Rollin R. Tanner was born in Beaver, Utah in 1861 and moved to Salt Lake City around 1913. Prior to moving to Salt Lake City, he has served as an attorney in the Beaver area, and also as a Beaver County Sheriff. He was also a Deputy U.S. Marshall in the second judicial district of Utah.
Rollin R. Tanner was appointed as a Special Officer, upon taking employment with the Police Department, he was assigned to Liberty Park as his area of responsibility.
During the three years prior to his death, he had become familiar with all the animals in the Liberty Park Zoo and as a matter of habit, he would reach in and pat the lions on the head as he passed by.
On September 3, 1927, Charles Lindbergh was being celebrated in Salt Lake City with a large parade and festivities with the parade ending in Liberty Park where there was a large party being held that included bands and fireworks.
As Officer Tanner was making his rounds through the zoo area, he passed by the elephant enclosure and as he neared the lion enclosure, he did as he had done many times before and reached in to pet the lions on their heads. As he reached in, they attacked, grabbing his hand and arm in the mouth of one of the lions and proceeded to cause significant injury. A passerby assisted the officer by getting a bar and breaking the lions hold on Tanner’s extremity thus allowing him to be taken to the hospital where he was treated for the bites and injuries.
The prognosis for Officer Tanner’s recovery was good, but due to an infection which set in, he died at home of the injuries on September 10, 1927. Tanner, 66, was married and the father of four children. He is buried in the Beaver City Cemetery, Beaver, Utah.
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