Died in the Line of Duty


Topeka - George Varela, a Mexican, shot and killed Arch D. Brandon, 58, a Rock Island Special agent after the officer had ordered him from a freight train here yesterday afternoon. When arrested an hour later Varela admitted the shooting. He was held without bond. (Iola Daily Register, April 20, 1931, page 6)


Crash Kills

Manhattan - Patrolman Leo Chrest of the Manhattan police department died Saturday of injuries received in a car collision near here Wednesday night. He was 38. Four other persons were injured in the crash. (Iola Register, January 29, 1951, page 1)


Suspected Slayer of Osawatomie Police Chief is Captured

Osawatomie, Feb. 3 - Chief of Police Michael F. Churchill, 48, was shot and killed today and less than two hours later a colored man identified by Sheriff Jim Ingle as George Miller, 30, was taken into custody by a hastily organized posse.

The sheriff said Churchill was slain at Miller's home where he had gone in response to Mrs. Miller's complaint that she and her husband, a railroad section hand, had been quarreling.

Churchill was accompanied to the home by City Engineer Harvey Earp who reported that, failing to find Miller in the house, the police chief started to look in a shed when he was struck by a blast from a shotgun.

Sheriff Ingle said Miller surrendered quietly when members of the posse surrounded a garage two blocks from the scene of the shooting and fired several shots into the building. He had a pistol in his possession, the sheriff said.

Ingle gave this account:

We went to the home to serve some papers on Miller and found he had hidden in a shed. As Churchill approached the building a shotgun was jammed through an enlarged crack in the door and was discharged.

Struck by the blast, Churchill walked 20 or 25 feet before collapsing.

Miller was taken to Paola, the county seat, where he was to be questioned. He had made no statement early this afternoon. No charges have been filed.

Ingle said the shotgun used in the slaying was left behind by Churchill's assailant.

Churchill, a World War I veteran is survived by his widow and a son. Chief of police here the last seven years he had been a member of the department about ten years. (Atchison Daily Globe, February 3, 1947, page 1)


Policeman is Killed by Men He Questioned

Slaying Takes Place in a Wichita Hotel; Officers Searching

Escape in Alley

One Identified as Yegg Recently Quelled by Neil Anderson

Wichita, Kas., Aug. 14 - Merle Colver, patrolman about 40 years old, was shot to death in a down town hotel room about 8 o'clock this morning by two men he sought to question concerning a filling station robbery here last night. The slayers, described as youths, and registered at the hotel as Frank Van, Kansas City, and Ralph Caraway, Cherryvale, Kas., escaped.
Three shots were fired at close range into the officer's face and head. He was dead when another police arrived at the hotel.

Landlady Hears Shots

Mrs. Cora Brotherton, hotel land lady said the slayers registered at the hotel about 2 o'clock she said. Colver arrived at the hotel and after checking the register went to their room. Within a few minutes, she told officers she heard a shot followed soon by three more in rapid succession.

Immediately following the shooting, the landlady said, the pair dashed out of the room and down the stairs, shouting call the law. There's been a man shot upstairs.

Mrs. Brotherton called to a roomer, A. J. Shaffer, Winfield, Kans., to summon police while she went to the room to investigate. She said she found Colver's body lying on the floor his holster empty.

Descriptions Obtained

The killers ran a short way down the street and disappeared into an alley. Accurate descriptions were furnished police by Mrs. Brotherton and a maid who saw them dash out of the hotel lobby. Van was described as being about six feet tall, weighing about 145 pounds, light haired and wearing a blue shirt, dark trousers. Caraway was said to be about five feet four inches tall weight about 125 pounds wearing a light shirt, dark trousers and a small tape bandage under one eye. He carried a small bundle, believed to be clothing as he fled.

Police pointed out it was Colver's duty to question rooming house and hotel occupants concerning robberies and burglaries and believed he had noted the late arrival of the pair and sought to question them concerning a small filling station robbery last night.

Intensive Search

Every policeman on the payroll was immediately ordered out to aid in the search for the killers and an airplane bearing two detectives took the air soon after the report was received that two men answering the descriptions were seen speeding in an automobile toward Conway Springs, about 40 miles southwest of here.

Belief that one of the slayers had been shot was expressed by police. Mrs. Brotherton told officers she noticed blood stains on the shirt of one of the pair. Police believed the first shot heard by the landlady was fired by the officer and after the brief interval the next three shots were fired by the suspects in retallation. Four empty cartridges were found on the floor of the room. Because the policeman's gun was stolen police were unable to say definitely whether Colver first opened the fire.

Identified as Rogues

Within an hour after the slaying Mrs. Brotherton identified the pair from rogue's gallery photographs as Charles E. Van Hook, alias Van and Ralph Caraway, alias Earl Davis.

