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.

edwards3

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.

 

 

 

 

Unsolved: Three Cold Case Murders of LAPD Officers

(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 murder’s never having to pay for their crime, is an extremely hard reality to except—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.

The three brave men are Patrolman David Brooks who was killed in 1910, Officers Fred Early in 1972 and Michael Lee Edwards in 1974. In three comprehensive articles, I will look at each of their murders, identify the suspects and what the LAPD has done to find the killers. The search will never end. Lest we Forget should be the battle cry that never goes silent—never.

 

 

Patrolman David Brooksbrookslapd-patch

Los Angeles Police Department

End of Watch: Friday, April 8, 1910

Age: 38

 

Friday nights in Los Angeles have changed little in the past 106 years—it gets very busy for LAPD officers. So it was on that Friday evening, April 8, 1910 at 10:30 p.m., when two young gunmen, dressed in black clothes, black hats, and wearing black handkerchiefs covering their faces, entered Conrad Winter’s saloon at 3725 Central Avenue. John Edwards, the bartender, was the only man in the bar when he looked up and saw the masked men, with guns drawn, approaching him. “Throw up your mitts,” hollered the man who appeared to be the leader. Edwards, seemingly unfazed with two guns pointed at him replied, “Go to the dickens.” When the leader growled he meant it, the bartender quickly threw up his hands. As the leader keep his gun on Edwards, his accomplice went around the counter to the till and removed $50 in silver but missed $200 in gold which was hidden in a drawer.

As a result of numerous robberies in the area, Patrolman David Brooks, 38, a seven-year veteran out of University Station, working plain clothes, was walking his footbeat north of Grand Avenue, approaching 30th Street. It was less than an hour since the robbery and a distance that the suspects could have easily covered. As the two gunmen walked by a witness who was somewhat out of site leaning against a telephone pole, he overheard one of them point out that a man was coming and said, “let’s rob him.” The witness noticed they were both wearing all black.

Unknown to the bandits, the man they randomly selected was Los Angeles Police Officer David Brooks. As the suspect’s guns came out, Brooks was ordered to put his hands up. The street wise veteran complied, but only raised his left arm as his right went for his gun. With that motion, the officer’s jacket pulled back, reveling his badge pinned to his chest. “He’s an officer,” one of them yelled. “That’s nothing,” said the other. “Hold him up anyway.”

Patrolman Brooks began to pull his gun out. At the same time, both suspects opened fire at near point blank range. One round struck Brooks on his left side, just below the ribs, and exited on the right side, cutting through his intestines and liver, and severing an abdominal artery. The will to live and fight back was strong in Brooks. Although mortally wounded, Brooks fell against a telephone pole fired two shots at the fleeing bandits who returned fire. Loosing strength in his legs, Brooks fell to the ground but managed to empty his revolver at the suspects.

Quickly, there were 20 people surrounding the fallen officer. One was Dr. T.E. Taggert who had run to the corner after hearing the shots from his nearby residence. Dr. Taggert knew there was no time to wait for an ambulance, including LAPD’s, which was horse drawn. The Dr flagged down a passing auto and directed the driver to Central Hospital. This was the infancy of gasoline powered cars, and they were quite bumpy and slow. Despite being only minutes from death, Patrolman Brooks managed to utter what he was thinking in those fleeting moments. “If I had only been a little quicker,” he said between gasps, “I would have got those fellows.”

When the driver of the car was unsure where the entrance to Central hospital was, he

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Central station which also housed Central hospital where Patrolman Brooks was transported. Circa 1910.

stopped in front of Central police station. Captain Avery Bradish came running out and with help from others carried Brooks around the corner to the hospital entrance. As they carried the officer into the emergency room, a doctor asked what was going on. Captain Bradish said, “It is some private watchman, I guess. Shot somewhere by thugs.” But then, as if coming back from the dead, Brooks lifted his head and said in clear voice, “Captain, I am a patrolman, I belong to University Station. Brooks is my name—David Brooks. I am one of your men.” The captain quickly told the officer that indeed, he now recognized him, and taking his hand, calling him Davy, he tried to be positive and cheer up the stricken officer.

