(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 Brooks
Los Angeles Police Department
End of Watch: Friday, April 8, 1910
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
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.
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