Records show that both had been arrested here before. Last May 2, when Sergeant Neil Anderson formerly of Iola, Kans., halted their automobile. Van Hook drew a gun and quick action by Anderson in striking him on the head with the butt of his pistol probably saved his life at that time police believed.

Colver is survived by his widow, one daughter, Bess, 21, student at Wichita University and a son, Rober, 17 high school student.

Wichita, Kas., Aug 14 - The automobile belonging to Ralph Caraway, Cherryvale, one of the alleged slayers of Patrolman Merle Colver here early today was found shortly before noon in a downtown garage. A bloodstained shirt was found in the seat. The car, model A Ford roadster bore Kansas license No. 5-11674. It had been driven only 1,100 miles. (Iola Daily Register, August 14, 1931, page 1)


Duel to Death at Leavenworth

Leavenworth, Kas. - A city policeman and a man who tried to escape after his arrest on a minor charge were shot to death in a pistol duel on a Leavenworth street Tuesday.

Patrolman Richard Coldren, 28, struck in the chest by a bullet, fired six times at Charles Moberg, about 40.

Four of the six bullets struck Moberg, killing him instantly. Coldren lived six minutes after one slug from Moberg's foreign-made automatic pierced his chest.

The shooting occurred after Coldren had used his squad car to force Moberg's speeding auto to the curb. A witness John F. Sailler, 70, told this story of the fight.

Pulls Pistol

I saw one police car stop the blue car. The guy (Moberg) jumped out of his car and held a gun right in the face of the policeman Charles Pierce. The other policeman ran up and grabbed him and the man wheeled and shot.

Moberg fired his P38 pistol twice at Coldren before the patrolman began shooting.

A passenger in the car driven by Moberg, John A Vutich of Kansas City was unarmed and apparently did not join in the fight, said Police Chief A. C. Mistler.

Jailed for Investigation

Vutich was jailed for investigation however, Mistler said Vutich told him that Moberg had asked for a job in Vutich radio repair shop at Kansas City.

The chief quoted Vutich as saying he accompanied Moberg to a house which Moberg had rented here to pick up some radio parts and tools.

The owner of the house who told police Moberg had not paid his rent recently, telephoned police when Moberg entered the house to get his equipment.

Coldren and Pierce driving separate squad cars were escorting Moberg to headquarters when Moberg attempted to flee in his auto. (Salina Journal, March 20, 1957, page 1)


Rioters Cut Fire Hose, Storm Jail in Garnett

Garnett - The cleanup was started today of debris left by the Saturday night riot which shattered the normal calm of this quiet Anderson county town.

In the wake of the riot which hit its peak in the early morning hours Sunday were several smashed windows, thousands of beer cans strewn about the downtown area, streets littered with glass, 32 persons jailed some 25 persons injured one police officer dead.

The officer who died was Capt. Robert Cowdin of the Ottawa Police Department. He collapsed under the flag pole on the south side of the courthouse square, apparently from a heart attack suffered while firing two tear gas shells into the mob which was estimated at nearly 2,000. Cowdin, who was sent from Ottawa with a tear gas kit, died in the Anderson County hospital shortly after 1 a.m.

The big question still unanswered today was whether the Garnett Grand Prix sports car races would be continued. As one official in the courthouse put it, The Monday morning quarterbacks are having a ball.

Another official said, This is a good town, a quiet town. We can make a living here without putting up with all this ruckus.
From an official of the racing group which sponsors the two day event at nearby Lake Garnett came the comment, The troubles will die down. We can't afford not to have the races.

The second big question was how did it all happen? By collecting the bits and pieces of information here is the way it looked.
The first day of races drew a crowd which race officials estimated at something around 40,000. Many stayed the night, Saturday to be on hand for the Sunday finals.

During the day Saturday several persons were jailed for fighting, disturbing the peace, intoxication…nothing out of the ordinary for a crowd to large.

Saturday night at 10:30 the rural tavern six miles north and one mile east of Garnett closed even though it was crowded with youthful facing enthusiasts. When the tavern closed the beer drinkers took to their cars and headed for Garnett, the string of cars growing as it approached the city.

At 11 the two taverns on the south side of the square closed, dumping large crowds of youths from 18 to 21 onto the square. This crowd was soon swelled by those from the tavern northeast of Garnett. Well supplied with beer in case lots, some hauled from the taverns and some from trunks of cars parked on the west street, the crowd began milling around.

Then two persons were arrested and hauled off to jail, charged with indecent exposure. The crowd began to hoot and holler. Seven officers were on duty in the square. The sheriff, William Gadelman was investigating a burglary his undersheriff Don Hinger was on an accident call. Both were called to return to the square.

As the crowd built up a Garnett woman pointed out youth who she said tried to assault her. Officers grabbed him and hauled him off to jail. The crowd jeered and another youth let go with a cherry bomb. He was chased around the buildings south of the square and taken to the jail.