 

After just eight minutes on the operating table Brooks uttered his last words, “I ought to have got ‘em, but I was a little nervous—I was a little shaky, you know, I—.” His head fell back onto the table and Patrolman David Brooks was dead. LAPD detectives made several arrest, but after questioning, all of the men were released. The hunt for Brook’s killers continued in earnest for months but eventually all leads failed to reveal the killers. Over the years, the suspects were never identified and the case remains unsolved.

David Brooks was born March 6, 1872 in Ohio, the eldest of five children whose father was a farmer. Moving to Los Angeles in 1896, Brooks was working as a streetcar conductor. In 1898, he married and had three sons—David Jr., born in 1899; Walter, born in 1901; and Frederic, born in 1903 at about the same time Brooks joined the LAPD, assigned to University Station.

A month after his death, LAPD hosted a concert and ball to raise money to benefit his widow and the three children. Nearly 3,000 people attended including the mayor and Chief of Police Alexander Galloway. The event raised $4,000 which in today’s money would be $100,000.

Officer Brooks was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery. His widow, Ottilie, died in 1948 in Los Angeles at the age of 71. She is buried next to her husband.

Any comments please email at jabultema@lapdhistory.com

The Earliest Badge of the Los Angeles Police Department

Many years ago I came across a very early photograph of a uniformed Los Angeles police officer, standing proudly alongside his family. At first glance, it appears he is wearing the “Series One” badge that was first issued in 1876. But with closer examination, the unidentified officer is wearing a badge that has seven points as compared to Series One badge which has eight points. Why is this important you ask; because there is

policephoto174

A. C. Golsh cabinet card of an unidentified LAPD officer wearing the “1869” style badge and military uniform. Circa 1875-1876.

no official record of LAPD officers wearing a metal badge prior to 1876. Accordingly, this photograph is an extremely rare record of the earliest known badge worn by and LAPD officer.

In 1869, Los Angeles was being overrun by gangs, prostitution, gamblers, murderers and plain drunks. As one visitor stated, “The name of this city is in Spanish, the city of Angels, but with much more truth might it be called at present the city of Demons. While I have been here in Los Angeles only two weeks, there have been eleven deaths and only one of them a natural”

To combat these undesirables, the city council sought full-time police protection. This was a decisive moment in Los Angeles history as this allowed the establishment of a city police department. To lead the new department, the council hired William C. Warren who was the town marshal and gave him the added title of chief of police. (Warren was gunned down by one of his officers involving a dispute over reward money one year later.) The police department consisting of six officers were not paid a salary but were compensated with a commission for the collection of fees by serving writs, for arrests, and for returning stolen property.

With a budget of just $75 to furnish his office and pay rent, there is no record of any funds being allotted for uniforms or badges. So what is this officer in the photograph wearing? That mystery first began to be solved with the help of Policewomen Alice Stebbins Wells who most agree is American’s first paid policewomen. Wells served on the LAPD from 1910 until 1940 and died in 1957. In her later years of service, she was the department’s official historian. Years later, another figure entered the discussion, when retired Commander Keith Bushey was fortunate enough to steward a number of police badges from the estate of Wells. It was Bushey who saw the historical importance of the non-descript badge many others at first thought insignificant.

IMG_3061 (1)

The “1869” style badge. Photo courteous of Keith Bushey.

Bushey determined through his expertise as the predominant collector and historian on badges that this “City Police – 1869” was skillfully hand cut and fit the standard for metal badges worn during this era. The seven point star was used by police departments across the nation including cities in California such as San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. It only stands to reason, LAPD officers also wore some type of metal badge.

Bushey believes that a number of different types of badges were worn during this period from 1869 and the establishment of LAPD as a paid and uniformed department in 1876. Some were individually made such as this 1869 badge while others could have been ordered through the mail which were merely generic and had “POLICE” stamped on them.

There would have been little standardization on the fledgling department as officers were required to purchase their own equipment, uniform, and sidearm. Consequently, officers equipped themselves as best they could and with what they could afford. The fact that the 1869 badge has a “2” would suggest that there was also a number “1” badge. The “1869” on the badge is significant. It was a time in Los Angeles that the formation of a police department would have been the talk of the town. Going from volunteers attempting to enforce the law to a force of six armed officers and a chief of police, would have been something to document, in this case, inscribing the “1869” as the centerpiece of the badge.

