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Badge of slain Champaign police officer reclaimed 54 years after his death

Retired Champaign police officer Zane Ziegler bought the star of Robert Tatman from another vendor at the National Police Collector’s Show in St. Charles, Missouri last month.

The intersection of Mattis Avenue and Church Street in Champaign,
The intersection of Mattis Avenue and Church Street in Champaign, where in 1967, Officer Robert Tatman was shot and killed with his own service revolver during a traffic stop. The case remains unsolved, but the department’s historian recently purchased Tatman’s long-missing badge at a memorabilia show and returned it to the city.
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Zane Ziegler, a retired Champaign police officer, was curious last month when a fellow exhibitor at a police memorabilia show said he had a vintage badge from the department.

When Ziegler saw the star emblazoned with the number 80, “I about fell over,” he said.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported that it was the badge of Robert Tatman, a Champaign officer killed on duty with his own service revolver on Nov. 25, 1967. The case remains unsolved, and for 54 years, so was the question of where his badge went.

Ziegler bought the star from the other vendor at the National Police Collector’s Show in St. Charles, Missouri, and has reclaimed it for Champaign, where he was an officer from 1975 to 2003 and where he retains the role of department historian.

“I had no idea it was out there. Nobody did. It wasn’t on our radar,” Ziegler said.

He declined to say how much he paid, but acknowledged it was more than the $355 he shelled out in a 2012 eBay transaction. That’s when he obtained another Champaign police gem, the No. 7 badge of Thomas Dodsworth, killed in the line of duty July 6, 1913 in a shootout with a bootlegger.

Ziegler doesn’t know how either Dodsworth’s or Tatmun’s badges left the police community, but rules regarding disposal of equipment have changed over the years.

Tatman was married and had four children. Ziegler is in contact with the slain officer’s youngest son, Dan, who lives in the Indianapolis area.

Ziegler offered to give the badge to the younger Tatman, but “he said he would rather it stay here with us.”

Temporarily, Tatman’s star is on display in the police department’s briefing room, named for Christopher Oberheim, a 44-year-old, 13-year Champaign police veteran fatally shot May 19 when he and another officer responded to a domestic disturbance.

Oberheim wore badge No. 703.