Struggling and screaming the youth was shoved in the door as he yelled for his companions to help him. That is when the first rush on the jail started. Officers locked up the jail. As the rush failed, the wife of the undersheriff and her baby were taken out a rear door.

A call for help went out to neighboring cities. The crowd continued to grow tossing beer cans and cherry bombs at the jail. The Garnett fire department was called out and two trucks attempted to hose down the rioters. But the crowd about a third of which was girls charged the fire trucks and cut the hoses.

A second charge on the jail lost steam as the number of police officers grew in the square. The rioters tried staging sitdowns in the street blocking traffic.

The hail of beer cans, bottles and firecrackers continued. Officers continued to jail any youths seen tossing firecrackers and other objects when they could get to them.

About 12:30 a.m. Capt. Cowdin and Jim Richardson Franklin County deputy sheriff arrived with the tear gas kit set down from Ottawa. Cowdin fired two shells then tried to reason with a group of youths at the southwest corner of the square before suffering his attack. Richardson tossed several gas grenades but they failed to be effective in the wide open square.

Sometime during the melee, a girl suffered a severely cut face when hit by a bottle. Several firemen received head injuries one trooper was struck in the back by a beer bottle and an Ottawa Civil Defense officer Sylvester Hess suffered a severe arm injury when struck by an exploding cherry bomb.

Three calls were made to Gov. John Anderson seeking assistance from the National Guard. Called out from Ottawa was Headquarters and Headquarters Battery 1st Howitzer battalion 127th Artillery. In command of the 29 men and four officers was Capt. David Johnson. Also ordered to duty was the Service Battery of Garnett 30 men and four officers under Capt. Maris.
Responding to the call for help were officers from various departments in the Kansas City area, Leavenworth, Topeka, Lawrence, Emporia and sheriff's departments from most surrounding counties. Area troopers of the Highway Patrol also responded.

Police dogs arrived from four communities. As the number of officers built up and as the beer ran out the crowd lost its steam. It began dispersing around 2 a.m. but a number of youths lingered until nearly 4 while others cruised the streets in cars the rest of the night.

The Garnett contingent of the National Guard went into action as soon as it received official orders from Col. Carl Gump Paola. It was on duty patrolling the city when the Ottawa group arrived at 4:25. When the situation cased the Ottawa group was released about 6 a.m.

Police court was held at 8:30 Sunday morning in the jail. County Attorney Wayne Loughridge said Monday that 32 persons were charged most with disturbing the peace. All but nine made bonds of $100 for later appearance.

Included in those charged with disturbing the peace were Roger Adams, 16 Garnett; Lawrence M. Hermann, 23, Westphalia; John T. Morrisey, 21, Ottawa, and Clarence R. Hicks, 20, Ottawa.

Capt. Cowdin Dies of Heart Attack

Capt. Robert C. Cowdin, 42, a member of the Ottawa police department for the past 10 years died early Sunday in the Anderson County hospital.

He suffered a heart attack while assisting other officers in an attempt to control a riot in the courthouse square.

Capt. Cowdin was born Oct. 14, 1920 in Belvedere, Neb., son of Alfred E. and Rose (Miller) Cowdin. He had been a resident of Ottawa 34 years.

Capt Cowdin enlisted in the Navy in March of 1942, serving 3-1/2 years most of the time aboard the USS Mobile a cruiser. He was wounded during the invasion of Saipan and received the Purple Heart. He was a member of the Kansas Peace Officers Association, the VFW and the Warren Black Post of the American Legion.

He was married to Betty L. Barlow on Nov. 7, 1948. Capt Cowdin was a member of the North Baptist Church.

Surviving are his widow of the home, at 622 N. Locust, two daughters, Deborah and Cynthia a son Bradley all of the home; his mother, Mrs. Rose L. Cowdin, Ottawa, a grandmother, Mrs. Ida Cowdin Belvedere, Nebr., seven brothers, Eugene, Kansas City, Kas.; Bernard, Princeton; Darrell, Los Angeles, Danny, Quenmo, Richard and Ronald, Ottawa, Larry, Topeka, four sisters, Mrs. A. H.Dean, Los Angeles, Mrs. Cecil Puckett, Topeka, Mrs. Jack Holmes, Hartford, Kas., Mrs. Richard Cromwell, Ottawa.
Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church. Burial will be in the Highland Cemetery.

A fund known as the Robert C. Cowdin memorial fund has been started for the benefit of the survivors of the police officer who died Sunday.

It was reported that more than $200 has already been contributed. The officer leaves his wife and three small children.

Local police today said a number of persons have stopped at the station and have left contributions. Arrangements have been made for donations to be received at any of the three Ottawa banks. (Ottawa Herald, July 8, 1963, page 1)



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