Deputy Edward G. Byrne, 23, suffered multiple gunshot wounds while conducting a routine investigation in the 6200 block of East 10th Street during the morning of Sunday, April 16, 1961.
Deputy Byrne had responded to a report of suspicious activity near the Hilltop Tavern and went to the scene to investigate. By the time he arrived, the Tavern had been burglarized and a car with three occupants had been observed leaving the area. As Deputy Byrne approached the Tavern, he saw a car pull away and came up behind it, turning on his vehicle’s red light. The suspect vehicle pulled over along the north side of the 6200 block of 10th Street. When questioned, the trio denied having been around the Tavern.
As Deputy Byrne went back to his patrol car, the three men got out of the 1958 Oldsmobile. Deputy Byrne started to make a check of the vehicle’s license plate to see if it was stolen. After trying to block the deputy’s view of the plate, one of the occupants, Michael T. Callahan, 36, walked to the patrol car, saying “Forget it, you’re dead” and shoved a gun through the patrol vehicle’s open window, emptying the .45 into Deputy Byrne’s body.
An Indianapolis police officer living nearby heard the shots from the driveway of his home. After looking up, however, he saw three men pushing their car from the mud and assumed the deputy was there to help them and the sound he had heard was the vehicle back-firing. When he looked again a few minutes later, he saw the suspect vehicle had left, but the deputy’s vehicle remained with its red lights flashing and the deputy not visible. Concerned, the officer got in his car and drove to the scene where he found Deputy Byrne, dead. He called for back-up from the radio in the patrol car.
Callahan’s two accomplices, John W. Walker and Ralph Eugene DuBois were seized a short time after leaving the scene of the 9 am shooting. Both made statements giving details of the burglary at the Hilltop and implicating Callahan as Deputy Byrne’s shooter. Walker said, “He never should have done it. There was no reason for shooting that deputy. He never had a chance.” And DuBois said, “He’s a madman. I’m a burglar. I don’t go in for that gun junk.” During questioning, however, DuBois later admitted to having been present when Callahan had shot other victims during their hold-ups.
Callahan, believed armed and dangerous, was captured two days later after a tip led law enforcement to the Johnson County farmhouse where he was hiding. Led by Sheriff Robert O’Neal and Indianapolis Police Inspector Daniel Veza, and with the aerial support of a state police helicopter, more than 50 law enforcement officers approached the tree-surrounded house just before 4 pm on April 18. Callahan was found crouching in the attic of the home near Bargersville and was arrested without incident.
The three suspects had previous criminal histories and had been involved in a burglary ring together, operating from Callahan’s east side cleaning and tailor shop. Dubois said he had committed numerous break-ins with Callahan since February 1959. Walker was involved in most of those occurring since November 1960. In total, 400 house burglaries and 200 store burglaries were cleared by DuBois’ statements, including a break-in at the US Post Office. Additionally, the US Secret Service found counterfeit bills from an operation in Chicago at Callahan’s cleaning shop.
Walker and Dubois’ criminal records revealed arrests and convictions for vehicle taking and burglary. Callahan’s record dated to 1937, and included convictions for burglary, robbery, and armed robbery. At one time, Callahan was returned to prison for threatening his parole officer with a gun.
Callahan, Walker, and Dubois had been freed on bail just 24 hours before Deputy Byrne’s shooting for possession of stolen merchandise. Their release, and presence on the street resulting in Deputy Byrne’s death, raised much criticism of weaknesses in the bail bond system.
Michael Callahan was convicted in a widely publicized trial. Originally sentenced to death, Callahan submitted numerous appeals. He spent eight years in mental hospitals and seven years on death row before a retrial in Brown Circuit Court where the case had been taken on a change in venue. A sentence of life imprisonment was made by that court on January 6, 1976. DuBois and Walker both were imprisoned for their crimes, Walker dying while in prison.
Deputy Byrne graduated from Lawrence Central High School and spent two years in the Army. He worked as a draftsman at his father’s machinery company after his discharge until his appointment to the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in July 1960. He was serving his 15th day on road patrol when he was killed. Prior to his patrol service, Deputy Byrne had been assigned to the jail division and the department’s humane division. He was the first Marion County Sheriff’s deputy killed in the line of duty since its first Sheriff was appointed in 1822.
Funeral services were held during the afternoon of Tuesday, April 18, in Flanner and Buchanan Fall Creek Mortuary, with entombment in Washington Park East Mausoleum. The chapel was overflowing with friends, relatives, and representatives from many law enforcement agencies. Before the entombment, the Rev. Mr. William Hogsett said: “The life of Edward Byrne lasted only 23 years, but in that short period of time he exemplified to us that a man’s life is ultimately measured, not in terms of how long he lived, but how well he lived.”
The trip that led to Callahan’s capture in Johnson County began at Washington Park Cemetery, immediately after services for Deputy Byrne. Callahan’s arrest was made in less than one hour after the funeral.
Deputy Byrne was survived by his wife, Norma Sue. She was expecting their first child in six weeks.
Sources: The Indianapolis Star, April 16 – 20, 1961, January 3, 1981. Marion County Sheriff’s Department, Turner Publishing Company, 2002, page 37. Historic Indianapolis Crimes, Cavinder, 2010. CALLAHAN v. STATE INDIANA , Supreme Court of Indiana, 09/29/64.