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Deputy Sheriff Robert Phillips

Portrait photo of Deputy Robert Phillips.
End of Watch:
Wednesday, November 21, 1917

Chief Deputy Phillips was called to 862 Mississippi Avenue around 1930 hours by the homeowner after Louis Elywn Hayes showed up on his front porch and demanded entry into residence. The homeowner did not know Hayes and called MCSO to report that an “insane man” was in their house. Hayes opened fire immediately on Deputy Phillips and a second deputy, as soon as the men entered the living room.  Deputy Phillips was hit and fell to the ground. Hayes ran out the back of the house and disappeared.  Deputy Phillips was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital and was pronounced dead the next morning from severe abdominal wounds.

MCSO and a local posse searched throughout the night for Hayes and were notified at 0830 hours the next morning by a neighbor to 899 Montana Ave. that she had seen Hayes exit the chicken house and go into the cellar. Approximately 20 deputies and officers surrounded the cellar and ordered Hayes to surrender, but he refused. Deputies, peering through cellar windows, opened fire on the cellar and Hayes returned fire. The exchange of gunfire lasted for the next 10 minutes with an estimated 50 rounds fired by deputies and officers. Hayes eventually staggered out of the cellar, gun still in hand.  Deputies ordered Hayes to drop his weapon, but he raised it at the deputies who then shot and killed him.  Hayes’ killing was described in Oregon Daily Journal as “one of the most spectacular battles ever seen in Portland”.

It was later discovered that Hayes had escaped from Oregon State Hospital on the morning of November 16, 1917, while working on a chain gang in a field. He had been at OSH since May of 1914 after being committed by a Multnomah County judge.

Deputy Phillips was hired by MCSO as a jailer in 1906 and was later assigned to the Portland Police Bureau from 1912 to 1914 as the Night Jailer at the city jail. When Sheriff Thomas Hurlburt was elected in 1914, he appointed Deputy Phillips as his Chief Criminal Deputy, and Phillips served in this capacity until his death at the age of 50. During his three years as the Chief Criminal Deputy for MCSO, Phillips quickly earned a reputation as an outstanding and dogged lawman. This reputation was due, in part, to the apprehension and prosecution of two different murder suspects during his short tenure.

Sadly, Deputy Phillips’ murder was not the last time the Phillips family would have to deal with such a tragic loss. Deputy Phillips’ brother, Union Pacific Railroad Special Agent J. H. “Buck” Phillips, was shot and killed in the line of duty on June 14, 1921, in Portland, Oregon, while attempting to arrest several box car thieves.