Fairbanks police honor first officer killed on duty

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The grave of a long-forgotten police hero was commemorated with a plaque Friday.

The grave of Alvin G. Miller, police chief in 1908, the first Fairbanks officer killed in the line of duty, was recognized after lying unmarked in historic Clay Street Cemetery for years.

Miller's death was noted by a headline in the Fairbanks Daily News that read, ''Chief Miller Killed by an Insane Woman.'' The chief was shot in the chest Nov. 2, 1908, by a woman who had barricaded herself into a room in the Pioneer Hotel.

Miller and Officer Roy Stevens smashed through the door, which had been blocked by a bureau. A third officer came in through the window.

Blanche Duvall, ''a crazed woman possessed with the idea that she was pursued by spirit enemies,'' according to the paper, was waiting with a gun.

''Quick as lightning she raised the gun and fired bang! bang! bang!'' Stevens said at the time.

Stevens tackled the woman. Although Miller was hit, he took the gun away and held her on the bed. Then Miller walked out into the hall and collapsed. He died 10 hours later.

Miller's grave was unmarked for years. It might have remained that way today if his niece, Carolyn Garner of Bothell, Wash., had not tried to find it while visiting Fairbanks last year.

When she couldn't find the grave or more information about Miller, Garner called Fairbanks police.

''We said, 'You know, we don't really know,''' said Fairbanks Police Sgt. Doug Whorton.

An extensive search of plots and archival inquiry into old issues of the Daily News located the grave.

According to an article announcing his burial Nov. 4, Miller had been the police chief for a year before his death. He came from Savoy, Ill. a small country town near Champaign. He was a prominent Mason and Eagle in Fairbanks.

Miller was the third Alaska officer since 1897 to die in the line of duty.

Fairbanks has had one police officer die since Miller. Officer Kevin Lamm, 26, died when he was shot in the chest Jan. 1, 1998, by a suicidal man who had hidden in an apartment.

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