Fallen Penitentiary Lieutenant to Receive Medal of Honor
April 29, 2016
OLYMPIA – A correctional lieutenant who was killed in the line of duty at the Washington State Penitentiary will receive a Medal of Honor nearly 46 years after his death.
Lt. William Warfield will be one of 12 recipients that will be awarded a Medal of Honor during a ceremony at noon May 6 at the Law Enforcement Memorial on the state’s Capitol Campus.
Warfield died Nov. 17, 1970 after suffering a heart attack when an offender he was trying to restrain kicked him in the chest. Warfield was 53.
“It’s important to honor the life and sacrifice Lt. Warfield made,” said the Department of Corrections Chief of Emergency Operations, Greg Miller, who also serves on a line of duty death response team with the Behind the Badge Foundation. “Presenting this medal to his family will ensure that DOC has never forgotten.”
Each year, the Behind the Badge Foundation and Attorney General’s Medal of Honor Committee commemorates law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty in the state of Washington. The foundation also maintains the Law Enforcement Memorial. A few years ago, Mike Severance, a retired Seattle police officer, discovered several law enforcement officers in Washington had never been nominated for the Medal of Honor. So he nominated them, including Warfield.
Severance was inspired to nominate the officers for the Medal of Honor after attending a memorial service in 2009 for four Lakewood police officers who were shot and killed at a Pierce County coffee shop. He began an historic sign project in Seattle to place markers at the sites where Seattle police officers had been killed in the line of duty. The task involved researching records of how the officers died and locating their family members. Over the course of his research, he learned several officers from the Seattle Police Department as well as from other law enforcement agencies across the state were never nominated for the Medal of Honor, even though they appeared to meet the nomination criteria. He also found that of the officers who had received the Medal of Honor, many of their surviving family members had never been contacted to receive their awards. So he spent the next few years nominating officers who had died in the line of duty and collaborating with law enforcement agencies and the Behind the Badge Foundation to locate the fallen officers’ family members to ensure they received the medals.
In recent years, Severance attended several Medal of Honor ceremonies and helped present Medals of Honor to family members of fallen officers, including two in Sequim, one in Cannon Beach, Ore, and one to family members of three other correctional officers who died in the line of duty at the Washington State Penitentiary.
“They deserve to be honored, especially the families,” said Severance. “It’s very satisfying to get this done.”
A total of 308 names are on the Law Enforcement Memorial. Six are Washington Department of Corrections officers.
In addition to Warfield they are:
- Jayme Biendl, who was murdered by an offender at the Monroe Correctional Complex in Snohomish County in 2011.
- Sgt. William Cross, who died at the Washington State Penitentiary in 1979 after inmates attacked him while he was assisting another officer, searching another inmate for weapons.
- Lt. Roger Sanders, who died in 1978 from injuries he sustained in a pipe bomb explosion at the penitentiary.
- Herbert Briggs, who died in 1934 after being held hostage and killed by inmates during an escape attempt at the penitentiary.
- Community Corrections Officer Michael Erdhal, who died during an arson at his home in 1985.