her great-great-grandfather was being singled out. "I'm so happy this is all happening, and I'm very grateful for the people who helped me,GÇ¥ she said. Crimestoppers, a non-profit organization, agreed to pay for a new headstone for La Plant's grave at the cemetery, which is on a hillside in Puyallup above the Washington State Fairgrounds. The new one will note La Plant died in the line of duty and will replace a small, relatively nondescript marker. The longest-deceased person to receive the Medal of Honor is David Sires, a Seattle officer who was shot to death while pursuing a suspect in October 1881. His medal was awarded in 1998. The committee that bestows the Medal of Honor consists of representatives of the governor, the Washington State Law Enforcement Association, the Washington State Council of Police Officers, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and the Washington State Troopers Association. The attorney general serves as chairman of the committee. La Plant is the first police officer employed by the town of Eatonville to receive the medal. Kent Mundell, a Pierce County Sheriff Department deputy, received one posthumously after being fatally wounded during a domestic violence incident at a home near Eatonville in 2009.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment