Robert E. Schachte
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Officer Robert E. Schachte - Died October 22, 1974
Robert E. Schachte 

  

Officer Robert E. Schachte, 29, was shot and killed after he stopped a car near the 2300 block of North College Avenue on October 22, 1974.  The killer, Rickey Lee Vaughn, escaped and was not captured for nearly a year.  He was arrested in Detroit and later was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

At 1:25 pm on October 22, Officer Schachte stopped a 1967 blue Cadillac in the east side curb lane of College, stepped out of his squad car, and began questioning the driver.  According to witnesses, Officer Schachte was searching the driver at the back of the police car when suddenly there was a brief scuffle.  The suspect drew a pistol and fired one shot as Officer Schachte backed away with his hands in the air.  A 38-caliber bullet struck him in the face and lodged in his brain.

The shooting was witnessed by the driver and guard of a north bound Purolator Security armored car.  When they saw the shooting, the driver stopped the truck and the guard jumped out and fired three shots at the fleeing suspect.  The guard told police he thought he missed, but later police found small drops of blood on the pavement north of where the shooting took place and said they believed one of the bullets may have struck the suspect.

The armored truck driver called police.  The first to arrive was Officer Ernest W. Todd, who found Officer Schachte lying on his back in the street, unconscious, bleeding, and in deep shock.  “I just wanted to keep him comfortable until the ambulance arrived,” Todd said.   Upon the arrival of the ambulance, Officer Schachte was transported to the Emergency Room of Marion County Hospital where he underwent brain surgery.  He died at 2:40 pm during the surgery.

A female witness said Rickey Lee Vaughn, whom she recognized, ran across her yard moments after the shooting.  When she asked him what he was doing, he replied, “I just shot a cop.” 

An estimated 1,000 law enforcement officers fanned across the north side of Indianapolis looking for Vaughn.  Joining the emotionally charged search were most members of the police department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, including scores of off-duty officers and deputies, members of the state police, and the FBI.  A first-degree murder warrant was issued for Vaughn.

Police headquarters received an anonymous phone call the next day at about 5:00 pm, saying that Vaughn would surrender at 5:30 to Clarence White, a former police captain who had retired the previous week.  The surrender was to take place at 64th and Grandview Avenue.  The caller stipulated that White be alone, unarmed, and that no other police be in the area.   As the surrender was taking place, a private auto drove past the scene, and Vaughn, evidently fearing it contained police, ran back to his car and sped away.

Despite a massive manhunt, Vaughn remained a fugitive until July 1975 when he was arrested by the FBI in an all-night restaurant in Detroit.  Returned to stand trial in Marion County, Vaughn was convicted of two counts of second degree murder and received a life sentence.   Eligible for parole, he was denied that request in 2005 and 2010.

Vaughn had a lengthy criminal history, including armed robbery, fleeing a police officer, burglary, and assault and battery with intent to kill.   On August 19, a few weeks prior to the fatal shooting, Vaughn had appeared in Criminal Court on a second degree burglary charge and had availed himself the Habitual Drug Abuser Act which allowed a defendant, under certain conditions, to avoid prosecution by admitting to being a habitual drug addict and agreeing to submit to a program of evaluation and treatment for drugs.  On September 9, Vaughn was so admitted to Central State Hospital.  He escaped the minimum security facility two days later to be on the streets when Officer Schachte was killed.   Investigators speculated that the October 22 shooting occurred when Officer Schachte discovered two bindles of heroin during his search of Vaughn.

A life-long resident of Indianapolis and a Marine Corps veteran, Officer Schachte was appointed to the department on January 29, 1968.  He was survived by his widow, Dorothy.  One of his brothers, Steven, also was a member of the police department. 

A brief service was held at the Usher Funeral Home on West Washington Street and then the body of Officer Schachte was taken to the Holy Trinity Church where an estimated 2,000 people filled the interior and others stood 10 deep outside as the Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated.

A funeral procession of 700 officers representing 36 police departments stretched for more than 1-1/2 miles and headed east on New York Street toward the downtown area.   Red lights flashed atop each of the 328 police cars in the procession, and each vehicle carried a black flag attached to its radio antenna. As the procession passed police headquarters where Officer Schachte’s patrol car was draped in black bunting, it halted for three minutes of silence as all detectives and uniformed officers on duty at headquarters lined the curb at attention along Alabama Street.  Not a sound was heard as all activity in the normally busy downtown area came to a stop.

Services in Calvary Cemetery were brief.  Two buglers from Emmerich Manual High School played Taps, and a Marine Corps squad fired a 21-gun salute as the body was lowered into its final resting place.

Sources:   The Indianapolis Star, October 23-26, 1974; April 3, 1976.  The Indianapolis Recorder, July 5, 1975.  Vaughn v. State 378 N.E. 2nd 859 (1978).