Lieutenant James D. Hagerty, 49, was shot and killed in a fight with a suspect on the banks of Eagle Creek near Standard Avenue on Friday, June 23, 1916.
Shortly before 9:00 during the morning of June 23, Mounted Policeman Joseph Hollingsworth was approached by two small boys who said a man driving a junk wagon on Warman Avenue had just stolen several automobile tires from a shed. Officer Hollingsworth chased the suspect across West Washington Street to a shed in the rear of the home of another member of the police force on South Tremont. When ordered to come out of the shed and give himself up, the suspect refused to obey the command. Officer Hollingsworth drew his revolver and started to kick the door of the shed down.
The suspect dashed from the shed and sprang upon Officer Hollingsworth, striking him on the head with a beer bottle before the officer had time to draw his mace or shoot. Officer Hollingsworth was stunned by the blow, and in the scuffle that followed, the suspect beat him over the head with the mace and then fled the scene, carrying the officer’s revolver. Officer Hollingsworth recovered in a few minutes and called police headquarters for help.
Lieutenant Hagerty and several others were sent to Morris Street and Warman Avenue in the police emergency machine. Mounted policeman also responded. Arriving at the scene, the emergency response squad spread out to search Eagle Creek bottoms.
Lieutenant Hagerty was alone at the time he was shot. A witness who had heard the shouts of the search team was watching the chase from her yard. She later told police the suspect fired the first shot at Lieutenant Hagerty when he was only a few feet from the fugitive who was hiding in the weeds. The second shot was fired after the two were in hand-to-hand struggle. Lieutenant Hagerty fell to the ground as soon as the second shot had been fired, having been struck in the abdomen and heart.
Nearby officers heard the shots, but did not see the struggle. They came upon Lieutenant Hagerty’s body shortly after the shooting. The chase expanded and continued in search of the suspect who had plunged into Eagle Creek to swim the stream. By the time the suspect was finally captured, several hundred citizens had joined three squads of policemen in the pursuit and dozens of shots had been exchanged.
During the chase, the suspect was hit by a shotgun blast to the neck and one side of his face by a member of the posse; he was not seriously injured. He was finally captured by George Barker, a 21-year old youth, who confronted the suspect on a bridge and struggled with him until police arrived to make the arrest.
The suspect gave his name as Henry Dowd, but had letters in his pocket identifying him as Charles Wheeler. Later indicted for murder, Wheeler was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison.
Both Mounted Policeman Hollingsworth and George Barker suffered head wounds that were stitched and dressed by a local physician who had been called to the scene.
Days after the capture, Chief Perrot presented the 21-year old who aided in the capture of Wheeler with a reward during a general roll call held at police headquarters in his honor. The purse, amounting to $135.25, was contributed by members of the department and was more money than the youth ever had possessed before at one time. When he realized the amount which had been given him, his lips trembled as he mounted the platform and began to speak. In presenting the reward, Chief Perrot remarked, “When there is no other policeman near and a citizen voluntarily comes to your rescue it is a deed which every member of the police department appreciates.”
Newspaper accounts on his death contained many tributes to Lieutenant Hagerty’s service. The criminal court judge, former chiefs of police Quigley and Hyland, and co-workers joined the current Chief in commending Lieutenant Hagerty’s performance and courage.
Lieutenant Hagerty was born in Ireland in 1867 and had come to Indianapolis twenty-eight years before the shooting. He was appointed to the police force on December 3, 1897, and had been promoted to sergeant on October 22, 1903. He was made lieutenant on January 5, 1914.
Lieutenant Hagerty was preceded in death by his wife, Mary, who had died in the fall of 1915 of heart disease. They had no children.
Services were held at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Irvington after a brief service at his residence. A detail of police officers escorted the body to the church and to Holy Cross Cemetery where burial took place.
Sources: Indianapolis Star November 1, 1915; June 24-25, 27-29; August 29; September 27-29, 1916; April 19, 1919. Indianapolis News June 23, 26, 1916