Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department Anniversary Edition, 1869-2019

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On January 9, 2019, the Los Angeles Police Department will celebrate 150 years of protecting and serving the community. I am excited to release an updated version of the original Guardians published in 2013 just in time for this historical year-long Department celebration. The new Guardians of Angels has a foreword by Chief Moore with new chapters and segments to bring it up to date. Here is a brief synopsis of the book,

For 150 years, LAPD officers have pinned on a badge, holstered a gun and traveled the corridors of history, leaving behind the rich traditions that are today’s LAPD. Guardians of Angels is a penetrating history of the Los Angeles Police Department since 1850. Thoroughly researched over eight years, containing scores of interviews and illustrated with hundreds of rare photographs, this book details how the department evolved from six officers administering frontier justice to today’s high-tech professionals. It brings to life the accomplishments and disappointments of the men and women who unselfishly gave of themselves as the Guardians of Angels.

An excerpt from the new introduction,

For LAPD to walk tall as a leader in law enforcement, the department first had to learn how to crawl. With wide-open vice and conditions that made Los Angeles the mecca for criminal activity, the common (city) council needed to act. It did in late 1868. “On motion, resolved, that his Honor the Mayor appoint a City Police by and with the approval of the council to consist of four persons.” Mayor Cristobal Aguilar, who spoke very little English, appointed four men (which quickly became six) on Jan. 4, 1869. The city could not afford to pay these officers a salary, so they were paid a commission from the collection of fees, which included serving writs, returning lost or stolen property and arresting fugitives.

The first paid police department was led by William C. Warren, who split duties as city marshal and chief of police. Warren had a knack for law enforcement. He had been the town marshal for the previous three years and a deputy marshal for several years before that. A hard-headed farmer from Michigan, Warren was killed by one of his officers, Joseph Dye, in an argument over the reward money for a Chinese prostitute. With guns blazing in the middle of Main and Temple (next to where city hall is today), Dye killed the chief and subsequently won the battle in court when he was found not guilty on the grounds of self-defense. LAPD was off to a rocky start.

Some reviews of Guardians of Angels:

Guardians of Angels – A History of the Los Angeles Police Department is an unprecedented glimpse into those stories and how they became intertwined to create the collective history of the Los Angeles Police Department. Through his use of vivid imagery, historical accounts, and rare photographs, James Bultema presents a comprehensive history of the Department, its dynamic changes, legendary leaders, public missteps, and unparalleled pursuit of excellence.

LAPD Chief of Police Michel Moore

As you can well see we are a Department of deep contrast and that is what is captured so brilliantly in the writings of James Bultema. He’s captured the history of this great organization and brings it to life on the pages of Guardians of Angels – A History of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Former LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck

As a retired LAPD officer (commander) and serious student of that department’s history, I can say without contradiction that Jim Bultema did a GREAT job. The photographs were superb, and the description of the events was absolutely spot on. I had the opportunity to work with Jim when we were both on the job; he was a great cop and he is a great writer and historian. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in the Los Angeles Police Department. WELL DONE!!

Amazon Customer Review

This is a very well-written and thoroughly researched book on one of the greatest police departments of the world. The book takes you from some of the earliest periods in Los Angeles, when vigilantes administered “justice,” to volunteer town Marshals, the establishment of a small police force, paid on commission, to the actual establishment of a real police department and concluding in our present time. It candidly acknowledges and even explores long periods of political interference and the need to have a police chief who isn’t beholding to self-serving politicians. The work is lavishly illustrated with dozens of period photographs. It is by far the most comprehensive book on the history of the LAPD to date.

Amazon Customer Review

I just completed reading this informative, interesting and fascinating book about the History of the LAPD. It held my attention and answered many questions I had about how the Department weathered the century of its existence. I learned the background and obscure details about people and incidents I had heard about during my 27-year career with the LAPD. This should be a primer read for every recruit joining the LAPD. I worked with James Bultema while we were officers on the job, so good work partner.

David Twitchell

The new updated Guardians of Angels will be released January 9, 2019. Both books come with free shipping and are signed by me. You can email me with any special inscription you would like. All Books are 8 ½ X 11, 360 pages, with hundreds of rare photographs. Choose from:

  • Collector’s Edition: Hardbound in color for $69.95
  • Softbound black & white for $29.95

You can order from my website: policehistorybyjamesbultema.com (author signed) or email me at policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com. The book will also be available at: LAPRAAC, Amazon.com., Barnes & Noble and independent book stores.

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A Kid’s Appreciation of a Street Cop

In doing research for my next book, Gangsters & Cops: Prohibition, Corruption, and LAPD’s Scandalous Coming of Age, I came across a posting in the LAPD Police Bulletin. During the first half of the 20th Century, the Bulletin was the principal form of communication to the rank and file from the chief’s office. The daily posting was usually quite dry listing special orders and wanted suspects. But on February 15, 1923, Chief of Police Louis Oaks, could not resist writing a commendation to one of his officers based on a letter he received form a little school girl. Here is the posting as it appeared:

Appreciation

    The Chief is in receipt of the most impressive letter of appreciation of the consideration shown by a police officer that has ever been received by him. The letter in question refers to Officer R.N. Amos of the University Division, and is evidently written by a very small school girl, who is just learning to read and write. For your information, the letter will be printed in the exact words and spelling of the writer.

Following is the letter:

 “Dear Chief of palice

There is a nice traffic afficer at Vernan and Maneto ave. we children of Vernan school do love him veary much. he is so kind to us he caries us accoss the stree whin it raining. want you please Mister Chee let him stay their always. what will we do if you should take him away. there is a 8 on his badge.

yours lovngly

Lucy Jane Fualk

3807 So. Hill”

     Officer R.N. Amos is hereby commended for his attention and courtesy to the school children, and if he has been removed from the crossing at Vernon and Moneta Avenues, his division commander will immediately transfer him back.

