(Nov. 9, 1895-July 9, 1926). The son of Frank and Fannie L. Fleming, John F. Buchanan was born in Williamson County, Tennessee. It is unknown when he moved to Indiana, but he joined the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) on November 11, 1919.

On July 9, 1926, Buchanan assisted officers Jesse Hadley and John Moseby, also African American, after hearing gunshots at the corner of Ohio Street and Capital Avenue. Hadley and Moseby earlier had detained the suspect, Butler College freshman Gene L. Alger, who attempted to steal a car from the Indiana State House parking lot. Hadley and Moseby had escorted Alger to a nearby auto repair shop to request a prisoner transport wagon to pick up the suspect.

Buchanan, Hadley, and Moseby served on the police force when African American police officers in Indianapolis and other U.S. cities did not have the right to arrest white criminal suspects. They only could detain the alleged criminal and call for a white police officer, as did Hadley and Moseby, to search the suspect and make the arrest. While waiting for a white officer, Alger produced a 45-caliber revolver, fired two shots at the two officers, and fled to a house across the street, where he hid in a closet.

Buchanan joined Hadley and Moseby in pursuit. Upon discovery, Alger fired through the closet door, striking Buchanan, who had ordered Alger to exit the closet. Buchanan died almost immediately. Alger escaped capture by climbing out a window. He fled toward Indiana Avenue, where he clubbed one man and shot another before commandeering a woman’s vehicle.

White IPD officer Carl Sheets commandeered another vehicle, gave chase, exchanged gunfire with Alger, and shot him. After Sheets and another officer Alva Lee took Alger to City Hospital, where doctors operated on Alger’s wounds, the officers arrested him for the murder of Buchanan. Although convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to 2 to 21 years in prison in May 1927, Governor Harry G. Leslie paroled Alger in May 1929.

Buchanan received a public funeral at Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 1034 North Missouri Street. City and state officials attended the funeral. Buchanan is believed to be the first African American police officer in Indiana history to receive such funeral honors.

As of 2022, six African American police officers have died in the line of duty in Indianapolis. Buchanan’s murder is the only one to go to trial. The case of slain officer William Whitfield remains unsolved. The assailants in the three other cases died at the scene of their crimes. One assailant died in jail while awaiting trial.

Revised May 2023

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