AUGUSTA — City police Officer Rufus R. Lishness was responding to a disturbance at a tenement building located at what’s now known as the Old Fort Western museum, Nov. 11, 1884, when he was shot in the head.

Trying to gain entry through a window when he was shot, Lishness managed to walk back to the police station, where he lost consciousness and later died.

Kennebec County District Attorney Office Detective Christian Behr, left, and Augusta Police Chief Jared Mills stand recently with the sign memorializing Rufus R. Lishness in front of Old Fort Western, which was the site of the tenement building where Lishness was shot in Augusta. Behr, a retired Augusta police officer, researched and wrote about the department’s history when he was working there. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

But not before uttering his final words: “I did my duty, didn’t I?”

Now, a new memorial sign at what is currently Old Fort Western but back then was the site of the tenement where Lishness was shot, seeks to honor Lishness for not only doing his duty, but giving his life for it.

A similar sign has also recently been installed at a Bangor Street site adjacent to where Augusta police Officer Selden L. Jones was killed May 17, 1930, at the age of 25. His police motorcycle hit a hole in the road and crashed, with Jones hitting his head on the ground and dying 45 minutes later at Augusta General Hospital.

Augusta Public Works sign specialist Mark White installs a sign recently that memorializes Augusta firefighter Daryl Wells in front of Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

And at a site near the intersection of University and Community drives just below the Augusta Civic Center’s parking lots is the location of where the city’s only firefighter died in the line of duty. Daryl Wells was killed in June 1987 while photographing an emergency vehicle operation training session when he was struck by a firetruck.


Detective Christian Behr is now a domestic violence investigator for the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, but previously worked for Augusta Police. During his time with Augusta he put together a comprehensive history of the department. Behr organized the sign effort and felt it was important the sacrifices of the public safety workers involved be recognized publicly, so others will know of their deeds.

“The locations where these guys lost their lives, those are right here in town. We pass them everyday, but nobody knows their story,” Behr said.

Augusta Public Works sign specialist Mark White installs a sign recently that memorializes Augusta police Officer Selden L. Jones in front of Williams Playground on Bangor Street in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Behr recently told city councilors, while informing him about the plan: “These great past fallen officers were recognized then for their duty and service, but I think, in some ways, they are forgotten today by the public. We sincerely hope and pray that no other memorials have to be erected. We know our guardians of the public will continue to serve, and what better way to ensure they are not forgotten, every day. The public will always be reminded, and these tangible symbols of enduring gratitude for the fallen officers are erected.”

Police Chief Jared Mills said there has been discussion about having some sort of memorial to the fallen police officers in the new police station when it is built on Whitten Road. But he said the signs placed at the locations where the officers were killed are more likely to be seen by the public, most of whom aren’t likely to come into the police station.

A sign memorializing Augusta firefighter Daryl Wells is seen July 14 in front of Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Ward 4 City Councilor Eric Lind said he’s lived in the city all his life and was unaware of the two police officers who died in the line of duty, so it is good for them to be recognized publicly.

The signs, which cost about $350 per sign installed, were put in by the city’s public works department and made by Minuteman Signs in Augusta.

Lishness was shot at the age of 45 at the “Old Fort” tenement by Harry Burns.

Police couldn’t get into the building so Lishness opened a window and was about to climb in when Burns shot him. Burns told reporters if he’d known it was a police officer at the window he would not have shot. Burns said he thought it was someone with whom he’d had a political argument with earlier. Burns was convicted that December of manslaughter.

Behr said a small group of Augusta police retirees came up with the idea for the signs after seeing Maine State Police troopers killed in the line of duty being publicly memorialized in a similar effort.

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