As Bushey quantified: “In the case of this [1869] badge, the evidence is very compelling that this badge was used prior to the standardization of the uniform in 1876, and may in fact be representative of a Los Angeles Police badge design that had not been previously acknowledged.” I would agree. In doing my research for Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department, I found no documentation of the “1869” badge until I located the rare photograph of the LAPD officer wearing just such a badge. In conjunction with Bushey’s research, his acquisition of the “1869” badge, the likely history of the department’s first badge comes to light. It is an important discovery as it pre-dates the Series One badge of 1876 that historians steadfastly attribute as the first metal badge worn by members of the LAPD.

To bolster this argument, it is important to qualify the cabinet card photograph as a LAPD

golsh

Officer Frank Lemon wearing the regulation uniform and Series One badge. Photo by Golsh. Circa 1879.

officer. The image was taken by A. C. Golsh, an immigrant from Prussia. Golsh settled down in Los Angeles and established a photographic business in heart of Los Angeles at 411 Main Street across the street from the now famous Pico House. The cabinet card style was first introduced in 1866 and had its peak in the United States from 1875 to 1895. Golsh was active in Los Angeles from approximately 1870 to 1893. Photographing policemen was not new to Golsh as evidenced by an outstanding cabinet card of Officer Frank Lemon with a detailed view of the Series One badge. Based on the style of the image and other factors noted, I would date the image circa 1875-1876. At this time there were 12 officers on the LAPD.

The uniform the officer is wearing is most likely military that he either wore during the Civil War or bought from a military surplus dealer. Note his series “1869” styled seven point badge on his jacket. Collectively taken with Bushey’s research, his seven point badge, in conjunction with the photograph of this LAPD officer wearing the early badge, we have the best evidence to date of the transformation of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1869 until 1876. It allows a rare peak into what at least one officer choose to wear until standardization of equipment took place in 1876. Please contact me with your comments and thoughts, I would enjoy hearing from you-jabultema@lapdhistory.com.

 

New Book Coming Soon, The Protectors: A Photographic History of Police Departments in the United States

UPDATE: August 19, 2016

NYPD Police Commissioner William J. Bratton (and former Chief of Police of the LAPD) has agreed to write the foreword for the new book: The Protectors: A Photographic History of Police Departments in the United States by James A. Bultema. (Due in November, 2016-preorder, Photohistoryofpolice.com).

 Synopsis: In a time of intense public controversy over policing, it’s essential to consider—who are these men and women patrolling the streets of America? Is this discord deserved?  Many would argue—no, that the police are “scapegoats” for failures of society as President Obama recently stated. For a better understanding of these police officers, author and former cop, James Bultema, takes the reader on a photographic journey of America’s city police departments. This historical tour begins in the 1850s and uses over 300 captivating photographs to give the reader some insight to our country’s protectors.

Police are at the front lines of history as it is being made and these riveting photographs showcase America’s story as it’s unfolding through officers in action. Through the magic of the camera lens, a vanished world lives again and invites the viewer to be part of a moment long ago and partner up with those brave souls who were and are The Protectors of a nation.

You can go to my website and see several of the photographs which will be included in the book (two of which are below). Just clink on the link photohistoryofpolice.com

Impounding front seats. Miami (Florida) Police Department. Circa 1925. Miami police had a rather practical way of enforcing parking regulations before the development of traffic tickets. They simply seized an automobile's front seat and held it at headquarters until the owner redeemed the cushion by payment of a fine.

Impounding front seats. Miami (Florida) Police Department. Circa 1925.
Miami police had a rather practical way of enforcing parking regulations before the development of traffic tickets. They simply seized an automobile’s front seat and held it at headquarters until the owner redeemed the cushion by payment of a fine.

Lost and Found. Grand Rapids (Michigan) Police Department. Circa 1950s. In the expansion of police departments in the United States, sometimes things get misplaced. These two officers have it all figured out. A little ice crème and an old newspaper to catch the drippings. From this photograph, it is hard to tell who is having more fun.

Lost and Found. Grand Rapids (Michigan) Police Department. Circa 1950s.
In the expansion of police departments in the United States, sometimes things get misplaced. These two officers have it all figured out. A little ice crème and an old newspaper to catch the drippings. From this photograph, it is hard to tell who is having more fun.