L.D. Oaks

Chief of Police

The Swivel Chair

When I heard earlier last month that Mayor Eric Garcetti fulfilled one of his most important duties by selecting Michel Moore, a 36-year veteran, to be the next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, it reminded me of a time in LAPD’s history when the transition was not nearly as tidy. Since 1969, nearly a half-century, LAPD has had only six chiefs of police. This is quite an accomplishment, especially when compared to one six-year span during the 1920s, when LAPD went through eight chiefs in bewildering succession. To better understand where the department is now, and the level of professionalism having been accomplished, one must look at what was overcome to make that steep transition to today.

During the 1920s, LAPD officers were more concerned with keeping their jobs than chasing down vice offenders.

America in the 1920s was a land of prosperity. The new heroes were movie stars such as Charlie Chaplin and aviators like Charles Lindberg. Washing machines were in, while the automobile provided a new sense of freedom. Farmers put away the plow and moved to the city. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled and across the country, Americans were living it up.

But getting in the way of the fun and hoopla of the Roaring 20s came two national struggles that would shape not only the United States, but also LAPD’s destiny for the next two decades. One was the prohibition of alcohol, which made criminals of almost the entire population, and the second was the great economic depression of the 1930s. While the police department has suffered through seemingly endless decades of corruption and political meddling, for the next 20 years, both continuing hindrances pushed LAPD into the nadir of its existence.

The quick succession of chiefs began with Lyle Pendegast who did not come from within the police department but was a deputy city prosecutor. As the new chief was quick to point out, he had been executive secretary to four chiefs during the “old days” between 1905 and 1910. He knew first-hand what to expect when pinning on the chief’s badge. Pendegast had a vision for the LAPD. He hoped to decentralize the force, double the number of patrolmen and install a merit system to better rate each officer’s performance. He also asked the city council to pay for the cost of new uniforms. The tawdry city council refused his request because the city could not afford it.

With the election of George Cryer as the new mayor in 1920, there was going to be change within LAPD. It was a known fact in city government that the real power behind the police force was with the man with the smug smile sitting in the nicest office in city hall. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “The mayor appoints the police commission: the police commission appoints the chief of police. Everybody who knows anything about municipal affairs knows that the mayor is the real head of the police department and that his word is the law.” And with the election of Cryer, the new mayor brought with him a new chief of police. Although he tried to improve the department, Pendegast, having served for just eight months, was never allowed an honest opportunity, before he was shown the door.

Mayor Cryer appointed Detective Sergeant Charles A. Jones to command the police department. At the time, it was considered solid political sense. Although Jones had 20 years on the job, his low rank was a plus. In these corrupt days, the higher the rank the greater the chance of political preferment. Low rank meant the man owed no one—but to the mayor who appointed him.

Jones was ordered to close-down vice in the city—something that each previous chief had been charged with for decades. When the leader of the Morals Efficiency League described the disgraceful vice conditions on North Spring Street that included open gambling and where women and liquor were abundant—the newspapers ran with it. In stories dominating the front page, it was bluntly pointed out that gamblers had arranged the transfer of the Central Division police commander because he actively enforced the anti-vice statutes. The captain was replaced with the vice lords hand-picked man and the mayor ordered it done.

When accused of not shutting down vice in the city, Chief Jones aired it out: “No one can run the Los Angeles Police Department. There are too many meddlesome so-called reformers and others who interfere. The job isn’t worth the grief that attends to it.” After just six fleeting months, the former detective turned chief was out.

As he prepared to announce his next chief of police, Mayor Cryer acknowledged the police department has been a “storm center for many years…one police regime after another has crumbled and fallen.” His next choice would only reinforce his proclamation. The next man was not an “insider” or an “outsider,” but a retired army colonel with absolutely no law enforcement experience. But what he lacked in knowhow and political savvy, the battle-hardened veteran more than made up with his vigorous, forceful demeanor—he was in charge and no one close to him would dare question that. As Chief James W. Everington took office he proclaimed his penchant for vigorous, forceful command. He pointed out he had no strings attached, no axe to grind and only one order: “succeed.”

Everington immediate abolished courtesy cards and honorary police badges which citizens flashed for any encounter with a police officer. No more fixing of tickets, which by many accounts, occurred in 50 percent of all traffic tickets. The chief didn’t win over many in the department when he described new recruits as “brainless” and remarked that good men apparently retired early while the stupid ones remained on the force.

Chief Everington quickly announced his intention to close all lotteries, speakeasies, brothels and casinos even if they were in splashy country clubs. When he ordered the elimination of commercial vice and his three top commanders asserted that it could not be done, he fired them. The subsequent police commission hearings soon turned into an examination of vice in Los Angeles. Accusations flew through the air like a flock of birds. Certain judges were labeled corrupt and accused of protecting a ring of attorneys that defended prostitutes. Everington was accused of mishandling of the department allowing criminals free reign.

During testimony, one senior LAPD captain took the stand and exposed the inner workings of the 1920s police force. “A policeman must play policy….I do myself. If I didn’t I would have to look for another job.” The captain further pointed out that the department was completely disorganized. The working cop’s main concern was keeping his job. Vice he said, could never be cleaned up because the powers that controlled it were too powerful. “Bookmakers told me if I didn’t quit arresting them I would be transferred.” The captain was transferred the next day and was never given a reason by his boss.

Chief Everington could not fathom how he was being used and not allowed to do his job. The press boldly stated that Everington was inept and was grossly mishandling the department. Like the fighting soldier he once was, the colonel, now chief of police, fired back. He labeled the mayor and police commissioners as “spineless jelly fish…weak-kneed creatures of expediency.” Even some of his supporters were not exempt from his wrath. He referred to them as “the soft heads and saps who have showered me with resolutions….I have told them all to go to hell!”

