A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

History: John J Flood Jr Shot at Matawan Police Station (1934)

The 22 Jun 1934 edition of The Matawan Journal carried this front page article about the shooting of a police officer at Matawan police station. John J Flood, Jr would later become Chief of Police in Matawan.





Patrolman John J Flood, Jr, 35, Shot Through Face; Brain Specialists Advise Leaving Bullet in Exis at Skull Base; Alive Due to Gristle of Nose Impeding Progress; Fraction of Inch From Spinal Cord 


Man-hunt Unsurpassed in Police Records Here Seen Focused on Quest for Nervous Amateur Burgler, Believed to Have Known Recent Tax Billing Would Provide Cash and Scrip in Boro Safe
     A man very well known in this section, born in Matawan, and a resident here until two and a half years ago, when he left under a cloud, is suspected of having committed a dastardly assault which was almost a murder, and he now is confined in a Manhattan jail, awaiting action by the Governor of New York on any indictment which may be returned by the Monmouth County Grand Jury. He professes innocence but detectives and police authorities express opinion that he will be convicted. When a resident here he sold insurance on the side, and it is alleged sold some phoney policies. In the metropolis he is reported to have had a side line; he was a gigolo. The public, wrought up over the shooting, which many think was the result of inexperience in a carefully planned robbery, has been more concerned over this case than any which has intrigued its interest. It seemed almost unsolvable for a time, and may have been yet, as some insist.

William A Shepherd
     William Allen Shepherd, former Tax Collector and native of Matawan, who was relieved of his official duties about five years ago because of a shortage of about $6,000 in his accounts as disclosed on a special audit, was ordered held for service of a warrant yesterday afternoon at 2:45 o'clock in a telegram to New York police who have been cooperating very closely with Matawan Chief of Police Edwin C Sloat and Chief of County Detectives Harry Crook in a -ation to secure and bring to justice the person who lured Police Officer John J Flood, Jr to Matawan Police Headquarters shortly after 4 o'clock Monday morning, and shot him in the face.

     Shepherd has been under suspicion since Officer Flood in recounting the get-away of the robber said the man limped. Shortly after the sounding of the fire alarm a man limping as he ran down Fountain Avenue and answering the general description given by the injured officer, was seen in the early morning light. Following a lead turned in to Chief Sloat by a woman who handed him a shell, saying she had taken it from the pocket of her small son, who said he had been playing with Jackie Shepherd whom, he said, had three of them and gave one to him. Chief Crook went to the home of Mrs Shepherd, whom he questioned. There he picked up a revolver said to have recently been fired and cleaned. It was full of cartridges. On a check-up with the serial number in the Prosecutor's Office, the revolver was found to be of the same number as a resolver stolen from that office at the time Mr Shepherd was working as chief clerk there.

     The gun, shell and bullets have been sent to a laboratory connected with the New York Police Department for examination by Sergeant Harry Butts, a ballistic expert.

John J Flood, Jr
     A story of the attack was pieced out from a brief statement secured from the officer before he was placed on the operating table, and supplemented by questioning after he came out of ether. Returning in  the police car from one of the numerous patrols made throughout the night, at 4:15 o'clock, he noticed the flashing red light on deserted Main Street which summons men on beat to headquarters. As an economy measure the light which formerly illuminated the front of the large room housing the police and other municipal offices has not been used recently and a dim night light on a desk revealed little of the interior, while the patrolman turned his key in the lock, opened the door, and walked into a virtual death trap.

     "Stick 'em up!" commanded a voice as Flood felt for the light button on the wall just inside the door. The surprised but alert officer, whipping out his service revolver, replied by firing a low shot, designed only to maim the intruding figure he faintly discerned in a crouching position behind the Chief of Police's desk.

     "Don't shoot!" petitioned the man, and when Flood hesitated a second, thinking the latter would surrender without a fight, he was met with a fusillade of shots, the second exhibiting perfect marksmanship, a felling slug striking Officer Flood almost between the eyes. Undaunted by terrible pain, Flood returned the fire as he moved into the room, and the criminal retreated through a rear door.

     Showing rare presence of mind, as much as the indomitable fortitude which carried him through the ambushing, weak from the loss of blood. Flood made his way to the fire siren control box and turned in an alarm. Husbanding his fast ebbing strength, he got to the telephone just as Chief of Police Edwin C Sloat awakened at his home, by the fire alarm, called in for the location of the fire.

     "My God, Chief. I'm shot.," were the words which greeted the inquiring superior. The Chief, at the scene in a few minutes, promptly summoned aid from Keyport station of the State Police and the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office to supplement the Matawan police reserve.

     "And I could have killed him," Flood said in a voice hardly audible to the men clustered about him shortly after he was found.

     Jack DuBois, a member of the Hook and Ladder Company, which is housed in the rear of the building where the crime occurred, lives a few doors away, and turning out for the alarm, encountered Flood's bloody form on the front sidewalk to which he had staggered, hoping to attract assistance. He helped the wounded man across the street to the office of Dr Alfred C Walling who packed the wound to stop the heavy flow of blood, ---ed his ----ies and ordered his removal to the Matawan Private Hospital. The recently organized Matawan First Aid Squad, responding with the ambulance, and conveyed as the first patient, a member who had helped to receive and try-out the car when it was delivered the day previous.

