Sergeant Maurice Murphy was fatally wounded in a running gun battle on the afternoon of March 4, 1920, in the vicinity of 12th and West Streets. The fight was the climax of a police search for Henry Thomas, alias "Hellcat," on charges of burglary and grand larceny.
The shooting took place after Thomas had been discovered in an alley by Detective Sergeants Sneed and Trabue. The two detectives exchanged shots with Thomas and then called for help. An emergency squad, composed of Lieutenants Ball and Fletcher, Sergeant Murphy, and Driver Harry McGlenn, rushed to the scene.
The emergency squad turned west in an alley between 12th and 13th streets. Sergeant Murphy and Lieutenant Ball left the machine and started west in the alley, their revolvers drawn. Sergeant Murphy led, with Ball a few feet behind.
Sergeant Murphy did not see Thomas standing in the rear yard of 536 W. 12th Street. Thomas raised his revolver and fired twice in rapid succession. At the same instant, Lt. Ball fired three times. Moments later, Lt. Fletcher, who had been informed by a bystander of Thomas's location, came up behind Thomas and fired three shots, striking Thomas in the neck. Injured, Thomas fled south to a point two blocks away, where he died while attempting to reload his revolver.
Having been struck by Thomas's bullets in the left hand and abdomen, Sergeant Murphy fell on his back. His revolver, which he did not have an opportunity to use, fell in the mud at his side. Sergeant Murphy was carried through the yard to 12th Street and was placed in the emergency automobile and rushed to City Hospital where he was given a transfusion of blood. Attempts to save him failed, however, and he died a few minutes before 6 o'clock. Those who were around him said that his mind was continually on his family and that his last spoken words were "Take care of Mary," meaning his 7-year old daughter.
The day before his death, Sergeant Murphy jokingly remarked that he had an "appointment" to meet "Hellcat" on Thursday and that there was no further need for detectives to search for him. About Thomas, Sergeant Murphy is reported to have remarked, "He's not bad. I'll bring him in."
Born near Castle Island in County Kerry, Ireland, in 1878, Sergeant Murphy came to the United States as a boy and lived in Indianapolis the greater part of his life. He became a member of the police department April 3, 1907. On April 1, 1909, he was promoted to a bicycleman, and in January 1914, he was made a sergeant. For many years of his service, Sergeant Murphy was a running mate of Sergeant Wade Hull who was killed in the line of duty in September 1919.
Sergeant Murphy was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery. A platoon of mounted police escorted the body from St. Philip Neri Church, Rural and North Streets, to the cemetery.
Chief of Police Jerry Kinney, in speaking of the death of Sergeant Murphy said, "He was congenial at all times and was very intelligent in all his work. He used excellent judgment and was the type of man in whom any one could place the utmost confidence and rest assured that that confidence would not be abused. I can not find words or phrases which would convey how greatly I feel the loss of Sergeant Murphy, both because of a close personal friendship and because of his ability as a policeman. He was energetic and, at all times, fearless. To him every case was important, and he never failed to obtain all details when making an investigation."
Sergeant Murphy was survived by his wife, Ella, and one child, his daughter Mary.Source: Indianapolis Star, March 5 and 6, 1920. Holy Cross Cemetery research conducted by Sergeant Tom Feeney, Summer 2012.