After just four months in office, Chief Everington was fired. His parting words, not much different than those before him declared, “I haven’t run this department since I was appointed; an honest man can’t do that.”

Having learned nothing from earlier experiences just a year and half earlier, Mayor Cryer pushed through another Detective, this time Louis Oaks, 40 years of age from Missouri. Only on the job for 12 years, his biggest accomplishment was his work in solving a high-profile kidnapping case. His greatest value from the politician’s point of view was that Oaks was just a good ole flatfoot with no agenda—a man they mistakenly assumed would take orders from city hall.

When George Cryer was elected mayor in 1921, insiders attributed his victory to one man, Kent Kane Parrot. An attorney and leading underworld figure, Parrot was considered the “boss” of municipal politics in Los Angeles. Consequently, the mayor earned the nickname as “Parrot’s Puppet.”

With his fingers holding the strings of every branch of the city, legal and otherwise, Parrot soon tightened his control over the police department. The boss bribed vice supervisors and assigned a “bagman” to handle the payoffs. It was understood that Kent Parrot’s word was law, because he owned the law.

Chief Oaks was often called to Parrot’s fancy digs at the new Biltmore Hotel. The topic of conversation was usually to tell Oaks on how to run the department and how selective transfers should be made. Parrot wanted his cronies where they could do the most good for his financial well-being. The proud chief refused Parrot by exclaiming “Neither you nor anyone else is going to use the police department for political purposes.” This was only a minor hindrance for Parrot as he simply went around the chief to his susceptible subordinates.

To further ensure his orders were being adhered to, Parrot had the mayor assign his secretary, H. H. Kinney to the office of the chief. Although he fought each directive, Oaks was forced to make transfers. Heading the list was the captain of Central vice. Kinney confirmed who was in charge and eerily presaged in third person: “No one had better question Kinney’s honesty. When they do, Kinney will strike back, and when he strikes, he will strike first.”

When Chief Oaks fired the captain of Central Division, a handpicked man of Parrot’s, all hell broke loose. With determined documentation, Oaks was prepared for the police commission hearing. But just one day prior to his testimony, Chief Oaks was unceremoniously fired by the mayor. There was no change at Central and all charges were summarily dismissed against the captain.

The Los Angeles Times who was firmly behind most of the men who led the department blamed everything on the “swivel chair” located behind the large oak desk in the chief’s office:

Being of the swivel variety, this seat revolves. The speed of rotation, according to the laws of science, is dependent upon the swill of the manipulator. However, there’s something uncanny in the mechanism of that piece of official furniture. Five times within the past three years it has attained a velocity so high that the occupant thereof has been hurled out of the room and the job.

The swivel chair in question was in constant rotation until 1950, when Chief William H. Parker took command and destroyed everything that oak chair stood for. Today, newly appointed Chief Moore can look back and thank his forebearers for the sacrifices they made into making today’s LAPD a world-wide leader in law enforcement.

*Excerpt from my next book coming out in 2019: Gangsters & Cops: Prohibition, Corruption, and LAPD’s Scandalous Coming of Age

NOW AVAILABLE-MY NEW BOOK: UNSOLVED COLD CASE HOMICIDES OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

I am excited to announce the release of my newest book, Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers. Here is an excerpt from the back cover:

“Ripped from today’s headlines, Unsolved is the first book to examine the sacrifices made by American’s heroic law enforcement officers who were murdered while their killers escaped justice­. Left behind are devastated loved ones and a law enforcement agency hunting down the assassins. Bultema, a former LAPD cop, puts a story behind some of the names etched on police monuments across this country.”

What works best if you order it from my website, I will sign it for you (and include any comments you might request). Click on https://www.policehistorybyjamesbultema.com/ to order for $19.99 with free shipping.

Also available for the same price on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and if you want to support your local bookstore, go to the website: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780997425116 and you can pick your local store and order it from them. Many thanks for all your support.

Jim

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The Hat Squad

“Word went through the underworld that they were tough. No question about it. They were intimidators just by their appearance. The hat was their trademark.”  Lt. Dan Cooke in 1987.

It has been said “you are what you drive.” Perhaps, but for four Los Angeles Police Detectives, it was the hat you wore. In the late 1940s and into the early 1960s, the “Hat Squad,” out of Robbery Division, had a reputation that had the knees of robbers and mobsters, knocking out of fear of these sizable men. All were over six feet tall and collectively they weighed more than half a ton. All would become legends on the LAPD. As one hard-nosed detective said, “They were the most impressive group I ever knew in my 25 years with the department. They were tough with criminals but very compassionate people, respected in the underworld.”

The Hat Squad had its genesis when Clarence A. “Red” Stromwall and Max Herman began wearing identical snap-brim straw hats to work. A few years later, in 1952, detective’s Ed Benson and Harry Crowder joined the team and donned their hats. Eventually the fedoras became a cause, and anyone who dared to wisecrack about them were met with a glaring stare which put the fear of prison in many a criminal.

Their reputation was not unlike one that ran the gamut across the United States in the 1920s and 30s. It was then that a robber in New York could be talking with with a robber from Chicago, and if either mentioned, the “Bucket of Blood” the other knew he was referring to the small room in Los Angeles where robbery squad detectives used to hold discussions with hold-up men by punctuating each question with a punch in the mouth. Those days are gone; replaced by four elite men who used their size and intimidating stare that left most criminals begging to sign their confessions.

