Eli "Heck" Bruner

The law enforcement career of Eli Hickman “Heck” Bruner began before Oklahoma became a state.  Born in 1859, Bruner was one of 10 children.   “Heck” Bruner was a Deputy U.S. Marshal commissioned in 1890 and assigned to the Northern District of Indian Territory.  Bruner chased armed gangs who were responsible for sale of whiskey in Indian Territory, bank robberies and murders in Indian Territory.  Bruner and his posse engaged in gunfights with some of the Old West’s most notorious outlaws.   Those that surrendered or survived were taken to Fort Smith where they faced the infamous Judge Parker.

“Heck” Bruner himself was personally involved in shootouts with the likes of the Bob Roger’s gang, Cherokee Bill and the Dick Adam’s gang.  Bruner and U.S. Marshals tracked down the most notorious outlaw in Indian Territory, Ned Christie.  After surrounding his hideout Marshals fired volleys of US Army cannons at the fortress in an effort to force Christie’s surrender.  When he did not come out Marshals used dynamite to force access setting the site on fire.  As Christie fled a gunfight ensued resulting in the death of one of the more notorious outlaws in the Old West.   Bruner also personally captured the outlaws who murdered one of his posse.  Without any formal training, Bruner learned how to be an effective investigator and had a reputation for successfully tracking down bank robbers, train robbers, hunting bank robbers, raids on illegal liquor sales and gathering evidence that would hold up in court. The newspapers described Bruner as a “good Marshal” who was effective and committed to policing Indian Territory.  “Heck” Bruner died in 1899 and is buried in Pryor, Oklahoma.

Captain Dan Combs

Captain Dan Combs

      Dan Combs was born in Lindsey,  Oklahoma in 1920, and served in the U.S. Army during World War II before joining the Shawnee Police Department in 1950.  Combs joined the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in 1953 and began his 23 year career as a Trooper working in Anadarko.  Combs quickly rose through the ranks of the Highway Patrol serving in Lawton, Clinton, Enid, Vinita and Oklahoma City.  As a supervisor he oversaw the creation of the original rescue and emergency squad for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.  Dan Combs reached the rank of Captain and upon his retirement he was named an Honorary Colonel by Governor David Hall.

Dan Comb’s God given communication skills and incredible hand-eye coordination made him a natural spokesperson for gun safety and highway safety programs throughout the state.  By using a variety of fast draw tricks, Combs could capture the attention of any group.  With his left hand he could toss a coin or small object into the air and with lightning speed draw and shoot quicker than your eye could see.  His expert marksmanship and prowess would have been the envy of many a famous gunfighter out of the old wild west.

Combs drew his audiences into his story as he would brilliantly weave lessons about how in the blink of an eye we can find ourselves in real danger behind the wheel of a car.  His message always emphasized how a drunken driver or speeding auto was more dangerous than a loaded firearm.  His highway safety messages always hit the mark and earned him National recognition on a number of occasions.   While always ready to tell his story or demonstrate his firearm skills, Dan Combs was more than a showman; he was a strong leader, a compassionate teacher and “tough-as-a-boot” Oklahoma Lawman.  Dan Combs wore OHP Badge number 14 and was always ready to respond to calls, join in manhunts, and back local police officers as he travelled the State.

Dan Combs died on February 21, 1976 in Oklahoma City.  While he did not die in the line of duty, his badge, OHP #14, was retired from service as a testament to his outstanding contributions to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the law enforcement community.  Dan Combs is posthumously inducted into the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame with the award presented to his surviving children, Brenda Combs and Daneta Combs.

Captain Gene Frusher

Captain Gene Frusher

     Robert Eugene (Gene) Frusher was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1926, and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before joining the Muskogee Police Department in 1946.  Frusher joined the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in 1948 and began his career as a Trooper working in Sulfur.  Frusher quickly rose through the ranks of the Highway Patrol serving in Norman, Muskogee, Sayer and Oklahoma City.

In 1959 Frusher was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and placed in charge of the newly created Department of Special Services.  The new unit was tasked with rescue and recovery work on lakes and rivers, manhunts, locating lost children, riot and crowd control.  Frusher worked closely with Public Safety Commissioner Joe Cannon and Governor J. Howard Edmondson in enforcing prohibition, frequently traveling around the state to conduct liquor raids and arrests in the early 1960’s.

As the commander of the Department of Special Services for 10 years, Frusher recovered over 147 drowning victims prompting the creation of water and boat safety education programs.  In 1965, Frusher was promoted to Captain over Safety Education and under his leadership programs for traffic and water safety were greatly improved and promoted across the state.   Education included training and certifying many police and fire dive teams.  Additionally, in 1967 Frusher oversaw partnering with Civil Defense to train for disaster responses ranging from burning buildings, storms, tornadoes and crowd and riot control.

Gene Frusher retired from OHP in 1969 and was appointed Director of Public Safety for Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.  He continued to give educational and safety talks as well as having taught criminal justice classes to local, county, state and federal officers. Frusher graduated from the FBI’s National Academy.