The Patrolman with Glass Arms

Since the founding of the Los Angeles Police Department in 1869, just four years after the Civil War, LAPD officers have performed feats of bravery on a daily basis, most of which go unnoticed. Whether it’s a shootout with bank robbers, saving a family from a burning home, vehicle pursuits, or sustaining injury while protecting another officer, LAPD men and women without hesitation, take action by putting their lives on the line. They do so much more than Protect & Serve the citizens of Los Angeles.

In the fall of 1902, it was a time in Los Angeles when the horse and buggy were about to be replaced with the newfangled automobiles. For LAPD, it meant patrol officers worked a footbeat—alone. One such officer was a towering Irishman, with a baroque accent so heavy that it was difficult to understand. Patrolman Michael Holleran was born in Ireland and joined the LAPD in the mid-1880s. The Los Angeles Times relished giving a label to Holleran and officers like him:

Los Angeles has many policeman with rubber necks, some have wooden heads; a few have flannel mouths; several have silver tongues and others have leather lungs; a good many of them have marble hearts, and leaden feet go with the average copper. But there is only one man on the force who has glass arms.

It was in the middle of the night as Holleran skillfully spun his nightstick as he patrolled down Grand Avenue approaching 6th Street. It came without warning, the night sky became illuminated with flashing blue and green flames, leaping off the ground as if they were alive. A transmitting cable of the Edison Electric Company had just fallen across the trolley wires and draped onto 6th Street—all bursting with 50,000 watts of electricity.

stop horseJust at that moment, Patrolman Holleran noticed a milk wagon bearing down on the hot wires at a full gallop. As the horses were fast approaching the wires that were still spitting electrical flames, Holleran ran to the middle of the street, jumped in front of the team and grabbed the reins of the horses stopping them just feet from the downed wires. With the milkman looking on in wide eyed disbelief, Holleran coolly picked up the sizzling wires with his bare hands and deliberately dragged the heavy wires to side of the street. Then for good measure, tied them around a wood pole as if he was tying up a horse.

With that emergency taken care of, Holleran went to a call box and requested a crew be sent out to repair the mess. When a grisly veteran linemen arrived with his crew, he was stunned to learn the patrolman handled the “death dealing wire” without rubber gloves or mits. He joked with the undaunted officer that the only way he was still breathing is that he must have a set of glass arms as that would be the only reason the electricity did not reach his vital organs. Holleran just smiled and was back on his footbeat making sure all stayed safe on his beat.

Lest We Forget: The Forgotten On-Duty Death of an LAPD Officer

At one time there stood a monument in front of the old Parker Center dedicated to all Los Angeles Police Officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. It is a timeless granite tribute to the men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty.  In May of 2014, the LAPD, working with city officials, erected street signs to honor the memories of each officer killed in the line of duty. Currently, 206 personalized signs denote the areas where each officer was killed. Unfortunately, one was missed.

In doing research for my new book, The Protectors: A Photographic History of Police Departments in the United States, I came across the annual report from the LAPD to the mayor, dated from 1917. Inside, toward the back of the thick book, was a section labeled: “Killed on Duty.” Under the headline were five names, one of which was that of Officer C. H. Crow. It reads:

Officer Charles "Pat" Crow

Officer Charles “Pat” Crow

“June 17, 1916, Patrolman Crow, detailed to duty in the Detective Bureau, in the investigation of a felony case, followed the suspects into a desert portion of Imperial County. Without water, and in the intense heat he suffered a sunstroke, but followed his man and arrested him. The following day he died.”

This information led me to one of the newspapers of the day, were I found one small article. The headline read: “Officer Follows Duties to Grave.” Just a week earlier, there had been a felony theft of $1,000 (which today would be about $21,000) worth of clothing from the store of Mr. Morris Cohen. Led by information provided by Mr. Cohen, Patrolman Crow and his partner, R. L. Shy, were told that there were two suspects who had fled to San Diego. Without delay, the two officers departed. Arriving in San Diego, the patrolmen, who were on loan to detectives, and Mr. Cohen were told that the two suspects were in Calexico, a very remote city located at the Mexican border in the Imperial Valley Desert, 90 miles east of San Diego.

With temperatures well over 100 degrees and, according to the newspaper, reaching 135 degrees, the trio set off for Calexico. One must realize that in 1916 the roads were predominantly dirt, with no civilization or amenities along the route. By the time they reached Calexico, Mr. Cohen was near collapse and was immediately sent back home. Patrolman Crow was also extremely ill from the sun but insisted to his partner that they should not give up. They continued their pursuit without water or provisions.