For all those years together, these four men remained inseparable. Where one went, they all went. Even the Korean War could not separate them. All four went on active duty with the 40th Infantry Division and served in the same battalion. Herman, Crowder and Stromwall were company commanders; Benson was a first sergeant. Stromwall remained in the reserves and retired a full colonel. He later became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. His father, Albert, was a L.A. cop from 1924 to 1948.

Harold “Harry” Crowder also went into law and retired from the Los Angeles Municipal Court as a judge who handled Hollywood, his old stomping grounds.

Max Herman died in 1987. At his funeral, Detective Morgan Rodney praised Herman as “the strongest of the strong, the toughest of the tough, the gentlest of the gentle—always a giver, rarely a taker.” As an attorney later in life, it was said of the old hat squad member, that of the 30 men he defended for homicide, no one was ever convicted of the original (more serious) charge.

Edward Benson, the forth member, died of natural causes in 1970. He had played football for Fordham University and later earned $100 playing for the New York Giants. Benson also boxed professionally. He was a paratrooper during World War II making jumps in Italy and France.

As time continues its relentless march forward, it is easy to forget the contributions of these four remarkable men. For me, a chance for just one more shout-out to four more legends of the Los Angeles Police Department.

policehistorybyjamesbultema.com / policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com

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The Hat Squad (from left) Red Stromwall, Ed Benson, Harry Crowder and Max Herman.

The book is at the printers, due June 15, 2018–Thanks for all the reviews!

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For the past two years, I have been hard at work doing research for my new book: Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers. It is the first time in law enforcement history, a book has addressed all the unsolved police homicides in the United States. Here is a short synopsis:

“Law enforcement officers make their living fighting crime. The death of an officer killed while on duty presents the most heartfelt crisis a department can face. Agencies make it their highest priority to solve the case and bring the murderers to justice. But it is not a perfect world and sometimes, they are not successful. Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers brings attention to this national tragedy. Building on two years of comprehensive nationwide research, Unsolved includes information on each fallen officer, his or her department and in many cases, an in-depth account of the murder. Unsolved is a touching tribute to these courageous law enforcement officers.”

If you might be interested in writing a review, please let me know at: policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com. I will send you an electronic copy of the book and if I use your review, I will be happy to send you a signed copy of the book when it comes out on May 15, 2018. Thank you and be safe.

The Running Gun Battle

Los Angeles in 1930 was a society gone wrong. The Great Depression was in full swing, putting a death grip on the entire country. Many Americans depended on the government to feed them, and long bread lines weaved their way through the streets of the nation. The Dust Bowl winds blew many to California and into Los Angeles. With unemployment rates at 20 percent, businesses closing and no work to be found, many turned to crime. However, some, such as Joe Luby, had been career criminals even during the good times. The ex-con was wanted in Detroit for a double homicide committed during a robbery. Avoiding the law in Michigan, Luby was in LA checking out banks—his specialty.

Near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard. and Normandie Avenue, was the Security-First National Trust and Savings Bank. During the 1930s, it was the practice for banks to close for an hour at lunch. Security-First was no exception. The bank manager, Mr. W.H. Garland, and four tellers were just getting ready to enjoy a peaceful lunch—or so they thought, when Luby, aware of bank practices, walked in. The harden criminal “coolly” approached Mr. Garland, pulled a revolver and demanded cash. With the gun pointed at his chest, Garland walked over to the teller cash drawer and nervously fumbled to pull out $500 in bills ($4,400 in today’s money). With the cash lining his pockets, Luby slowly backed out of the bank with his gun swinging back and forth keeping everyone in their seats. As he reached the door he whirled and jumped into his car. Garland quickly sounded the bank siren.

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Hollywood Boulevard, circa 1930s

Sitting in his personal car not more than 100 feet from the bank was Los Angeles Police Sgt. A.A. Campbell. Looking up when he heard the deafening siren of the bank, he saw a man run out and jump into a roadster. Campbell quickly grabbed his revolver and ran directly toward the man as he got into his stolen car. As Campbell approached, the suspect fired several rounds, which the sergeant would later recall “went screaming past his head.” Campbell fired three quick shots back at Luby, who slumped forward in his seat. Campbell was confident he’d got him. But no sooner had this thought appeared than Luby jammed the car into gear and roared off.

Sergeant Z.Y. Gruey happened by in his car at the exact time that Luby took off. Campbell jumped into Gruey’s car, and they squealed off after Luby. The two sergeants followed Luby north on Normandie and then east on Franklin but soon lost him in traffic. As they searched for Luby, Gruey pulled up to a call box and let Hollywood station know what was going on. According to Campbell, “Then we picked up Officer E.G. Brown and thinking the suspect had driven toward the hills, we drove north on Catalina street.”

Traveling just a short distance, the trio of LAPD officers caught sight of Luby driving just in front of them. As they were catching up to him, the armed robber slammed on his brakes and jumped out of his car, tumbling down the side of a bushy ravine. Campbell picks up the story: “Just before he vanished over the brow of the hill, he whirled about and fired several times. Both Brown and myself answered the fire.”

The three officers went in foot pursuit. The men could hear the suspect crashing through the thick brush, and as if in some arcade game, they shot at Luby every time he reached a clearing. As the suspect reached the bottom of the gully, Campbell and Gruey ran back to the car, believing they could drive down, and around, and head Luby off from the far side of the ravine. They left Brown behind to put pressure on the suspect. As they drove off, they heard more shots being exchanged. As the two officers glanced over their shoulders, they saw Luby duck behind a house.