Robert Eugene (Gene) Frusher retired after a colorful career with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol wherein his leadership and personal commitment led to the creation of specialized units and public safety education programs that are still a vital part of the Department of Public Safety’s current mission and law enforcement community.  Gene Frusher is married and has five children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

U.S. Marshal  Clayton Johnson

U.S. Marshal
Clayton Johnson

    Clayton Johnson was born in 1961, and began his law enforcement career as a Reserve Officer with the Ponca City Police Department in 1981.  In 1986 he became a full time Police Officer with the Ponca City Police and went on to serve for 24 years retiring as the Chief of Police in 2010.  During his tenure he initiated one of the first Citizen Police Academy and Youth Police Academy classes with the formats becoming models for other departments.   As Chief he oversaw the formation of the Ponca City Police Foundation Trust establishing a partnership with local businesses to promote public safety in the Ponca City area.  Chief Johnson oversaw the Ponca City Police Department’s accreditation and was a strong advocate for community policing having initiated the Westside Community Policing Project which was a finalist for the 2001 IACP Community Policing Award.  Additionally, he initiated the Extra Eyes police volunteer program.

Johnson advocated training for all law enforcement personnel and worked with the State Legislature on training issues such as raising the basic training hours and standards, decreasing the amount of time a new officer can work before obtaining certification and building of a new state training facility in Ada.  Chief Johnson served on the Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) from 1999-2010.

Chief Johnson was appointed by the President as the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Oklahoma in 2010.  He currently serves in that capacity.

Clayton Johnson’s career focused on advancing professionalism in law enforcement through training and innovative programs which enhanced interaction with the community.  Johnson is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Leadership Oklahoma, is an active member in the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, Oklahoma Sheriff and Peace Officers Association, FBINA and has served as an adjunct professor in Criminal Justice programs at the University of Oklahoma and Northern Oklahoma College at Tonkawa. He is married to his wife Nancy

OSBI Special Agent Harvey Pratt

OSBI Special Agent
Harvey Pratt

Harvey Pratt was born in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1941, and joined the Midwest City Police Department in 1965.  As a Midwest City Officer he did his first witness description drawing of a homicide suspect resulting in an arrest and conviction.   Pratt joined the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) in 1972 as a narcotics officer and retired in 1992 as Director of the Information Services Division. Pratt is also known for having designed the OSBI seal, badge and flag.   Having spent over 43 years in law enforcement, Pratt has completed thousands of witness description drawings and hundreds of soft tissue reconstructions.  His police forensic art work has aided thousands of criminal investigations and led to arrests and identification of unidentified bodies.  Harvey Pratt is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in forensic art.  His skills involved him in many high profile murder cases such as “The Sirloin Stockade murders”, “The Green River Killer”, Ted Bundy, Henry Lucas and Otis O’Toole.

Pratt is currently a police forensic artist for OSBI and the only full time police forensic artist in Oklahoma.  Considered a leading expert, Pratt has pioneered interview techniques used in law enforcement agencies across the United States.  Pratt’s witness memory enhancement interview technique aids not only in the drawing of facial features, but extracts additional suspect information that has proven to expedite investigations and aid in narrowing the suspect list.  Pratt has used innovative techniques to create soft tissue reconstruction of unidentified bodies to create facial images of the victim in order for the public to view and identify the bodies. Pratt has developed and enhanced skull reconstruction, skull tracing, age progression, photo alteration and restoration and enhancement techniques for photos.

Harvey Pratt is a Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal member and is recognized as an accomplished Native American Artist.  His artistic talent has earned him numerous awards for his ability to express stories and expressions of life, art and religion of the Native American People in a variety of medias.   Pratt has been recognized by the Cheyenne people as Outstanding Southern Cheyenne and was inducted into the Southern Cheyenne Chiefs Lodge as one of the traditional Cheyenne Chiefs.

Investigator  Bernard J. Schmidt

Detective Captain
Bernard J. Schmidt

                Bernard J.  Schmidt was born in 1940 and at the age of 18 began his law enforcement career as a dispatcher for the Bethany Police Department.  Schmidt served as a patrol officer and later became the 1st Bethany Police detective before being promoted to Lieutenant and Captain before retiring after 21 years of police service.

Schmidt served as a fraud and financial crimes investigator for Liberty Bank before joining the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Special Investigation Unit in 1984.   As a deputy his work included serving on the local federal financial asset seizure task force and Oklahoma County multijurisdictional drug task force.  His investigative work included a number of high profile cases resulting major drug and murder convictions and the forfeiture of drug proceeds.

In 1997 Schmidt joined the Oklahoma State Attorney General’s staff as an investigator where he investigated crimes presented to the State Multi-County Grand Jury.

In 2002 Schmidt joined the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office as an investigator.   In 2006 he retired as assistant chief investigator.

Schmidt has served over 50 years in Oklahoma law enforcement having worked as a municipal officer, deputy sheriff and state investigator.  Throughout his career, Schmidt has maintained a reputation for integrity and professionalism that exemplifies public service.  His personal dedication and commitment to investigations has yielded convictions and letters of commendation from victim’s families and civic groups.

 

About the author: Oklahoma Law Enforcement Museum