OFFICER DAVID M. SIRES – EOW: 10-13-1881
By: Officer Mike Severance – North Precinct
The Washington Territorial Legislature gave the Town of Seattle its first charter in 1869. The first ordinance passed by the seven-member Seattle Common Council vested the power of arrest in the City Marshal. In archived documents, some written by people living in Seattle in 1881, David Sires is referred to as town marshal, police officer, and patrolman. In 1880, the population of Seattle was 3,553 people.
During the hours of darkness on October 12, 1881, Officer David M. Sires was in a saloon near 2nd Ave. and Washington Street. James Smith owned the saloon, and he also owned the Bijou Theatre. It is unknown if Officer Sires was on-duty or off-duty, but he was not in uniform. Shots were fired outside the saloon, and Officer Sires went to investigate. Several people outside the saloon pointed to a man, Benjamin Payne, as the person who had fired the shots. Officer Sires went after Payne. As the two got to 3rd Ave. and Mill St. (Yesler), Payne fired one shot. The bullet struck Sires in the throat, and he fell to the street. Payne ran away. Nobody witnessed the shooting, but witnesses did identify Payne as the man who was firing shots in the street. Officer Jim Woolery later located and arrested Payne who was unarmed. Payne was jailed. He stated the shooting was an accident.
Officer Sires was taken to the original Occidental Hotel located at what is now 1st Ave. and Yesler. He was attended and treated by Dr. E. L. Smith and Dr. Rufus Willard. Sires drifted in and out of consciousness, but he did say that he felt partly responsible because he had not identified himself to Payne as a police officer. Sires was not able to identify his assailant. David Sires died on October 13, 1881.
The autopsy report on Officer Sires stated, “The ball passed through the larynx and the pharynx, fractured the hyoid bone, and was found embedded in the body of the fifth cervical vertebra.”
David Sires was survived by his wife, Rebecca, daughter, Louisa, and five grandchildren. His daughter, Lottie, preceded him in death. She died in 1880 at the age of 32. Officer Sires was buried at Lake View Cemetery. David Sires was a Mason. His tombstone bears the Masonic symbol.
There is a bit of a mystery regarding the date of Officer Sires’ death. His tombstone bears the date October 13, 1881. The Seattle Chronicle, the forerunner of the Times, reported the fatal shooting of Officer Sires in their October 13, 1881 edition, and reported the shooting occurred on October 12, 1881. The official Washington Death Record lists the date of death as October 16, 1881 at the Occidental Hotel. It would be hard to believe the family would have tolerated an incorrect date on his tombstone.
On January 18, 1882, two men, arrested for the murder of respected Seattle businessman George B. Reynolds, were arraigned before a judge at Yesler Hall located at Front Street (1st Avenue) and Cherry Street. Around 1:00 p.m., the judge announced there was sufficient evidence to hold the men for trial. Immediately, a crowd overpowered the officers guarding the prisoners, and took the two men to the 200 block of Cherry Street where they were lynched in front of a crowd estimated at 2,000 people. About twenty minutes later, a group of about 400 men broke into the jail and seized Benjamin Payne. He was marched to the 200 block of Cherry St. and promptly lynched.
Rebecca Sires remained in Seattle and continued to live where she and David had resided at the northwest corner of 3rd Ave. and Pine Street. In 1900, she was living with a grandson and his wife in San Francisco. Rebecca Sires died on February 16, 1901. She was buried at Lake View Cemetery with her husband. Her tombstone is engraved with the word “Grandma”. Louise Selden Fox, a granddaughter, was David Sires’ last direct descendant. She died in Seattle in 1959 at the age of 81. Louise’s only son and David Sires’ great grandson, Navy Lt. Joseph Selden Fox, was killed in a plane crash in Florida in 1939. A search for a living descendant of one of David Sires’ siblings is ongoing.
David M. Sires was born on April 17, 1826 in Indiana. In 1845, he married Rebecca J. Martin in Indiana. In 1850, the family was living in Sylvester, Wisconsin. Both their daughters, Charlotte “Lottie” and Louisa were born in Wisconsin. The first record of the family living in Washington is from 1867. David was employed as the proprietor of the Pioneer Hotel in Port Townsend. The first record of David Sires living in Seattle is the 1879 Seattle Directory. He was as a minister. It’s unknown exactly when Sires became a clergyman. His occupation in 1880 was also listed as a minister. His commission date as a Seattle police officer is unknown, but it would seem to have been in either 1880 or 1881.
David Sires is currently listed as the first Seattle police officer to be killed in the line of duty. That was not always the case. The name of David Sires was added to the list of SPD fallen officers sometime between 1972 and the death of Officer Nick Davis in 1984.
In May 1998, Officer David Sires was one of forty Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1976, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. His medal has been in the custody of the Seattle Police Department since 1998.