A few minutes later, Luby was driving off in a small truck that he had stolen at gunpoint from a local Japanese gardener. The suspect headed to Vermont Avenue. Meanwhile, the two sergeants had reached the bottom of the hill and were driving along Los Feliz Boulevard when they spotted their man “careening down” Vermont. Reaching the intersection of Vermont and Los Feliz, the suspect smashed into a parked truck. Campbell said, “We drove up alongside, and I held my gun on him. He cried out: ‘I give up. Don’t shoot. I quit.’ But as I was within a few feet of his car, he suddenly pointed his gun directly at me. Before he could pull the trigger, I let him have it.” This time when Luby slumped over; it was for real, he was dead.

Luby’s rap sheet was long and violent. In 1920 he had been arrested by LAPD for robbery, which was reduced to vagrancy. In 1921 he was sent from Chicago to the Illinois Reformatory for 10 years to life. In 1926 he was arrested in Chicago for grand larceny. In 1929 he was arrested again in Chicago for robbery. Bail was set at $7,500, which Luby jumped. In February of 1930, Detroit police announced a reward of $500 for Luby’s capture on the charge of the murders of two special agents of the Western Union Telegraph Company during a robbery at which time he also wounded a Detroit policeman.

Two weeks after the bank robbery, the three brave officers received checks for $500 as a donation from the Security-First Bank. Assistant Chief of Police Finlinson proudly presented the checks in a ceremony given for the officers “for their valor in chasing and slaying a bank bandit at the climax of a spectacular running gun battle.”

My website: policehistorybyjamesbultema.com

An Alibi for Murder

Note: This is a chapter from my upcoming book, Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers (policehistorybyjamesbultema.com.)

 

Frank-Hardy

Patrolman Frank Hardy

Officer Frank Hardy
Seattle (Washington) Police Department
End of Watch: Friday, March 12, 1954
Age: 31

In police work, few radio calls raise the hair on the back of your neck and get the adrenaline pounding through your veins more than an “All units, a robbery in progress” or a silent robbery alarm at a bank. Law enforcement officers train endlessly for just such an event. There is diagonal deployment to consider, concealment and cover, what additional weapons to take and above all, communication with responding units . Patrolman Frank Hardy responded to just such a call. Regrettably, it would be his last.

What would become known as one of the most spectacular bank robberies in Seattle

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The Seattle First National Bank was the scene of the robbery and shooting that left one officer dead and two others seriously wounded.  Photo from Seattle P-I file/Dec. 1948

history began on Friday, March 12, 1954, at 10:40 a.m., when three middle-aged men entered the lobby of the Seattle First National Bank at 404 N. 85th St. wearing disguises. When they saw the large fake noses with black-rimmed glasses, many of the 20 customers thought it was some sort of prank. The snickering stopped when they saw the men were armed with guns. (Much of the following information was reported by the Behind the Badge Foundation which provides comprehensive support to Washington state’s law enforcement agencies, families and communities after an officer has died or suffered serious injury in the line of duty.)

Once in the bank, Suspect No. 1 pointed a gun at the bank manager and ordered him to open the vault. Suspect No. 2 stood in the lobby as the lookout and kept an eye on the two entrances. Suspect No. 3 entered the tellers’ cage area and starting loading money into brown paper bags he had taken with him. A bank employee lying on the ground, bravely used his foot to activate a hidden silent alarm. The call of the silent robbery alarm at the bank went out at 10:45. The closest unit to the bank was Sgt. Howard Slessman in Car 252. Officer Vernon Chase in Car 223 and Officer Frank Hardy in Car 213 arrived right behind Sgt. Slessman. Unfortunately for the officers, the glass in the bank’s windows was all one-way, which made it nearly impossible for them to see inside while providing the criminals with a clear view of what was occurring outside.

 

Armed with a shotgun, Sgt. Slessman parked at the south side of North 85th and moved toward the main entrance. Officer Chase approached from the east side, also armed with a shotgun. Sgt. Slessman told Chase to take the east entrance. Slessman continued to the main entrance. Inside, the three suspects saw both officers approaching. The sergeant glanced inside the bank and saw several people in the lobby, none of whom appeared alarmed. He would later state it appeared like business as usual, and he thought this was probably just another false alarm. Slessman entered through the first set of doors. As he did, he saw a man moving toward him who he thought was the bank manager coming to explain the error in setting off the silent alarm. Suspects No. 2 stopped eight feet from the inner door, quickly raised his .45-caliber simiautomatic pistol and fired through the

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A bank employee points to the bullet hole through which Sgt. Slessman was shot. Photo from Brownell/Seattle P-I file.

glass door. The bullet hit Slessman in the shoulder and entered his upper torso. The shot paralyzed his right arm. The sergeant went down. Suspect No. 2 walked over to the wounded man, leveled his gun directly at Slessman’s head and instead of executing him, calmly told him to stay where he was. He then strolled back into the bank.

 

Suspect No. 1 and No. 2 started to walk through the lobby toward the east door. As Slessman lay on the floor, he saw Officer Hardy moving from the sidewalk east of the bank toward the east entrance. Suspect No. 2 peering through the one-way glass, fired a shot through the quarter-inch plate-glass window, striking Officer Hardy in the head. Quickly, Officer Chase went to aid Hardy. Suspect No. 1 and No. 2 walked out the east door into the parking lot. Suspect No. 2 took aim and shot Chase in the abdomen. Chase went down. Not one shot had been fired by the three officers, and all were on the ground, bleeding. Suspect No. 3, the only remaining robber in the bank, used his pistol to smash out a window on the west side of the bank. He jumped out with a bag containing $6,900 ($63,000 in today’s money) and left behind another bag, this one containing $90,800 ($831,000).

Suspects No. 1 and No. 2 sprinted to their stolen getaway car parked at the northeast corner of the bank parking lot. The late-model green Oldsmobile had Washington plates that had been lifted from a Studebaker in an auto wrecking yard. The two suspects drove north on Phinney Street as responding units pulled up. As Office G.D. Boyer arrived, a woman was yelling that a man had run behind a house on Phinney. Officer Boyer looked in that direction and saw Suspect No. 3 just getting into the getaway car. He chased the suspects on foot north on Phinney until he lost sight of the car.

