Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On This Date in Minnesota History: December 21

December 21, 1916 - Three auto bandits and two policemen engaged in a revolver battle in Crowell’s Drug Store, Lyndale and Western Avenues, Minneapolis, at 10:30 this evening. Patrolman Adolph Hanson was shot above the left temple, but only slightly wounded. Both he and his partner, Patrolman G. E. Patrick, emptied their weapons at the robbers. The highwaymen escaped unhurt in a stolen automobile.

Hanson and Patrick were sitting behind the prescription counter in the rear of the store. Clerk Lester Safro was up front behind the counter talking to his fiancée Lucille Murray. There was $800 in the store, primarily because it was pay day for Northwestern Knitting Mills (later known as Munsingwear Corp., today as International Market Square) and the drug store cashed checks for employees. Evidently the robbers were aware of this.

Munsingwear Ad 1915

Three well-dressed men with white handkerchiefs hiding their faces dashed in and leveled pistols at Safro and Murray. Safro had arranged a signal with the officers in case he was held up. He shouted his signal: “Help yourself!”

The officers heard it and made a jump for the door. Hanson was first. As he poked his head through the doorway into the store, there was the crack of a revolver and he fell through the door behind the counter.

When they entered the bandits took positions evidently by prearrangement. One, with tortoise shell glasses, forced Safro behind the soda fountain and started down behind the counter to the cash register, which is toward the center of the store. Another ran to the other end of the counter and stood beside the door Nelson emerged from. The third stood in the middle of the store beside Miss Murray holding two revolvers, one pointed toward each end of the building.

Which bandit shot Hanson is unknown. As he fell, the officer grabbed the bandit beside the door, but was too stunned to hold his grip.

Patrick stepped through the doorway when he heard the shot and began firing at the bandit behind the counter. The two exchanged shots, firing almost methodically, but neither sent a shot home. The show cases were smashed with half a dozen bullets. The windows were also pierced.

Safro was standing between the two men when they started firing. He dropped to the floor. One bullet whizzed through his trouser leg just below the knee, tearing his underwear, but not even scratching the flesh.

One glancing lead pellet struck Patrick in the breast, but did not pierce his overcoat. He took even more deliberate aim after that and pulled the trigger. His opponent staged and fell against the soda counter, then recovered and crawled over the fountain. Again the bandit fell, but jumped up and ran out the door.

The other two bandits had fled with the first shot, emptying their revolvers as they went. The one with the tortoise shell glasses appeared in the door again a second later and fired twice without effect.

Hanson lay stunned behind the counter, while the shooting went on over him. As the last bandit fled, he managed to crawl to his feet, ran to the door and sent six shots at the automobile into which the robbers were piling.

Detectives were at once dispatched from headquarters when the holdup was reported. The license number of the auto was signaled to every patrolman. It was located half an hour later at Plymouth and Irving Avenues, six blocks from where the bandits answering the descriptions of two of these men, held up the Forest Heights Drug Store last Friday night.

There was no blood in the car and police think the men escaped without injury. The car had been stolen this evening from in front of a store at Third and Hennepin.

That the robbery was foiled was largely luck. Since the special detail of plain clothes patrolmen was put out with orders to “kill holdups,” officers have been watching in all outlying drug stores and other places of business. Hanson and Patrick had three stores to watch and happened to be Crower’s at the right time.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune; “Police Drive Off Bandit Trio With Shower of Lead. Foil Night Attack on Cash in Lyndale Avenue Drug Store. Officer Wounded; Robbers Get Away. Pretty Girl in Hail of Bullets Thinks Only of Fiance.”; Dec. 22, 1916; pp.1 & 2

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