Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Officer William M. Lacey

Officer William Madison Lacey
San Antonio Police Department, TX
Born: January 23, 1862
Cause of Death: Gunfire
End of Watch: Thursday, November 29, 1900
Date of Incident: Thursday, November 29, 1900
Age: 38
Badge Number: Not available
Tour of Duty: 2 day
Suspect Info: Not available
Weapon Used: Gun; .38 Smith & Wesson revolver
Buried: San Antonio’s Municipal Cemetery #4
Location of Name on National and Texas Monuments
NLEOMF: P62 - W10
TPOM: 07, C, 06

Patrolman Lacey was shot and killed accidentally by a man he was protecting during a labor dispute. Patrolman Lacey was assigned to protect non-union workers during strikes. He was escorting one of the workers on a repair job when the man was attacked. Patrolman Lacy came to the man's aid but was shot by the suspect who began firing at his attacker. Incident took place at the intersection of St. Mary's and Travis streets.
Patrolman Lacy had only been with the agency for two days and was survived by his wife and four children.

Union workers of Electrical Union Telephone Company were on strike in front of the phone company located on Travis St. This had caused a non-union, hot-tempered young electrician named Charles R. Smith, to be so upset with the strikers. Smith would take every opportunity to start a yelling match with union employees. Smith had a small physic and took to carrying a pistol. Things got so bad that the telephone company manager, F.B. Clyde, had to petition City Marshal Druse for protection.

Smith seems to have rubbed just about everybody the wrong way, relishing his position as scab and rarely missing an opportunity to start a yelling match with union employees congregating on Travis St in front of the phone company. But by the end of November, the fighting seems to have become more of a private feud between Smith and O.D. Blanton, a union lineman, and C.K. Phillips, a union electrician. Arguments between the men were a daily occurrence, and on several occasions seem to have ended with rocks and tools thrown across Travis St. Smith, who lacked the physical size to stand toe to toe with either Blanton or Phillips, took to carrying a pistol. Indeed, things got so bad that the telephone company manager, F.B. Clyde, had to petition City Marshal Druse for protection.

And this is where William Lacey enters the picture.

A Policeman’s Story

William M. Lacey had four children and a pregnant wife at home. They’d been married for just seven years. He was a good looking man with wavy brown hair, a high, intelligent forehead, and a strong solid jaw. In the last picture he ever posed for, his brow hoods a pair of sleepy, confident eyes. This was a man who knew what he was about, and in November, 1900, that meant supplementing his carpenter’s profession with a side job as a police officer. Lacey’s application to join the department was approved unanimously by city council, and on Thanksgiving Day, November 29, 1900, William M. Lacey reported for his first day on the job as a San Antonio police officer.

City Marshal Druse assigned Lacey to a detail that included two other officers, L.C. Espinoza and Mike Molyneau. Their job was to take charge of the strike situation. They walked the four blocks from City Hall to the telephone company’s offices at the corner of Travis and St. Mary’s St, and they had been watching an irritable crowd of union strikers for about twenty-five minutes when Charles Smith stepped out of the telephone office. Phillips, Blanton, and Martin Wright were in the crowd and recognized Smith right away. Insults were yelled back and forth. Smith, who seems to have never heard that discretion is the better part of valor, poured salt in the wound by asking the strikers how they enjoyed being out of a job.

In a deposition he gave before Judge Joe Umscheid, Officer Espinoza recalled watching the scene with a growing sense of unease. From his post he could see the faces of the union leaders turning red with anger. He could see Smith smiling back at them, smug as could be, taunting them. Then Espinoza’s gaze shifted to the brand new officer, William Lacey. Lacey’s face was taut with suppressed tension, his eyes darting nervously across the angry crowd. The muscles in his cheek twitched each time a nasty comment was yelled above the general din. His arms were crossed over his chest, his brand new uniform coat stiff with laundry starch.

Espinoza had been in the thick of the action during the City Hall protests two years before, when Mayor “King Bryan” Callaghan Jr., who for many years ran San Antonio like his own private fiefdom, tried to fire the entire police department, and he knew what was going through the new officer’s mind. He knew the thick blue uniform coat was basting the new officer in a layer of heat and sweat. He knew how isolated Lacey was feeling, like a lion tamer when the animals decide they no longer have any interest in taking instruction. Lacey was swallowing constantly, his Adam’s apple working up and down like a piston, and hardly ever blinking. He was getting his first taste of a rough situation, but for all his obvious nervousness, was doing surprisingly well. Lacey was scared, but sticking to his post. He wasn’t moving over to stand next to the other two officers on his post, like a meeker man might, and in Espinoza’s assessment, that was the sign of a good cop. If things got really bad, he thought he’d probably be able to count on William Lacey to watch his back.

And the way things were going, it looked like that was about to happen.