At the bank, officers and citizens, along with several doctors and nurses from a nearby clinic, arrived to give aid to the three wounded men. The officers were loaded into three different ambulances and transported to nearby hospitals. Officer Hardy died while en route. Ninety minutes later, the getaway car was found abandoned in a parking lot. As the car was being recovered, one of the most intense manhunt in the history of the Pacific Northwest was underway.

Following the robbery and murder of Officer Hardy, a joint task force of the Seattle Police Department and the FBI, logged 10,000 hours in just two weeks of investigative work while following up on more than 700 leads. On the day of the shooting, a police bulletin detailing the robbery was sent to outlying agencies. After hearing of the Seattle robbery, Vancouver detectives who had been investigating a series of bank robberies were quick to note the similarities between the two. The MO (modus operandi) fit perfectly. A Canadian police superintendent promptly phoned the Seattle investigators.
Consequently, four months after the shooting, detectives had two of the three suspects identified: Clifford Dawley and John Wasylenchuk, both convicted criminals with lengthy rap sheets. Of the three suspects, Dawley, the apparent triggerman (Suspect No. 2), stood out as the leader. Despite the quick identification of the suspects, it would take nearly a decade for a grand jury indict the two men for the murder of Officer Hardy and the bank robbery.

Authorities attempted to extradite Dawley, who was serving his first year of a nine-year prison sentence in Canada—but were turned down. Canadian law prohibited extradition until the full term of a sentence is served. Investigators were stunned. Nevertheless, Wasylenchuk, who was not in prison, was put on trial in a Seattle federal court in 1964.

Prosecutors had a strong case and were going after the death penalty. But to everyone’s disbelief, Wasylenchuk was provided an alibi by a retired sergeant of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who stated that Wasylenchuk was at his home the day of the shooting. This same Mountie had also been a defense witness in a previous bank robbery case in which Wasylenchuk was convicted. Through different informers, U.S. investigators learned that several Canadian officers had assisted criminals in setting up bank robberies in western Canada and, for a price, provided them with false alibis. With the alibi, Wasylenchuk went free. And with that acquittal, the second suspect, Dawley, was never brought to trial.

Postscript. Wasylenchuk had a heart attack and died in 1968. Dawley, who police always believed shot all three officers (Suspect No. 2), died in a boat fire in 1974. The RCMP sergeant died of natural causes four months after the trial. The third suspect was never officially identified.

 

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Following the murder of her husband, fellow officers, including the chief of police, along with tradesmen from throughout the area did a complete remodel of the Hardy home. In July 1954, Seattle Police Chief H. James Lawrence presented keys to Rolene Hardy. Photo from the Seattle P-I Davis file.

Sgt. Slessman and Officer Chase both returned to work in July 1954. Chase never fully recovered from his wounds. After 19 surgeries and hospitalization for over three months, Chase retired on a disability pension in 1963. He died in 2002. Slessman was later promoted to captain and became head of internal investigation in 1977. His son, Mike, became a Seattle police captain. Howard Slessman died in 1981.

 

Frank Wallace Hardy was born in 1923 in Minnesota but lived most of his life in Seattle. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946. He joined the SPD in 1951. Before his death, Hardy was remodeling the family home into their “dream house.” Following his murder, fellow officers, including the chief of police, along with tradesmen from throughout the area did a complete remodel of the Hardy home. It became known as “Project Hardy.” His wife Rolene, their newborn son, and his daughter, Antoinette, moved into the completed dream house Frank had always wanted for them.

Sources:
http://www.behindthebadgefoundation.org/roll-call/hardy-officer-frank-w
• Seattle PI. http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/2013/03/06/the-1954-seattle-bank-heist-that-exposed-a-political-scandal/#photo-211913 and
http://blog.seattlepi.com/thebigblog/2010/09/20/p-i-archive-story-of-1954-greenwood-bank-robbery/
• The Seattle Times: http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19931128&slug=1734219
• Newspapers.com
• A book was written on the shooting and robbery in 1994 entitled: Cops, Crooks and Politicians by Neil W. Moloney, the former chief of the Washington State Patrol and a former Seattle police officer.1 - Unsolved - Cold Case Homicidesjpeg

Cold Case Homicide: Officer Fred Early

 

Officer Fred Early

This one is personal. As a young rookie police officer, just out of the academy, I worked West Los Angeles (WLA) division of the LAPD, on the same watch as Fred Early. Although we never worked together, we were on a lot of the same calls. I had heard of his reputation as a solid cop who had been in several “good” shootings in the South end of the city where several suspects were killed. Perhaps that is why he was transferred to one of the less active areas, WLA, which borders Beverly Hills.

I learned much from Early, just watching how he handled “hot” calls with the utmost professionalism, but primarily observing his officer survival skills. You knew if Early was on your call, you never had to look over your shoulder—he had your “6.” His nickname was “Crazy Fred,” and he lived up to that moniker. I recall one night after work, Early dangerously climbed a six-story tower next to the station and waved to us disbelievers down below—that was Early. After his death, many of us began calling each other “Fred” as a gesture of what he meant to us. I even named my dog after him. So how could an officer who survived so much be taken down by some burglary suspects while off duty? That is the story.

On Saturday, September 9, 1972, at 4:30 in the morning, Policeman Fred Early of the Los Angeles Police Department was on his way home after spending time with some friends. He was off duty, driving his personal vehicle near the northwest corner of National and Sawtelle boulevards, just off the 405 Freeway. Always attuned to his surroundings, no matter whether he was at work, Early observed a possible burglary suspect acting suspiciously near the closed Thrifty Drug Store.

