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Sheriff Howard was last officer killed by gunshot in Aiken

The last Aiken law enforcement officer shot and killed in the line of duty occurred more than eight decades ago in a series of racially charged events that would eventually leave six people dead and cast a national spotlight on the racial unrest in Aiken County. On April 25, 1926, Sheriff Henry Hampton Howard and three deputies descended upon a suspected bootlegging operation near Monetta. According to accounts in The Journal and Review, the predecessor to the Aiken Standard, the officers approached the home of Sam Lowman and were met by Lowman's wife, Annie, and daughter, Bertha. Conflicting accounts have been reported on how the events unfolded. Some news reports from the time suggest that the women attacked the deputies. However, later reports - in court reporting and academic publications - suggest the women tried to flee and were pursued by the deputies. What does seem certain is that Annie Lowman hit Deputy Nollie Anderson with an ax handle. The deputy shot Annie, killing her. Lowman's son Demon and nephew Clarence came onto the scene at that point, and gunfire was exchanged. It was during that exchange that Sheriff Howard was fatally shot. Howard left behind a wife and seven children. A Journal and Review article reported the news as follows: Henry Howard, the fearless, energetic and much beloved Sheriff of Aiken County, met his death this morning at the hands of a family of bootleggers near Monetta, about a mile from the Columbia-Aiken highway. Deputy Nollie Robinson was badly beaten in the head by an infuriated woman. Demon and Clarence Lowman were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Bertha Lowman was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Sam Lowman was convicted of bootlegging (deputies returned three days after the shooting and found a bottle of liquor buried in the yard). He was sentenced to two years of hard labor on a chain gang. News of the trial spread quickly, and the Lowmans soon found themselves in front of the Supreme Court, represented by attorneys who had read coverage of the racially charged trial. The Supreme Court overturned the convictions and ordered new trials, primarily based on the improper drawing and execution of a warrant. The Lowmans were taken back to Aiken to await a new trial. On Oct. 8, 1926, a mob of masked vigilantes stormed the jail, overtaking the jailer and leading the three prisoners out. They were taken to a pine forest north of town, and all three were shot and killed. No one was ever indicted in connection with the lynchings. According to the 1992 book "Historic U.S. Cases: An Encyclopedia," editor John Johnson wrote that Sam Lowman was released from hard labor in March 1927: In March 1927, a man whom the Palmetto Leader characterized as 'a man of sorrow' left for Philadelphia. Sam Lowman had served all but 72 days of his sentence on the charge of bootlegging. But his real crime was that he was the father of Demon and Bertha Lowman. When asked why he was leaving the South, Sam Lowman replied, "I can't live among these people.'"