Somebody in the crowd threw a rock, narrowly missing Smith. The smirk slipped off his face as Smith realized the situation was getting out of hand. His voice took on a whining, frightened note.

Phillips, a thick-armed electrician whose huge build allowed him to push his way to the front of the crowd, stuck a threatening finger in Smith’s face. “You are nothing but a big baby,” Phillips said, “and you ought to be at home with your mother.”

Granted it was a weak insult by today’s standards, but evidently it had the desired affect on the crowd. With the strike entering its forth week, nearly everyone was stewing for a fight, and as the union workers advanced on Smith, the scab promptly sprinted for a nearby telephone pole and scrambled up it.

The crowd had Smith on the run. Soon there was a whole chorus of jeers driving Smith upward, and the more he panted and whined the louder and more ominous the taunts became.

Smith, meanwhile, his hands covered in sweat, clung to the pole, the veins in his neck standing out like cords beneath his skin as he kicked at the hands clutching for his boots.

Officers Lacey and Espinoza moved in to restore order, but were unable to push their way through the crowd before Phillips managed to get a hold on Smith’s pant legs and pulled him down into the frenzied crowd. Phillips had a wrench with him, and when Smith tried to fight back, Phillips swung the wrench, opening a deep cut across the top of Smith’s scalp.

Smith’s hair and face were wet with blood and he was barely conscious. He staggered through the crowd and into Robinson’s Livery Stable. With Phillips, Blanton, and Martin Wright in the lead the crowd pursued. They punched and kicked Smith, driving him deeper into Robinson’s Livery.

William Lacey never stopped fighting his way through the crowd, and he reached the front of the fray just as Smith was knocked to his knees by a hard punch to the face. Lacey reached down to pull Smith to his feet, but Smith had already produced a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver from inside his shirt.

Smith claimed he didn’t know it was Officer William Lacey pulling him to his feet. He believed Phillips, Blanton and Wright were closing in for the kill. When Smith opened fire, William Lacey was standing less than an arm’s length from him. Lacey took the shot on his left side, the bullet lodging next to his heart. Smith then fired two more shots. He hit Blanton in the back, next to his spine, and nicked Wright in the arm.

A panic went through the crowd and people ran for the exits.

Blanton landed in a heap in a corner of the livery.

But Lacey kept his feet. He staggered back from Smith, his hands hanging limply at his side. His face had an elastic, slack-jawed expression as he stared about the room. He never cried out. He saw a chair up against a wall and managed to drop down into it.

Meanwhile, Officer Espinoza was still trying to fight his way inside Robinson’s Livery when he heard three shots fired in rapid succession. The crowd was pouring out all around him, but Espinoza elbowed his way into the inner chamber. He saw a man on either side of Blanton, carrying the mortally wounded man out of the scene. Along the far wall, he saw Smith, the gun still in his hand; but despite the blood in his hair and on his face, he seemed cool and calm.

Then Espinoza saw William Lacey, seated against another wall, blood seeping through his thick gray field coat. Espinoza told Smith he was under arrest and Smith nodded. He handed Espinoza the pistol and surrendered without resistance.

And as a hush fell over the few remaining people inside the livery, William Lacey sat dying. A few onlookers came to his side and tried speaking to him, but Lacey could make no reply. He died fifteen minutes later, just as a doctor was entering the building.

On the way to the jail, Officer Espinoza asked Charles Smith what had happened. Smith told him he had no idea he had just killed a policeman. He swore that Lacey was never his intended target. But when Espinoza asked Smith who his intended target was, the man fell silent. He would make no further comment.

And so Espinoza took Charles Smith and C.K. Phillips before Justice Joe Umscheid and gave an affidavit accusing Smith of murder and Phillips of felony assault.

The Funeral

Officer Lacey’s body was placed in a casket at a nearby funeral home and then taken to his Kentucky Ave home on San Antonio’s west side. The body was brought into the parlor and immediately surrounded by his wife and four children. Throughout the rest of the day several hundred people came by to pay their respects.

Lacey was buried in Cemetery #4 at San Antonio’s Municipal Cemetery. Among his pall bearers were Charles Van Riper, who went to become chief of the San Antonio Police Department, and San Antonio Mayor Marshall Hicks.

The service was a huge affair attended by several hundred people, and many of San Antonio’s most prominent politicians and clergy were among the guests.

The Southwest Telephone and Telegraph Company gave Lacey’s widow a check for $1000 and a public apology for the actions of its employees, and the matter slipped into obscurity for the next 87 years. From Blog - Joe McKinney

According to San Jose Cemetery where information for all San Antonio owned cemetery records are kept, Officer Lacey is buried at San Antonio Cemetery #4 Area 2 Lot 21 Sec 2. But due to Officer Lacey not having a grave marker and poorly kept records before 1920. It was difficult for cemetery keepers to show where Section 1 begins but this is Lot 21.

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