Stopping his vehicle, he watched the suspect for several minutes. Believing this was indeed a burglary going down, he circled and parked his car at a service station at the southwest corner of the intersection to better keep the man under surveillance.

In an era with no cell phones, Early left his vehicle and went to a pay phone to request assistance. As he was talking to the operator, the suspect spooked and ran. At 4:30 in the morning, the city is just beginning to stir, and there would have been very few cars moving. It appears the suspect realized this and, seeing Early’s car stop, started running southbound across National. Early dropped the phone receiver in mid-sentence and pursued the fleeing suspect. He chased him west to an extremely dark parking lot at the rear of 11316 National Blvd. As he reached the parking lot, he was attacked from behind by one or more additional suspects and was shot twice through the left leg. The assailants beat Early, kicking him in the head and body until he lost consciousness. Leaving him for dead, the suspects escaped.

When he came to, he fired his revolver into a block wall to summon help. For the next several months, Early was in and out of the hospital for treatment of his numerous wounds. He suffered from blackouts and severe headaches. While undergoing treatment at UCLA Medical Center, he sustained irreversible brain damage and never recovered. He died from his injuries six months after the shooting. He was just 31.

Just after his murder, then-Governor Ronald Reagan took the unprecedented step of offering $10,000 in state money to find the men who had shot and beaten Early. Twenty-five years later, in 1998, city officials met to consider offering additional rewards. The Police Protective League, which had offered $10,000 in 1973, once again offered that money. The Los Angeles City Council offered an additional $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspects. It was a positive move to crack the case, but no suspects have been arrested, and the case remains unsolved.

During his short life, Early often talked about his love for his four girls. At the time of his death, the kids were between the ages of 5 and 12. A quarter of a century after his murder, the four attended a ceremony to honor their father with LAPD’s highest measure of bravery, the police Medal of Valor. A tearful Michelle Bonnee, Early’s youngest daughter, said at a news conference “I have the burden of looking into my own 5-year-old daughter’s eyes and trying to answer the questions she has of her grandfather—a man I remember well but barely knew and whom she will never know.”

“We have nothing to lose is the way we feel about it,” Hollie Ashworth, one of Early’s daughters, said of the new round of rewards. “Not that [an arrest] would ever make up for my father. But there would be justice in finding the person who did this and some closure for the family. That’s the hardest part, knowing there is somebody out there that got away with this at the expense of four little girls.”

LAPD detective Roseanne Parino (now retired) summed up why the hunt must continue for the perpetrators of Early’s murder and all the suspects out there who have gotten away with the murder of a police officer. “People become more mature, have more of a sense of mortality. I think just the time and distance from the act may bring people out who at the time were reticent, for whatever reasons, to speak.” To give peace to Early and all the other victims of the hundreds of unsolved police murders, we can only hope and pray this happens often.

If you have anything to add to the Early murder, please contact me so I can add your thoughts and comments to this article, or just leave a reply on this site. Thanks.

Jabultema@lapdhistory.com or 928.607.1210

 

Cold Case Homicide: Officer Michael Lee Edwards

(This is an excerpt from a book I am currently researching and writing, entitled: Unsolved: Cold Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers).

In the long and illustrious history of the Los Angeles Police Department, tragically, there have been over 200 officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. The majority of these have been the result of gunfire. In nearly every case, the killers have either been captured or slain. Three cases however, remain open; cold case files where the suspects were never apprehended. The thought of these murderers never having to pay for their crime, is an extremely hard reality to accept—especially for those in the close knit LAPD family. By keeping these three men in our thoughts and speaking about their murders, there is always hope. Hope that someone might step forward, or a new clue uncovered that might lead to an arrest and bring peace to these three brother officers and their families.

“Who Executed Mike?”    edwardsphoto

Tobie Edwards, an innocent 6-year-old, was playing in her grandma’s backyard after her father, Michael Edwards, dropped her off one Friday. It would be the last day they were ever together. On the next day, her play was interrupted by two uniformed Los Angeles Police officers who were dressed just like her daddy. As she later learned from her grandparents, the news was devastating. Tobie’s father, Officer Edwards, had been found shot to death, execution style. There were no suspects in custody, and 42 years later, there still aren’t. The motives and theories for the murder of Edwards are as plentiful as evidence markers at a crime scene.

The 26-year-old officer was last seen alive on May 10, 1974, enjoying some buddy time with other cops at the LAPD Police Academy bar in Elysian Park. It was Friday night, and Edwards was celebrating his final stint on the anti-gang unit, CRASH, and looking forward to his upcoming vacation to Hawaii.

At 10:30 p.m., Edwards said goodbye to his friends, telling them he had a date in Long Beach. The guard at the entrance to the Police Academy substantiated the time as he watched Edwards’ gold Ford Pinto drive past the guard shack. From there, he drove to 77th Street Station, where he was assigned. Afterwards he was observed at a nearby hospital. After leaving the hospital, Edwards was never seen alive again. From here, the mystery begins. It is a whodunit in epic proportions and has haunted detectives, friends and loved ones for over four decades.

Through the years, scores of detectives have worked the Edwards case. Many are deceased, most are retired. Today, one active detective, Daryn DuPree, of Robbery/Homicide Division, has the cold case file on Edwards and says he is actively investigating it. His examination of the case adds to the generations of LAPD’s elite detectives who have preceded him. Here is what is known.

In some way, after leaving the hospital, Edwards was forced or was transported to an abandoned, burned-out apartment building at 122 W. 89th Street, in South-Central Los Angeles. It was here that he was shot six times, execution-style, with a 9-millimeter handgun, which for identification purposes has six lands and grooves with a right-hand twist, Lands .085. His underwear (some have stated it was not his) was pulled over his face, and he was handcuffed. His car, his personal .38- caliber Smith & Wesson Airweight revolver, and some money were missing.

