Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sumner Police Department at the Ready- 1920s

The 1920's was a time when horse- powered transportation and automobiles shared the road. Criminals used both to commit their crimes. Two police reports in March, 1920,  provide a picture of the time. Apparently firearms were common place also.


Good Detective Work by Sumner Police  Friday night, March 12, 1920, the Kaley clothing store at Sumner was entered and about $500 worth of suits, hats, shirts and shoes were stolen.The thieves had entered by a rear window and gone out the back door leaving the door wide open.

Frank Melrose, Night Marhsal,  discovered the back door open. He called F. O. Laws, manager of the store and Raymond Piper who was employed as a salesman.

 The only clue was given by Raymond Piper and Elmer Reese, who had been coming from Bridgeport between one and two o’clock that night and had met a horse and buggy about a mile and half from town. 

The thieves were traced to the Sumner stock pen where a horse, hitched to a buggy, had stood. The buggy had rubber tires with narrow tread. Measurement of the tire treads were taken by the officers. 

The rig was followed to the livery stable at Bridgeport where it was found that Otto Bopp and Robert Drake had driven it. Bopp was arrested and placed in jail.  Max Edwards, the workman at the stable, had also disappeared and was suspected of being involved. It was later learned that he had no part in the robbery. Drake had also disappeared and the stolen goods had not been recovered.

Drake was found in East St. Louis, where he was subsequently arrested and returned to Lawrenceville.  Search for the stolen goods continued and one week later, they were discovered in a coal shed in Bridgeport.  Drake had a suit that resembled one stolen from a Mt. Carmel boy at a basketball game in Bridgeport some few weeks before and the Mt. Carmel boy identified it.  Drake claimed he bought it from a fellow he met in Olney, but the merchant who sold the suit identified it as belonging to the Mt. Carmel boy. 

Bopp and Drake both deny the theft but evidence against them was sufficient to hold them for the grand jury. The newspaper reporter opined that these might have been the same thieves who took three billiard balls worth about $60 from the American Legion rooms.



Sumner Police Engage in Shoot-out with Gas Thieves: About one o’clock Wednesday morning, Night Marshal Melrose of Sumner saw four men helping themselves to gas at the filling station in front of the Stull hardware store in Sumner, after breaking the lock on the pump. Melrose attempted to arrest the men and succeeded in getting the handcuffs on one of them, but the other three jumped in the car and drove away firing their pistols as they went. Melrose fired back at them and one shot passed between two of the men and through the center of the windshield. The car drove into the ditch by the concrete bridge west of George Hill’s house on the gravel road. The car flipped over, and the men escaped by running.  According to the Sumner Press there were between 23 and 30 shots fired in the battle.