MERLIN, Ore. — In July of 1933, an Oregon State Police trooper was killed on Sexton Mountain during a struggle with two suspected car thieves. Though trooper Burrell Baucom has been memorialized since, the precise site of his death has been lost to time.
Enter OSP Lt. Stephanie Bigman, who has made it her mission to find the spot where Baucom died and honor him accordingly. She's recruited the Oregon Department of Transportation to help in her quest.
According to ODOT, Baucom was on the trail of car reported stolen from southern California on July 1, almost exactly 89 years ago. He pulled over two suspects on the old highway that cut across the side of Sexton Mountain, about 10 miles north of Grants Pass.
During a search of the two young men, Baucom reportedly missed a hidden handgun.
“The 17-year-old panicked and shot Trooper Baucom once in the abdomen. Trooper Baucom, the fighter that he was, tackled the 20-year-old, was fighting him through the gunshot wound and was winning,” said Lt. Bigman.
The younger man saw his compatriot losing the struggle, and returned to shoot trooper Baucom three more times — leaving the officer's body on the side of the road.
Both of the suspects were later captured by a local posse after ditching the car on Sexton Mountain. A funeral procession in Baucom's hometown of Medford included law enforcement officers from around the region, his family, and his fellow National Guard members.
A monument to trooper Baucom now sits at the northbound Manzanita Rest Area, but the location where he was killed has changed over the years, eventually obscuring the site.
Lt. Bigman and other troopers from the Grants Pass field office have since led the charge on finding the spot where Baucom died and placing a "fallen officer" highway sign on I-5 near the location.
"Lt. Bigman asked ODOT if the agency had any information on the location," the agency said in a statement. "Right-of-way maps from the time and other information from 1933 placed a possible site of the incident 10 miles north of Grants Pass on then U.S. 99. The old highway is today’s Monument Drive – named after the Baucom Monument – and current Oxyoke Road before it disappears at about the 10 mile mark into the embankment of I-5."
ODOT helped Lt. Bigman search the old highway, eventually leading them to a forgotten section near I-5. Now the agency is working with OSP to erect a sign on the southern slope of Sexton Summit, which requires legislative approval and a sponsoring lawmaker.
“For us, Trooper Baucom’s story could be any of us. And we know that – when things go sideways out here and fighting alone on a side of a mountain could be our story," Lt. Bigman said. "We always say ‘we’ll never forget,’ ‘we’ll always remember’ and this quest to get the fallen officer memorial sign for him and to find the site of the actual homicide scene is something we should do for this man who served in the armed forces. He took an oath to protect and serve the citizens of Oregon and he lived and died on the side of this mountain.”