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A little more than a month after Officer Michael Edwards’ murder, LAPD detectives issued this police bulletin seeking help in locating the people responsible for his death. They are still looking four decades later.

Fifteen hours after his body was discovered, police located his Pinto about 10 miles from the murder scene at 1034 W. 186th Street in Los Angeles. The location was near the old Ascot Raceway, a frequent drop spot for stolen vehicles. Divorce papers from his wife were on the passenger seat. The keys were in the ignition. A handkerchief was found in the car, but no suspect prints were uncovered. No one has come forward who witnessed the actual shooting.

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Fifteen hours after his murder, Officer Edwards’ gold Ford Pinto was found abandoned at this location on 186th Street.

In 1981, Edwards’ revolver was found, and detectives were hoping this would provide the one clue to blow the case wide open. In Las Vegas, the police department had been broadcasting PSAs to encourage citizens to turn in their firearms. A woman and her fried surrendered a revolver that turned out to be the gun that Edwards was carrying on the night of his murder. LAPD was promptly notified. After an in-depth interview, the two were cleared of any wrongdoing. “We tried just about everything we could do at that time,” said Tom McGuine, one of the original detectives on the case. “We had the people power, we had the time, we had everything going for us. But sometimes you get to a point where you just don’t get the answer.”

The 1970s were turbulent times in the nation. Not since the 1920s, have so many officers been killed. Radical groups such as the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) committed bank robberies, committed murders, planted bombs under LAPD cars and kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Just days after Edwards’ body was discovered, six SLA members died in a firefight with the LAPD SWAT team. Some thought there might be a connection between the execution killing of Edwards and the SLA. Investigators tested the weapons used by the SLA but could not connect them to the Edwards murder. The SLA was subsequently ruled out.

In 1999, detectives from LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department established a team to reexamine unsolved slayings of LAPD officers and sheriff’s deputies. Included on the LAPD team were detectives Dennis Kilcoyne, Rosemary Sanchez and Paul Coulter. After solving a sheriff’s cold case homicide, they turned their attention to the Edwards case. As a starting point, detectives reexamined prior evidence and what the prior detectives had done. They looked over possible suspects and witness statements. They established a $15,000 reward and even went so far as to send out press releases while posting billboards that read, “Who Executed Mike?”

The joint detective task force sent out letters to officers, both retired and active, who might somehow reveal evidence they missed the first time. They had the FBI retest fingerprints, with no luck. They revisited the crime scene and interviewed friends and family members. Although they received numerous calls and clues, nothing substantial was added to the case files. The cold case remained just that. It was at this point that detectives began to focus on Edwards as a man, rather than as a police officer. “It’s usually not the Sunday night mystery,” Kilcoyne said. “It’s usually something blatant right in front of you. You just overlook it.”

It was just a few days after the murder that investigators learned that Edwards may have been involved with an African American woman who worked near 77th Street station. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2002, Detective Kilcoyne pointed out that former detectives on the case believed Edwards would have not dated a black woman. “That’s hard to swallow now, but in 1974, the mind-set of society was totally different.” At that time, detectives thought that tip might be the key to solving the case. As it turned out, another dead end.

Another individual who thought the murder of Edwards was personal and not related to his position as an LAPD officer, is his daughter, Tobie Edwards—the little girl who was playing in the back-yard so many years ago. Over the ensuing 40-plus years, Tobie has worked tirelessly in her personal attempt to find the killer of her dad. Much of the following information comes from an interview conducted by this author in December, 2016.

She believes to the core of her being that it was a “love triangle” that got her father murdered. Mike Edwards was then separated from her mother, Penny Sue, and was dating a woman from Long Beach who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear for her life. This woman had previously dated another LAPD cop by the name of Bill Pearson before she had started dating Edwards. It was this woman that Edwards was on his way to visit the night he was killed.

The other slant to the triangle was Pearson, a disgraced cop who had been fired by the LAPD one year earlier, in 1973. Those who knew him, saw the downfall for Pearson occur exactly one year after the death of Edwards when Pearson was arrested for felony vehicular manslaughter. He was found guilty of DUI and speeding and causing an accident that killed a 16-month-old boy and seriously injured the parents. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

LAPD detectives questioned Pearson at length over “the possible love triangle.” He told investigators he had been “experiencing blackout spells” on the night of the murder and “could not state whether or not he had been involved,” blaming it on his memory lapses. Police conducted lengthy interviews with those associated with him but were never able to account for his whereabouts around the time of the murder.

 

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The official report from the Los Angeles County Coroner detailing the bullet strikes to the body of Officer Edwards.

During the subsequent years, officials have repeatedly interviewed Pearson about the Edwards murder but have not gotten anywhere. “Honestly, right now we’re still at ground zero on this case,” said the current detective on the case, Daryn DuPree. Regarding Pearson, “What he remembers I’m not going to say,” commented DuPree, but he made it clear officials are still looking at him as a suspect in the murder of Officer Edwards.

Tobie Edwards just wants peace and closure, not unlike what her mother and grandparents wished for—all who have since passed and never gotten an answer. “I have heard that Pearson is very sick, and when he dies, then what?” She went on, “My only wish is to know why and who killed my father.” You are not alone, Tobie; you have a family of LAPD officers who want to know the same thing. No brother left behind.

Anyone with information is urged to call the LAPD Robbery/Homicide Division at (213) 486-6830 and ask for Detective DuPree. Talk to your friends about the case and post on social media to keep the memory of Officer Edwards alive. One never knows where this might lead.