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January 11, 1794, Robert Forsyth Becomes 1st U.S. Marshal Killed In Line Of Duty - Today In Crime History

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On this day, January 11, in the year 1794, Robert Forsyth became the first U.S. Marshal killed in the line of duty.

The United States Marshals Service is the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the United States.  It is part of the executive branch of the government and is the enforcement arm of the U.S. federal courts.  Created by the first U.S. Congress by the Judiciary Act of 1789, each officer’s primary duty was to execute “all lawful precepts directed to him, and issued under the authority of the United States.”

Robert Forsyth was a U.S. Marshal as well as an American patriot.  Before become a U.S. Marshall, he was a Captain in the Revolutionary War.  Later, Forsythe was selected by George Washington to be the first United States Marshal for the state of Georgia.

On January 11, 1794, Forsyth, accompanied by two of his deputies, went to a Georgia residence to serve court process on two brothers.  When the brothers became aware of Forsyth’s arrival, they hid in a room on the second floor of the home.  When Forsyth knocked on the door of that room, one brother fired his pistol at the door.  The bullet from the firearm hit Forsyth in the head, killing him instantly.   Although Forsyth's deputies arrested the killer, he later managed to escape from custody and was never recaptured.

Forsyth was 40 years old at the time of his murder and left a widow with two sons.

Sources and more information:

Robert Forsyth, Officer Down Memorial Page

The First Marshal of Georgia:  Robert Forsyth, U.S. Marshals Service

Law Enforcement in the United States, by James Andrew Conser, Gregory D. Russell, Rebecca Paynich, (Jones & Bartlett Learning 2005)

Historical Dictionary of Law Enforcement, by Mitchel P. Roth & James Stuart Olson (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001)

The Miracle of Brasstown Valley, by Zell Miller (Stroud & Hall Publishers, 2007)

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Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.