Joseph B. Waldrupe
Construction of the new U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, began in 1897. Each morning correctional officers would march 400 inmates from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to the construction site. Only 16 correctional officers were assigned to supervise inmate workers during construction; Officer Joseph B. Waldrupe was among them.
On November 7, 1901, two walls of masonry were already completed and two temporary wooden barriers had been erected with makeshift officer stations. Eight unarmed officers patrolled the grounds, while eight armed officers stood watch in temporary guard posts built on a wall. The armed officers would climb up to their posts, then their weapons were handed up to them.
After arriving at the partially-constructed prison that morning, the officers placed the inmate workers in a wire enclosure. Unbeknownst to the officers, a number of weapons (including revolvers) had been hidden at the site, which was left unguarded at night. At approximately 3:40 p.m., 26 inmates retrieved the weapons and over-powered the unarmed officers and construction crew. Holding hostages in front of them, the inmates attacked the officers in the armed guard posts. Officer Waldrupe was able to shoot and kill the inmate ringleader before being shot twice himself.
Despite having been wounded with one shot gun pellet penetrating his forehead, Officer Waldrupe continued to defend his post even after inmates entered through a trap door in the floor. He clubbed one inmate with his rifle before it was taken and used by another inmate to beat him. An inmate then protected Officer Waldrupe from the others by not letting them enter the guard post.
The inmates involved in the disturbance breached the wooden barrier and fled the institution on the correctional officers' horses. A massive search followed and, with the exception of those inmates killed in clashes with pursuing authorities, all of the escapees were recaptured.
Joseph Waldrupe was taken to St. Johns Hospital where several exploratory surgeries were performed. On the evening of November 9, Joseph would tell his wife Lena, "I feel good enough to sit up." Once sitting, Joseph began to run a high fever, slipped into a coma, and succumbed to his injuries around 7:00 a.m. on November 10, 1901. His wife Lena, whom he had just married in the fall of 1900, was by his side.
Joseph B. Waldrupe's name is listed in the National Law Enforcement Memorial on Panel 11, E-6. Joseph, you will never be forgotten.