After receiving information that the suspects had fled to Mexicali, Mexico, but “were hovering” between the two cities, the officers staked out the border area. With temperatures again soaring, the two officers, ill-prepared for the extremes of the desert, suffered stifling heat but would not give up. Their patience paid off when the two suspects were seen crossing the border back into the United States and were promptly taken into custody.

Less than an hour after the arrest, and with the suspects safely put away, Patrolman Crow collapsed. His partner quickly drove him to the hospital in Calexico. When word reached the LAPD, Assistant Chief Home telegraphed that “no expense should be spared in fighting for the officer’s life.” But, according to the physicians, there was little hope of his surviving even a few hours. Officer Crow died a short time later from exposure to the elements.

The funeral service took place at Christ’s Episcopal Church and was attended by hundreds of friends. All the men who knew Patrolman Crow were granted time off to attend. As the police band played “the requiem,” attention was drawn to the back section of the church, where a disheveled man could be heard sobbing. It was later discovered that inebriated man was Danny O’Lalley, who adored “Pat” Crow (as he was known).

Until five years before, O’Lalley was a drunkard. Danny would work three days and then spend all his earnings at a bar. Then one night he had a run-in with Patrolman Crow, who was working a foot beat in the area. Crow took the inebriated man aside and explained how he could change his life around. Danny never forgot that “sermon,” and that night promptly turned over $47 he had in his pockets for safe keeping, but mostly so he would not squander it in bars.

The following night when again Patrolman Crow spotted O’Lalley, he was surprised to see him sober. Feeling encouraged, Crow returned the money to Danny, who proclaimed Crow was his best friend. From that point on, whenever Danny had the urge to spend his money at the bars, he would track down Crow and turn over most of his money for safekeeping. He told Pat that he wanted his friend to think he was a “proper” man. O’Lalley became a changed person.

Years later when he heard of the death of his dearest friend, Danny O’Lalley was at the church. Talking to no one in particular, Danny proclaimed, “Pat would let me get drunk when I felt so bad, so I took what I wanted.” As he quietly cried in the back of the church, he muttered, “I don’t think Pat would care if I got a little overdone today. He knew me and kept me straight for five years.”

That is the type of man Patrolman Charles “Pat” Crow was. He lived his life helping those in need and, when chasing down two wanted felons, knowing he was in deep trouble from the heat, pushed through and arrested the thieves. Perhaps Pat can better rest knowing the LAPD family never forgets a brother or sister officer killed in the line of duty. Rest in peace, Officer Crow. You are missed but not forgotten.

Postscript: At the time of this writing, the Department is doing its due-diligence to determine if Patrolman Crow’s name should be listed to the Officers Killed in the Line of Duty records. I for one believe without a doubt he should be. Why he was not listed in his time, no one knows. If you have any feelings on this subject, please let me know and I will pass it along to the Department: jabultema@lapdhistory.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guardians of Angels: 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats experts prepared a 2014 annual report for Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people. Thank you all for showing an interest in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Click here to see the complete report.

What’s in a Picture: 1938 LAPD Shootout

As many of you are familiar with my current book, Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department, one can see my historical interest in vintage photographs. For me, they all have a story to tell. As I am currently doing research for my next book, The Protectors: A Photographic History of Local Law Enforcement in the United States, I discovered an amazing photograph of an LAPD shooting in progress captured by photographer Scott Harrison of the Los Angeles Times in 1938. Photographs such as these are extremely rare during this period in law enforcement history.

This amazing image captures a moment in the midst of a standoff between Los Angeles Police and a barricaded suspect, George Farley.

This amazing image captures a moment in the midst of a standoff between Los Angeles Police and a barricaded suspect, George Farley.

The stand-off that is depicted so distinctly in the photograph began on a clear sunny winter day, Thursday, February 17, 1938, when Marshals T. Dwight Crittenden and Leon W. Romer, both 60, were at George Farley’s residence at 1516 E. 22rd Street to serve an eviction order for $67.50 for back rent. Farley, a 55-year-old day laborer, knew they were coming, as just the prior day he received a 24-hour notice to vacate the small-framed residence. But Farley had no plans to voluntarily leave his rented home—and armed with a high-powered rifle, he lay in wait. His wife, sensing trouble, fled the scene.

