Motorcycle Officer Robert J. Baker, 30, was killed during the evening of Saturday, October 2, 1948, by a hit-and-run driver of a speeding car at Shelby and Calhoun Streets. Two hours later, an intense search for the suspect resulted in the arrest of Herbert Bobb, 19. Bobb was known to participate in drag racing through Garfield Park and had previous reckless driving convictions, one of which occurred just two weeks prior to Officer Baker’s death.
A witness to the crash said the southbound car, driven by Bobb, swerved directly in front of Officer Baker’s northbound motorcycle as Bobb made a sweeping left turn from Shelby into Calhoun. Officer Baker died at the scene of head injuries before medical aid could reach him.
Bobb’s vehicle was described as a “souped up” 1934 Ford. Upon hearing this, Officer Harold Barnes notified headquarters that he had previously arrested a youth in a car answering that description after he’d been run from the road several weeks before. Barnes radioed in Bobb’s name and address. On the chance it was the same vehicle, detectives drove to Bobb’s home.
The vehicle was found in front of Bobb’s home approximately an hour after the crash. The car’s front right fender was dented. Bobb’s description was broadcast by police and soon afterward, he was arrested in a filling station at Shelby and Morris Streets. Confessing to his involvement, Bobb said he drove away after the accident because he was scared. He was later convicted of manslaughter and received a term of three years in prison.
Officer Baker was a four-year veteran of the Air Corps during World War II. Discharged from the service in February 1946, he joined the police force on December 16, 1947. He was assigned to the motorcycle detail a few months prior to his death.
Services were held during the morning of October 5, 1948, in the G.H. Herrmann Funeral Home with additional rites following in St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. Thirty-four officers assigned to the motorcycle detail headed the funeral procession to St. Joseph Cemetery, with six other motorcycle officers flanking the hearse as honorary pallbearers.
Officer Baker was survived by his wife, Ella. They had shared dinner at their home on Kelly Street only a few short minutes before the crash.
Sources: Indianapolis Star, October 3-5, 1948. Legends in Blue, Wayne Sharp, 2002, p. 98-99.