The Kentucky Highway Patrol, the predecessor of the Kentucky State Police, was founded in 1936 as a part of the Kentucky State Highway Department. Six of the officers died in the line of duty before the agency became known as state police. The fourth victim was Patrolman Mose Hurt Littrell on March 14., 1938.
Littrell had obtained a three-day leave of absence from Harlan and was on his way home. Seven miles east of London, he picked up B . P. Snavely and Ed Kirby of Pineville, two hitchhikers who were trying to get to Somerset.
On East Highway 80, near Sandy Gap, Littrell saw three men standing in the road by a parked car; Leslie Farmer, 48, a former teacher in Pulaski County, Oliver Gosser, 42, of Pulaski County and Hollis Owens, 38, of Russell County. One of them was drinking from a bottle.
Littrell stopped 15 yards away, identified himself as a police officer, and told the men they would have to move the car off the highway and stop drinking. Seeing that one of them had a gun, he went back to his car and put his pistol in his pocket. He told the two hitchhikers, "Boys, the old man back there has been drinking and has a gun. Looks like we might have some, trouble. You all come along with me.’’
As they approached the three men, Farmer, who was standing a feet away with his arms behind him, brought his gun around and started firing without saying a word. The first shot struck Littrell in his chest and he wheeled partially around. A second shot struck him in the hip. Littrell drew his .38 Smith and Wesson Special and fired six shots, emptying his gun, and striking Farmer in the chest. Farmer's last two shots struck Littrell in the right leg and he fell to his knees in the road. Farmer fell face forward in the road, clutching his .380 automatic pistol in his right hand as he died. He had been shot three times in the chest and once in the right side under the arm. Four loaded shells were found in the clip of Farmer’s pistol. Five empty shells from the gun were found in the road.
Littrell called out the hitchhikers, "Boys come help me. I’m pretty badly shot.” They were crouched down beside the parked car when the shooting was going on. They and Gosser helped carry Littrell to his car. Kirby drove it to the Somerset hospital and then accompanied Littrell as he was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Lexington. He died the next morning.
A stray bullet had struck Gosser in his right leg. It's not clear how he got to the hospital, but while he was having his wound treated at the Somerset Hospital, he was placed under arrest and subsequently placed in jail for drunkenness. Gosser told a Somerset newspaper reporter while at the jail that Llttrell had drawn his gun first and started firing, saying that Farmer had jumped out of the way of the first shot and the bullet struck him.
When other officers arrived at the scene, Owens was not there. After searching the area, he was found asleep In the woods a half-mile from where the shooting had taken place. He was also arrested and jailed for drunkenness. Neither Gosser nor Owens were armed, and according to Littrell’s companions took no part in the affair. While the men were firing at one another, Gosser was standing back against the front of the Farmer car and Owens was leaning against the front fender. They had come to Somerset by bus the previous day and were going to a sawmill owned by Owens’ father, where he was going to repair some machinery. They met Farmer at Dykes restaurant and he agreed to take them to the mill in his car if they would furnish the gasoline.
Leslie Farmer began teaching school in Pulaski County in 1910. During WWI, he served with the U.S Medical Corps then went back to teaching. Mose Hurt Littrell was also a WWI veteran and past Commander of the Albany Disabled American Veterans Chapter. He had been recognized as a champion pistol shot of the state highway patrol.
Born on Nov. 24, 1892 to Thomas Mack and Nannie Bell Hurt Littrell, Mose was married to Mary McMillan and they had one daughter, Mary, wife of Gayron Cross, who died in 2006 in Ohio.
Llttrell became the storm center of a political dispute when he interrupted a speech being made by Circuit Judge King Swope of Lexington, a Republican who was running for Governor Republican candidate, during Clinton County's Centennial celebration, an event being put on by Littrell's DAV group. Littrell claimed that Swope went against an agreement he made that politics was not to be mentioned during his speech. Littrell stepped onto the platform and removed the microphone Swope was using. Clinton Circuit Court fined him $300. The Court of Appeals granted Littrell a second trial, but it was never held. He was granted a full pardon in 1937.
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