As the two unsuspecting marshals arrived, there was no indication that Farley was at home. Both men entered the house and started to pack up his effects. At the same time, an 18-year-old witness was standing across the street with his father, who had traveled to the location to watch his friends evict Farley. Then, accordingly to the teenager: “Suddenly there was a shot, and Mr. Romer came staggering down the steps. He sort of twisted and fell, sprawling on the lawn. He lay very still.” Marshal Romer had been shot through the chest and died almost instantly as he collapsed on the front lawn. In the photograph, he can be seen near the walkway in front of the home.

Seeing his partner violently shot, Marshal Crittenden ran from the residence, making it as far as the middle of the street before Farley shot him through the head. His body lay in the street during the subsequent events as depicted in the photograph. Calls quickly poured into communications division. Meanwhile, Farley calmly took a seat in a room near the front door with his rifle across his lap. He waited patiently for the reinforcements he knew were coming—he wasn’t leaving.

Answering the shots-fired radio call were Detective Lieutenants Robert Underwood and Elliott (no first name listed), who were the first to arrive at the location. As Underwood took cover behind the ambulance directly across the street from the house, he yelled for the suspect to come out and surrender. No sooner was the command given than Farley rushed to the front porch and yelled: “Here I is. Come an’ get me,” and fired at the officers, who promptly returned fire, hitting the suspect through his thigh as he was ducking back into the house.

As reinforcments arrived from Newton Street Station, Farley barricaded himself in the house. As Farley fired back, officers took up position around the house, hiding behind trees, cars and the wall of a nearby residence. For the next hour, officers fired volley after volley into the tiny home, blowing out windows and splintering the thin walls. Tear gas was called in and fired into the residence, as can be seen clearly in the photograph.

When the gunfire ceased, several officers broke into the house to find Farley slumped on his face in a rear room, shot five times in his thighs, arm and chest. Farley survived his wounds and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in San Quentin for two counts of manslaughter. (I was unable to ascertain what happened to Farley after being sentenced.) Through this one frame of film, we get a peek back at 1938 LAPD and the sad circumstances of that bloody Thursday. Lest we never forget the sacrifices of Marshals T. Dwight Crittenden and Leon W. Romer.

Band of Brothers: LAPD Officers’ Shootout against Four Bank Robbers in 1920s Los Angeles

Aug. 22, 1925: Oscar Bayer (sitting on right) next to Bertrand M. Steventon. Standing left to right are Claude R. Weaver, Charles Meyers and Jack A. Stambler. All photographs courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

Aug. 22, 1925: Oscar Bayer (sitting on right) next to Bertrand M. Steventon. Standing left to right are Claude R. Weaver, Charles Meyers and Jack A. Stambler. All photographs courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

As a photographic historian, I am naturally drawn to old photographs. I marvel how a moment in time is frozen for eternity allowing later generations a peek back into a split second of history. When I first saw the portrait taken by a newspaper photographer of five Los Angeles police officers posing in a hospital, I was captivated and had to know: Why this picture?

My first observations were the differing facial expressions and how the officers are affectionately touching one another, like they are all part of the same family—brothers. It suggests what any LAPD cop comes to experience—that you are all brothers and sisters—which translates that you will do whatever humanely possible to ensure the safety for your partner as you all share that same bond of danger that penetrates each day you pin on your badge and take to the streets. So I wonder, why this photo, this moment in time? I would come to learn that the story begins and ends with the man sitting on the right, a sling tied around his shoulder, his uniform in disarray, as he gazes into the lens of the camera—Motorcycle Officer Oscar Bayer.

