Major Paul J. “Joe” Ernst, 55, a 26-year member of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department died as a result of chest injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident at Capitol Avenue and St. Clair Street on March 21, 1992. The accident is believed to have been caused by a heart attack.
Major Ernst and his riding partner, Captain Ted Settle, had just escorted the Richmond High School basketball team to the field house at Butler University for the evening round of the boys’ semi-state tournament. The two were returning to the sheriff’s department when the accident occurred.
Ernst was appointed to the Marion County Sheriff's Department on April 1, 1965. During his career he directed security for the visits of presidents and other notables to Indianapolis. He also was responsible for sheriff’s department security at events connected with the 500-Mile Race. For many years Ernst also was in charge of the department’s Water Rescue and Recovery Team. At the time of his death, he was second in command of the department’s law enforcement division.
In speaking of Major Ernst, then Sheriff Joseph G. McAtee said, “I think if you could pick an ideal police officer and list everything you’d want that officer to be, you’d have come up with Joe Ernst. He was doing yesterday what he loved more than anything else, and that was being involved in the Sheriff’s Department.”
Services for Major Ernst were held in Daniel F. O'Riley Funeral Home with burial at Crown Hill Cemetery.
Major Ernst was survived by his wife, Elsie. In 1991, he had been named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Evan Bayh.
Source: The Indianapolis Star, March 22, 23, and 26, 1992