Detective Sergeant Orville Quinnette, 33, was fatally shot in a north side apartment ambush on December 7, 1935. Sergeant Quinnette and his partner, Russell Chatham, had been sent to the Hazel Dell apartments, northeast corner of 12th Street and Park Avenue, on a tip that the man believed to have killed an Anderson police officer was living there.
Unable to gain admittance to the apartment after repeated knocking at the door, the detectives located the custodian and asked him to let them in. As they returned to the apartment, the door was swung open from the inside. Taken by surprise, the detectives were unable to draw their weapons before two men on the inside ambushed them and ordered them inside. A gun battle followed. Sergeant Quinnette was shot several times, his partner once. Both suspects also were injured.
The wounded gunmen fled the apartment, halting a passing automobile, and ordering the driver out. Police spread a dragnet in one of the most intense manhunts since the days of John Dillinger's gangs. The suspects, Paul Pierce and Donald Joseph, were captured near Milroy, at the home of Sylva Headlee, a paroled convict who was later returned to the State Prison as a parole violator.
After the gunmen escaped, Sergeant Quinnette made his way to a home at 1140 Park Avenue where he telephoned for help. When the first squad arrived, Sergeant Quinnette staggered across the street, climbed into the car, and was taken to City Hospital. Chatham, less severely injured with only a grazing wound, returned to the crime scene.
Sergeant Quinnette had been wounded five times: twice in the abdomen, once in the arm, once in the leg, and once in the hand. Although his wounds were considered serious, they initially were not thought to be critical; however, he developed pneumonia. He died on December 18.
After the capture of Pierce and Joseph, Pierce confessed to the prosecutor that he had fired the shots that caused Sergeant Quinnette's death. He also was identified as the shooter by Sergeant Quinnette himself when Pierce was taken to the side of Sergeant Quinnette's hospital bed for identification a few days prior to the detective's death. Trial was set January 6 before Judge Frank P. Baker.
Although Pierce and Joseph had a confirmed alibi for the time of the murder of the Anderson policeman, they were found to be escaped convicts, who made a break October 4, 1934, from the Indiana State Prison farm. They had been serving ten-year prison sentences on charges of robbery. During the time between their escape and the shooting of Sergeant Quinnette, they are believed to have staged several other armed robberies.
Sergeant Quinnette was born in Putnam County September 11, 1902. He was appointed to the police department July 28, 1930, prior to which he had been a grocer. He was promoted to the rank of detective sergeant January 2, 1934.
Funeral services were held in the Olive Branch Christian Church. As the cortege passed police headquarters, Mayor John W. Kern and 150 uniformed police officers stood at attention. Burial was in Washington Park cemetery.
Sergeant Quinnette was survived by his widow, Ruth; his mother, Mrs. George Quinnette; two brothers, Freeman and Everett; and a sister, Mrs. Dorothy Tutterow.
Source: The Indianapolis Star, December 8, 19, and 22, 1935. Indianapolis City Directory, 1930.