Miami Beach’s forgotten hero was Maplesville native

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, September 8, 2010

By Jennifer Little / Community Columnist

Recently, the Miami Beach Police Department of Dade County, Fla. decided to honor all of their fallen police officers.

Though historians assumed they had all of the necessary information, it became apparent, toward the end of their research, that there had been oversight.

David C. Bearden of Maplesville was actually the first Miami Beach police officer killed while on duty.  A plaque bearing his name now hangs in the Miami Beach Police Headquarters.

His story, as told by his chief who accompanied the body home for burial, was printed (excerpts) as follows in the March 29, 1928, edition of the Union-Banner, (author unknown):

“Sunday, a week ago, two bandits stole a Ford coupe from Miami and drove to Fort Lauderdale.

There they left the Ford Sunday night and stole a new Oldsmobile sedan, ransacked a cash register and added an extra gun to their artillery equipment, and headed the new car back to Miami Beach.

Officers from Miami were notified, and when the bandits reached the city, they were given chase by a number of policemen.

A running gun battle ensued in which one of the bandits was hit by a bullet in the left shoulder.

The car gave out of oil, and with bearings burned out, the bandits abandoned the machine and made a quick get away.

All police officers of the city were notified of the case.

At an early hour Monday morning, Officer David Bearden, as he was coming on duty came in contact with two suspicious looking men at 22nd Street and Collins Avenue in Miami Beach.

Hailing them to inquire as to their purposes in being there at such an unusual hour, the men told Bearden they were just out for a walk.  Not satisfied with this explanation Bearden sought further inquiry of them.

As he alighted from his car, one of the men fired at him with a pistol. The bullet struck Bearden in the breast and he fell to the pavement.

Although mortally wounded, the officer managed to draw his gun, and let go a bullet that ploughed through the stomach of the man who had shot him.  The other bandit went around the officer’s car and continued firing at Bearden who was prostrate on the ground.

Finally, Bearden managed to get in position to observe his man and fired one shot at him as he saw him through the windshield of the car.

The three men severely wounded, the battle ceased.  Bearden tried to crawl to a police call box.  He was unable to pull himself up to the telephone to summon other officers.

Meanwhile the two bandits managed to get into Bearden’s car and drove away.

A young man came along and found officer Bearden mortally wounded.  The officer related the circumstances and the man called other officers from police headquarters.  Bearden was carried to the hospital and died 24 hours later.

Soon after police headquarters was notified of the desperate battle, Chief Wood was informed that two men in an automobile were in a serious condition in a vacant lot nearby.

The officers found the two, one in a dying condition.  The other who was not wounded so badly was questioned by the officer.  He refused to give the names of himself and his companion who was dead by this time. The two men proved to be the same men who had stolen the cars.

Accompanied by Chief Wood, who is an ex-sheriff of Bibb County, Alabama, the body of Bearden was brought to his home and buried last Friday at Pleasant Grove Church (Maplesville). The people of Miami Beach sent many beautiful flowers.”

David Bearden was 24 years old, unmarried, son of Jim F. Bearden of Stanton.  He is survived by his father and mother.  His brothers and sisters are as follows: Mrs. J.A. Lawrence, Mrs. Alice Rhodes, and C.M. Bearden of Selma; Miss Sallie Lee Bearden of Tuscaloosa; Lum Bearden, Tula Mae Bearden and Bertha Bearden of Stanton. The funeral was conducted by Rev. Buford Lawrence, Rev. Grady Williams, and Rev. W.J. Ruddick.”
Contributors to this story are Clem Clapp and Joel Atchison, both of Maplesville.