This week the Sheriff’s Office remembers the anniversary of the death of Deputy Frank Adams. Adams was killed in the line of duty on October 7th, 1901. Deputy Frank Adams was the first of seven Sheriff’s deputies killed in the line of duty in Monroe County.
Deputy Adams was shot and killed while attempting to arrest a man who had interfered with him in the discharge of his duty. The shooting occurred after two drunken men started fighting near Jackson Square in Key West. They separated and one of the men began to use profane language as he walked up Thomas Street. Deputy Adams, who was sitting near the corner of Southard and Thomas Streets, arrested the man and attempted to take him to jail, but the man resisted and Deputy Adams called out for assistance.
Two men named Fleming and Gabriel took hold of the man to assist Adams. Another man pushed some bystanders aside and said that he would not allow them to arrest his brother. Deputy Adams released the first man he had arrested and grabbed the man who interfered. They began to struggle, and a pistol shot rang out. When the first shot rang out all the bystanders with the exception of one, a mate on the steamer Laurel, ran away; the two men holding the arrested man let him go and fled also.
Adams had been shot in the arm, and he fell to the ground, with the man who shot him falling on top of him. The man shot Adams several more times, with one bullet hitting him in the left chest, penetrating his heart and another wounding him in the face. After shooting Adams, the man got up and ran down Southard Street toward what was then the Government Reservation.
A large crowd soon gathered around the body of Deputy Adams and the mate from the Laurel – the only one to stay at the scene. The mate told the crowd how the murder had happened. Deputy Adam’s body was taken home. The following day the shooter, Robert J. Frank, was caught and identified by the mate from the Laurel as the person who shot and killed Adams. He was arrested for and charged with murdering the deputy. At the preliminary hearing Robert Frank admitted to the shooting and said that he was sorry for it. He said that had anyone attempted to arrest him, he would have shot them as well. When searched he had some empty cartridges and a loaded pistol, with extra ammunition in his pocket.