comments

Former Lincoln police chief passes

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
-A +A
Longtime Lincoln Police Chief Robert Jimenez served the community with an eye for helping others, according to residents and family members. Jimenez passed away just after midnight Tuesday morning at age 87. Jimenez served 32 years as the police chief for the city of Lincoln, retiring in June, 1979. At the time of his retirement, the city of Lincoln recognized Jimenez’s service with a proclamation for his “giving generously of his time and efforts, unselfishly in all deliberation.” According to Dana Jimenez Harder, his daughter, Robert Jimenez treated all his officers like family, and demanded that they give “the utmost respect” to everyone they arrested, never calling anyone “punk.” According to police Lt. Paul Shelgren, Jimenez knew every kid in town, and would drive them home to their parents when they got into trouble. “He was just that good, old-time police chief,” Shelgren said. Jimenez was born Dec. 28, 1921 in San Nicolaus, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. He moved to Lincoln when he was two years old and became a citizen just before shipping out for North Africa during World War II. When Jimenez started as police chief in 1947, he was part of “essentially a one-man police department,” according to documents from the Lincoln Area Archives Museum. Harder said her father worked 12-hour days, and the second officer worked 12-hour nights, ensuring one officer was on duty at all times. “The first 30 days, he didn’t have bullets,” Harder said. “He ordered them from the hardware store, and they said it would take 30 days. ‘Don’t tell anyone,’ he said.” The only police car was a truck with a hand-painted star on the door and the word “police.” There was no radio, and a light atop city hall was used to alert the officer on duty. Jimenez was then the youngest police officer in the country, but had already distinguished himself with his service in World War II, earning two Purple Hearts and one Silver Star, according to the archives. During his military career he served as a tank commander in Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army and was friends with America’s most decorated war hero, Audie Murphy, who often rode on his tank, according to the archives. Shortly after the war in Europe ended, Jimenez transported celebrities to U.S.O. shows, including Frank Sinatra and the Andrews Sisters. According to an article in The Sacramento Bee just before his retirement, Jimenez said he enjoyed coming to work every day. Four years after Jimenez took over the department by himself, another officer had been hired. Lincoln kept a low crime rate, but was not immune to tragedy. On a Sunday morning in 1970, armed robbers targeted a market on East Avenue, and subsequently engaged police in a shootout. One of Jimenez’s officers, Les Schellbach, was killed in the shootout, dying in Jimenez’s arms. Jimenez told the Bee that breaking the news to Schellbach’s family was the hardest duty he ever had to fulfill as police chief. Jimenez also served on Gov. Ronald Reagan’s police commission for a year and was a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Lincoln. Services will be held at 10 a.m. July 16 at St. Joseph’s Church at 1162 Lincoln Ave. in Auburn. Following that, his ashes will be interred at the Lincoln Cemetery at 1445 First St. A reception will then be held at the McBean Park Pavilion. All three events are open to the public. Jimenez is survived by his wife, Judy of more than 30 years, his son, Robert Jimenez II, daughter Dana Jimenez Harder, grandson Conrad Karl Harder and four stepchildren. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at brandond@goldcountrymedia.com.