Motorcycle Officer Oscar Bayer

Motorcycle Officer Oscar Bayer

A veteran of the Great World War, Bayer understood combat, having been wounded by an exploding bomb. He was a man who thrived by pushing the envelope. At the age of 23, Bayer joined the LAPD and two years later was in motors. The likable Bayer made headlines several times, including after a shooting with a burglary suspect he was attempting to take into custody. But it was the summer of 1925 that a young Bayer nearly lost his life while in pursuit of bank robbers in which one suspect and an LAPD police officer were killed. Four others were wounded after several hundred bullets were fired. The LA Times called it the “city’s most spectacular gun battle” ever.It was 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 22, 1925, when four hardcore criminals led by an ex-con bank hold-up man from Chicago, robbed the Hellman Bank in downtown Los Angeles at Ninth and Santa Fe Avenue. The suspects, all heavily armed with shotguns, revolvers and semi-automatic pistols entered the bank and ordered everyone to the floor before jumping on the counters and riffling through all the tellers’ drawers, taking more than $19,000.
While the robbery was occurring, a few blocks away, Motorcycle Officer Bayer was at Eighth and Santa Fe Avenue when his attention was suddenly drawn to a racing vehicle being chased by another car. As the two autos roared by, Bayer heard the driver from the second car scream, “Hold-up—stop them.” In the next few moments, Officer Oscar Bayer would display heroism seldom repeated in the annals of LAPD history.Gunning his motorcycle, Bayer was immediately in pursuit. At this time there were no radios, no help on the way—only phone calls from panicked citizens as the pursuit dangerously tore through downtown. As Bayer pursued the suspects, two of the robbers smashed out the rear window of their stolen car and immediately opened fire on Bayer, who heard the bullets as they whizzed by his head. Unfazed, he sped-up after the gangsters—“I was mad clean through.…I wanted those birds.” The suspects were struggling to lose the LAPD motor officer while making several sharp turns. They turned north on Alameda to Seventh Street heading west to Central. At the intersection of

Traffic Officer Wylie E. Smith. Killed in the shootout.

Traffic Officer Wylie E. Smith. Killed in the shootout.

Alameda and Seventh, Traffic Officer Wylie E. Smith was just taking over traffic duties from Officer George P. Moore when they heard the gunfire and saw Bayer in pursuit. The bank robbers had to slow down due to traffic and, as consequence, Smith and Moore opened fire at the occupants of the vehicle. Seeing this, the suspects directed their fire on the two exposed traffic officers. Officer Moore had his hat shot off just as Officer Smith was shot in the chest. Smith would die from his wound the next day.

Traffic Officer Jack A. Stambler

Traffic Officer Jack A. Stambler

As the suspect’s vehicle continued, other LAPD traffic officers became involved. Traffic Officer Jack A. Stambler observing the trouble Bayer was in, quickly commandeered a small auto and ordered the disbelieving driver to follow the pursuit. Standing on the running board, Stambler joined in the gun battle firing at the fleeing suspects. But Stambler soon came to realize, the car he seized was no match for the fast touring car of the bank robbers. So he ordered the civilian driver to stop and springing from the auto, Stambler spotted a faster car and once again took a position on the running board of the frightened driver who was ordered to join the pursuit.

Traffic Officer Bertrand M. Steventon

Traffic Officer Bertrand M. Steventon

Traffic Officer Bertrand M. Steventon noticing Officer Stambler commandeer another car took over the small vehicle and once again the driver was ordered to pursue the bandits. As the three officers thundered through the streets, bullets were flying. People on the streets were diving for cover, store windows were being shot out, other cars were being struck, but the determined LAPD officers would not give up.The unwavering Bayer, leading the chase, would not be deterred. As he pursed the suspects down Seventh Street, a bullet struck him in his right breast nearly knocking him from his motor. Fortunately, much of the impact was stopped by his traffic citation book. Dazed, Bayer shook his head to keep conscious. In quick succession Bayer was again struck by a fuselage of bullets, one going through his sleeve and another round hit just below his hip. He would later comment just how much the wounds “stung.” Bayer did not dwell on his injuries, he just became more enraged. With his gun empty, Bayer did the unbelievable. While still receiving fire he somehow managed to reload his revolver while speeding after the criminals. Squealing to a halt at Seventh and San Pedro due to traffic, two of the bank robbers jumped from the touring car, while two others ran from the scene. Traffic Officer Claude R. Weaver hearing

Traffic Officer Claude R. Weaver

Traffic Officer Claude R. Weaver

the deafening gun fire at his intersection, opened fire on the suspects. Meanwhile, Motor Officer Bayer observed that each suspect was armed with guns in each hand as they were determined to rid themselves of this troublesome motor cop. With bullets flying, Bayer took careful aim and killed the leader of the gang. With only one bullet left in his gun, Bayer took cover behind another vehicle and fired at the second suspect striking him in the arm. Bayer’s gun was empty but the suspect was preparing to fire again.Taking a calculated risk, Bayer pointed his empty revolver at the wounded suspect and yelled, “If you don’t surrender, I will kill you.” The ruthless suspect looking into the determined face of a man who refused to quit, his uniform covered in blood, gave up and surrendered.A block away Officer Steventon was in foot pursuit of one of the two suspects who had fled the scene as their getaway car was stuck in traffic. As Steventon ran after him, the fleeing suspect turned and fired several rounds at Steventon, who returned fire until he ran out of ammo. The suspect managed to get away after he carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint. Sometime later both suspects were apprehended in different parts of the country.

