Multiple officers down E-mail
Written by by Craig W. Floyd   

On November 24, 1917, a suspicious package had been left alongside the Italian Evangelical Church in downtown Milwaukee. A scrubwoman for the church had discovered it and a boy named Sam Mazzone was summoned to take it to the police station. The boy arrived with the package shortly after 7:00 PM.

It was a Saturday evening and a group of detectives were filing out of roll call in the first floor assembly room.  According to a police department report, “As detectives examined the package with a fury of haste, it exploded, immediately killing nine police officers.” The officers killed included Frank Caswin, Henry Deckert, Frederick Kaiser, David O’Brien, Charles Seehawer, Edward Spindler, Stephen Stecher, Abert Templin, and Paul Weiler.

The culprits who planted the bomb were never caught, but police linked the bombing to the arrest of several persons who were involved in an anarchist riot a couple of months earlier. The pastor of the church where the bomb was found had been outspoken in his criticism of the rioters, and police believe the bomb was placed as an act of revenge. For nearly 90 years, the Milwaukee bombing incident was the deadliest in law enforcement history.

But, of course, the history books would be rewritten on September 11, 2001, when 71 officers were killed in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in New York City.  Another officer, Richard Guadagno of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, died that same day aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists and crashed in Pennsylvania. Multiple death incidents involving law enforcement officers date back to the earliest days of our nation’s history. In 1808, when President Thomas Jefferson placed an embargo on all foreign trade with Great Britain, smugglers soon began moving U.S. products like timber and cattle across to Canada and when they returned they would bring back forbidden products from Britain.

U.S. Customs officials were called in to crack down on the smuggling activity and a major confrontation soon unfolded. On August 3, 1808, Customs officers attempted to capture a powerful group of smugglers aboard The Black Snake – the most notorious smuggling craft of its time. The smugglers were heavily armed and blasted away when confronted.  When the gunfire stopped, the U.S. Customs Service had suffered their first two line of duty deaths. The deaths of Ellis Drake and Asa Marsh marked the first multiple death case in American law enforcement history.

When the Knights of Labor decided to back a strike at the McCormick Harvester Works for an eight-hour day, almost one-third of the Chicago police force was called out to protect strikebreakers.  The strike culminated in a large meeting on May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square in Chicago, where an unknown anarchist tossed a bomb into the crowd. Patrolman Mathias J. Degan died that day from injuries resulting from the bombing. Within a few days following the so-called Haymarket Riot, Patrolmen John Barrett, Timothy Flavin, Nels Hansen, George Miller, Thomas Redden, and Michael Sheehand died from the wounds they suffered in the incident.  Some 70 others in the crowd were injured in the bombing.

On January 2, 1932, six lawmen – Sheriff Marcell Hendrix, Deputy Ollie Crosswhite, Deputy Wiley Mashburn, Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver, Detective Sidney Meadows and Officer Charley Houser – were killed in a shootout in Greene County, Missouri as they attempted to apprehend two barricaded suspects, brothers Jennings and Harry Young, who were wanted for the murder of Marshal Mark Noe. Commonly referred to as the “Young Brothers Massacre,” or the “Brookline Shootout,” more officers died in this shootout than any other in law enforcement history.

The six cases already this year, where more than one officer was killed in a single assault, reflect the cold-blooded nature of many of today’s criminals. Consider, for example, that on September 8, 2007, three Odessa, Texas police officers were shot and killed when responding to a domestic violence call where a woman had reported being hit by her drunken husband. Corporals Arlie Jones, Scott Gardner and Abel Marquez were attempting to gain entry into the home when the suspect opened fire, killing Corporals Jones and Gardner. Corporal Marquez was critically wounded and he succumbed to his injuries four days later. Just a few months earlier in Henderson County, Texas, Deputies Paul Habelt and Tony Ogburn were shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance call. These multiple death incidents that resulted from domestic disturbance calls brought to mind an incident three years earlier in Birmingham, Alabama, when three officers – C. Robert Bennett, Harley A. Chisholm III, and Carlos W. Owen – were all murdered serving a misdemeanor arrest warrant for a man charged with domestic violence.

Nobody in the Washington, DC area will ever forget the horrific crime that occurred at Metropolitan Police Department headquarters on November 22, 1994. An ex-con named Bennie Lee Lawson was concerned that his fellow gang members thought he might be a snitch in a murder case. To prove them wrong, he walked into DC police headquarters, took an elevator to the Cold Case Squad office, and without saying a word, opened fire with a semi-automatic assault weapon. Two FBI special agents, Martha Dixon Martinez and Michael J. Miller, were killed, along with DC Police Sergeant Henry J. Daly. Another FBI special agent, John Kuchta, was critically injured but survived.

The words “Attica Prison Riot” immediately bring to mind one of the darkest days in law enforcement history. Beginning on September 9, 1971, more than 1,200 inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York gained control of the prison in a well-planned, savage attack. After four days of stalled negotiations, the command was given to retake the prison and rescue the hostages. The entire rescue operation lasted just several minutes, but it was filled with terror and bloodshed. When it was over, ten hostages were dead, along with 32 inmates. All totaled, seven correctional officers were killed, including William Quinn, Edward Cunningham, John D’Archangelo, Jr., Richard Lewis, Carl Valone, Ronald Werner and Harrison Whalen. A memorial has been erected at Attica in memory of these fallen heroes. Along with a list of the names is this chilling message – “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.”

Craig W. Floyd is Chairman of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Visit for more information about law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

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