WILMINGTON — Peace Officers Memorial Day was commemorated locally at Sugar Grove Cemetery on Wednesday.
Among those honored were two Wilmington Police Department officers who died in the line of duty — John Van Doren in 1884 and Emery McCreight in 1922.
Below are the headlines and story from Page 1 of the News Journal on Feb. 15, 1922.
Note how the information changes in the headlines/sub-headlines as the WNJ staff tried to report the most recent news while still getting the paper published as soon as possible.
‘POLICEMAN SHOT BY THUGS; MAY DIE’
‘ATTEMPT MADE BY BURGLARS TO ROB STORE HERE’
‘Night Officer McCreight Wounded — Patrolman Adams’ Narrow Escape’
‘Bloodhounds Trace Culprits to School House on New Antioch Pike’
‘NIGHT OFFICER McCREIGHT DIED AT HALE HOSPITAL AT 3:30 THIS AFTERNOON. HE IS SURVIVED BY A WIFE AND TWO CHILDREN’
“Emery McCreight, night policeman, was perhaps fatally wounded by robbers shortly before midnight last night, when two men who, it is alleged, were attempting to gain an entrance through the rear door of the Murphy-Benham hardware store, shot him through the abdomen.
Patrolman Henry S. Adams, who was with McCreight, also was shot at by the intruders but the bullet went through his coat, only breaking the skin on his left shoulder.
McCreight May Die
Officer McCreight was hurried to the Hale Hospital, where he was immediately placed on the operating table. It was found that the bullet, which was fired from a revolver, pierced the abdomen, making an ugly, jagged wound and passing through the lower intestines. His condition is considered very serious, and it is possible that he may not live, although it was reported at the hospital this afternoon that he was resting easier and that it would probably be several hours before the outcome of his injuries could be ascertained.
Heard Noise in Alley
Patrolman Adams tells the story that shortly before midnight he and Mr. McCreight passed by the alley back of the Citizens National Bank building and that they were attracted by a noise at the rear door of the Murphy-Benham hardware store.
“What are you doing there?” Adams queried.
“Hunting for a dog,” was the reply.
The officers started down the alley and Adams turned a flashlight on two men standing near the door. No sooner had the light struck the men when one of them fired a shot which struck McCreight. The second shot was quickly fired, grazing Adams’ left shoulder.
Crowds returning home from a theatre performance heard the shots and several rushed to the scene of the shooting and McCreight was taken to the hospital. There he was on the operating table almost two hours.
Bloodhounds from Loveland were brought here early this morning and trailed the robbers as far as the Gooseneck schoolhouse about two and one-half miles east of this city on the New Antioch pike. There they circled the school building and returned to the middle of the pike, where it is believed that the men made their escape in an automobile.
Word was quickly dispatched by the local officers to all the surrounding towns and cities and a thorough combing of the city was made for the culprits, but as late as this afternoon Chief of Police Rollo Kirk, Sheriff Will Kirk, Deputy Will Smith, Patrolman Adams and others who have been working on the case, have been unable to find any clues which might lead to an arrest. A hacksaw and a wrecking bar, used by the robbers in their attempt to get into the store, are in possession of the officers.
Two young men were arrested at Midland City early this morning and brought to Wilmington by the paper train. It was first thought that they answered the description of the robbers made by Patrolman Adams, but they were later released from custody, as they are said not to have corresponded in any way to the men sought by the local officers in connection with the crime.”
(End of the news story)
Tale of 3 convictions
In the fall of 1922, Clarence McKinney, 29 — who asserted that he was at a picture show in Cincinnati with his wife at the time of the crime, but was found to have been in Wilmington the night of the murder — was found guilty of the fatal shooting by a Wilmington jury, and sent to prison with a life sentence.
However, a few months later, Louis Vandervoort, 19, of Jamestown, who had been arrested for a string of burglaries, admitted he killed McCreight. He had previously been bragging to others that it was him that committed the murder, and some young men reported that to local authorities.
After being a victim of mistaken identity and serving prison time, McKinney was freed, and in 1923 Vandervoort was sentenced to life in prison, while his accomplice, Walter Bangham of Jamestown, received a sentence of 1-20 years.
Vandervoort was granted parole in 1937, but when word of that was received locally, residents were outraged and Prosecutor George Schilling sought to have the ruling overturned. Parole was soon rescinded by the parole board.
He was finally paroled in July 1945 after serving about 22 years.
Services for Ptl. McCreight
The News Journal wrote on Saturday, Feb. 18, 1922 that the funeral services for Ptl. McCreight “were very impressive. With the stores and business places closed universally over the city, the attendance at the funeral was very large, and the respect and sympathy shown of the most sincere type.”
His “long term of public service was recognized in a very marked way. There were wreaths and garlands of flowers, sent by friends who had known and liked Mr. McCreight always, and tears of deep sorrow were shed by many strong men, who have been wrought up terribly by this untimely and tragic death of their friend.”