Motor Officer Bayer would quickly recover from his wounds and eventually was promoted to Detective-Lieutenant. Officer’s Oscar Bayer and Wylie Smith were awarded the Medal of Valor for their involvement in the Hillman Bank robbery incident. Sadly, in his eighth year on the department, Oscar Bayer was killed off-duty, piloting a civilian aircraft, as he was preparing himself to become part of the rumored LAPD aero-bureau. He left behind a wife and four young children.

So it was from a single photograph, taken just after the shooting, that this story was discovered chronicling the type of individuals who wore the badge of a Los Angeles Police Officer during the 1920s. Today, their brother and sister officers are faced with new challenges and yes, some of the old ones. But one can take comfort knowing the sacrifices that were suffered in Bayer’s era help shape the officers of today and make LAPD a leader in law enforcement across the Nation. As this chronicle attests, the men and women of LAPD are all brothers and sisters—insuperable in protecting one another and the citizens of Los Angeles.

 

 

INSIDE AN ADAM-12-ERA PATROL CAR

Editor’s note: The following article is printed with permission from Michael Sellars, editor of The Rotator, The Newsletter for LAPD Reserve Officers, Volume 11, Winter 2012. The photographs are from this author.

1973 AMC Matador as seen on Adam-12

1973 AMC Matador as seen on Adam-12

Jack Webb was a stickler for detail and authenticity in his television series Dragnet and Adam-12. For Adam-12 (which ran from 1968 to 1975), the inside of the Rampart station was duplicated exactly on the Universal sound stages, right down to the doorknobs. Mark Galoustian, a specialist with the Corps, is equally meticulous when it comes to the refurbished Adam-12-era car he owns and carefully maintains.

He describes the inside of a “shop” during those days:

“The ‘Hot-Sheet’ (the latest off of the teletype at the start of the shift) would slidedesktop

behind the Plexiglas and was illuminated by two small bulbs from behind at night. Your partner would scan the sheet for stolen or wanted license plate numbers. The shotgun was locked in front of the front seat and an additional shotgun rack was in the trunk. There were handheld spotlights and a four-channel Motorola radio (Ch. 1—dispatch, Ch 2-4—‘tac’ frequencies). You could not hear other officers talking to dispatch; you couldadam12_RADIO

not talk to other officers in the field without switching to a tac frequency; and you could not hear dispatch when switched to tac. At the time, there were no ‘rovers’ either. Officers would hang the mic out the window during stops in order to hear the radio. The batons were slid into radiator hoses on both front doors that MTD installed. The supervisor cars had a second or third radio installed to monitor other channels at one time. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the standard patrol cars had ‘cheater’ radio installed. The cheater would allow officers to still hear dispatch while talking to other units on the tac ( a second speaker was mounted on the rear deck above the rear seat).

“The two ‘can lights’ on the roof were used by LAPD from the early 1950s until 1978. The early lights were made by S&M Lamp Co. (Model 757) and were red/red. California did not adapt the rear amber light requirement until 1964. That year, S&M Lamp Co. went out of business, so Trio-Sales Co. made the lights for LAPD as Model T-2 lights with flashing ambers to the rear and steady red to the front. To be ‘LAPD correct,’ the ambers flashed separately: They didn’t want a shop to go out of service for a burned-out flasher, so each light had its own flasher. On Adam-12, the lights alternated the flash. These can lights eventually had to be replaced due to side warning issues. Also, the Olympic Games were coming to Los Angeles, and the international visitors typically recognized blue as emergency vehicle lighting. Most of the old can lights were scraped, making them hard to find and thus priced at a premium.” The “Hot-Sheet” desks were also scrapped, and Marks says he knows of only four or five that are still in existence.

“This era car had no A/C, no power windows, a bench seat (bad news if the driver was shorter than the passenger), bias ply tires (no metal reinforcement) and no power steering.”