Officer John F. Buchanan, 31, was shot and killed by Gene Alger, suspect in an attempted auto theft, on July 9, 1926. Before the shooting, Alger had been taken to Patrolman John Mosbey by a man who stated Alger had attempted to steal his car. As Mosbey and his partner, Patrolman Jesse Hadley, called police headquarters from the Indiana Wholesale Tire Company at 201 North Capitol Avenue, Alger jumped up and fled on foot. Alger darted out, pulling a .45 caliber pistol from his pocket and firing a shot from the doorway. He continued firing as the policemen followed, returning his fire.
Shooting as he ran, Alger fled between the Plaza hotel and the Beyer hotel at 225 N. Capitol Avenue. Breaking the glass in a window at the Beyer, Alger climbed over the sill and was confronted by the hotel owner, E.A. Beyer. Alger forced Beyer, at gunpoint, to go into a closet in hiding with him.
Officer Buchanan was attracted by the firing and left his post at Capitol and Indiana Avenues. Directed by a witness to the second floor where Alger was hiding, Buchanan called for Alger to come out. Alger responded with two shots, one of which struck the officer above the heart. Alger rushed from the closet, fled by Buchanan's body, broke a window, and jumped over a brick wall. Alger continued his flight, shooting one bystander and clubbing another with the butt of his gun. Alger then hijacked a car and commanded the driver to "drive like hell."
Traffic officers Carl Sheets and Alva Lee had been summoned by passers-by. At New York and Illinois Streets, they were confronted by Alger who tried to fire his gun from the running board of the car. The gun did not fire; upon later examination it was found to have been emptied in Alger's dash to escape. Sheets fired two shots, striking Alger. Alger was taken to City Hospital where he gave a statement confirming the events.
Several thousand persons were attracted by the shooting and gathered in the neighborhood through which the chase led. Many assisted police in the pursuit.
Both bystanders wounded by Alger survived their injuries. Officer Buchanan died instantly.
When Officer Buchanan left home on the day of his death, he told his family that he might get back home for lunch that day. As his wife and mother-in-law began to watch for his return, word came that he had been killed.
In anticipation of the time when he would leave the force, Officer Buchanan had attended night school where he studied wood-working and upholstering. He had just completed plans for opening a shop where he expected to do expert cabinet making and upholstering. Many of the pieces in his home had been made by him.
Buchanan, a native of Tennessee, was appointed to the police department on November 11, 1919. On January 16, 1923, he was promoted to the traffic division. At his death, Chief of Police Claude F. Johnson gave tribute saying, "He was popular and efficient and in his death the Indianapolis police department loses a good man."
Funeral services were held at Buchanan's home. A police squad escorted the body from the home to the Simpson Methodist Church and then to the Crown Hill cemetery.
In a touching story accompanying the news articles relating to Officer Buchanan's death, the July 10 Indianapolis Star reported "Buck, Trafficman John F. Buchanan's black and tan puppy, trembled and whined disconsolately yesterday afternoon on the porch of the little Buchanan home at 825 North West Street. He sat on the step, with his nose pointed toward the dome of the Statehouse, visible in the distance, as though watching intently for some one to come."
Officer Buchanan was survived by his wife, Bessie. At the time of his death, Officer Buchanan's mother-in-law reported, "John always insisted that if anything happened to him his wife must be well taken care of. With this in mind he had saved regularly and also carried several insurance policies."
Source: The Indianapolis Star, July 10 - 12, 1926; The Indianapolis Recorder, July 17, 1926.