     Dr Howard R D---- of the West Hudson Hospital, Kearny, a surgeon with whom Miss Ann Re--, Hospital Superintendent, ha worked for a number of years, was immediately summoned, and X-ray photographs were taken in the meantime. They revealed that the bullet, which entered the front center of the nose had split after passing through the cartilage of the septum, a fragment lodging in the upper left jaw and the rest in the first vertebrae, a nerve center. The specialist removed the splinter but deferred the delicate operation necessary to extract the remainder from so vital a spot until the man's condition is improved sufficiently to stand the additional strain, stating that the lead bullet might work its way out of the spinal column, or that the b---, in healing, might ----- it and never cause and difficulty.

     Though the patient's condition was grave, the physicians from the first expressed belief that his rugged constitution would pull him through. --- progress toward recovery is reported.

     Inspection of the premises closely following the affair, revealed no burglar's tools and no indication of an attempt to tamper with the Collector's safe, located ten feet from the bullet-scarred desk of the Chief. In view of recent safe robberies in the municipal buildings of Freehold, Perth Amboy and New Brunswick, the detectives gave considerable attention to such a motive, and Willard Barton, safe-cracker who escaped from the borough jail in Point Pleasant a month ago, and James Borgione, who fled Annandale Reformatory Sunday, where being sought.

     A thorough analysis of all arrests made by Flood, as well as other members of the force, resulted in a number of local characters involved being called to headquarters for a quizzing, on the theory that revenge might have motivated the shooting. A drunken driver from Staten Island, who received a heavy fine in Matawan Recorder's Court after apprehension by Flood, was grilled and his movements on the night of teh near fatality investigated. New York City police co-operating. Detectives also visited Coney Island and Brooklyn but the subjects of suspicion were able to furnish alibis.

     Chief Slot said: "In the course of my years of experience in police work here and elsewhere, I presume hundreds of men I arrested have threatened 'to get me' and every officer has that hurled at him. When the prisoner cools off, he invariably abandons the idea. However, we ran down everything, and in line with that, looked into the whereabouts on Monday morning of any who were believed to have made such a threat to or about Flood."

     Following the termination of Theodore Bastedo's services, and prior to Flood being appointed for a six months' probationary period a few weeks ago by Chairman August Muehlhausen Jr of the Borough Council Police Committee, a half dozen men were 'tried out,' each serving a week or more. On the theory that an unsuccessful aspirant for the position was venting his spleen on Flood, each of the applicants was examined by the detectives Monday night, but none were held. In this investigation, an angle which interested the investigators was the possibility that the shooting itself might not have been premeditated but that the culprit merely wanted to discredit Flood as an efficient officer, and anticipated stripping him of his revolver and placing him in a cell, the noisy duel preventing the success of the enterprise.

     Another supposition advanced was that the masked man, possibly working with a gang, contemplated a bank robbery, or another 'job in town and wanted to get the lone officer off the street, and decoyed him back to headquarters, where it was intended to imprison him so that the work could proceed and escape could be effected without interference.

     Lending weight to such a theory was the flashing of the police signal light which drew Flood from the vicinity of Valley Drive to headquarters. This light may be worked by a hand-operated switch in headquarters when those on duty there need an officer, and is the means used whenever a telephone call for help is answered. At night after the clerks have left, ringing of the telephone causes the automatic functioning of the police signal light. Telephone officials report that no call came in over their wires at the time of the fateful light which leaves only the conclusion that the signal was pressed at headquarters. There is, however, the possibility that the button on the wall was accidentally pressed while the man was groping in the semi-dark room for something else. Otherwise, knowledge of its location and purpose would indicate a local job or familiarity with police routine in Matawan.

     Then, --- there was the possibility that the mysterious man was 'gunning for' some other officer or the Chief, and that he did not realize his mistake, or found himself in a predicament in which 'shooting it out' was the only manner of extricating himself. Probable enemies were investigated, and the possibility that the shooting was the work of a maniac was considered.

     Evidence of the short range gun battle was apparent all about the room. Pools of blood on th floor, the blood-stained fire code card on the wall near the alarm lever, and bullet holes in the walls, furniture and railings, and through a ---p, giving testimony of the onslaught.  A bloody trail revealed Flood's every move, but there was no such tell-tale marks to derive the movement of the assassin, although the former said he thought he hit him once and believed he was limping as he ran out.

     Carpenters removed portions of the wall paneling which enabled the recovery of the spent .38 calibre bullets which went wide of their marks.  An inspection of the policeman's revolver showed that five of the six bullets it held were fired. Questioned by detectives, adjacent residents said they heard at least six shots fired, but heard no sound of a motor car, which raised the point as to whether the stranger escaped by foot, had parked his car a distance from the place, or had an accomplice waiting in one. The ground in the immediate vicinity was unsuccessfully searched for a weapon which might have been discarded in the flight.

A fully opened window in the Truck quarters, permitting egress from a very low roof, seemed to be the means used by the criminal to enter on his grim errand. He is believed to have departed by a side door, passing along the cell block unoccupied that night, and out into an alley which connects Main and Jackson Streets.

Flood described the spectral near-assassin as tall, garbed in what looked like hunting clothes and cap, with an improvised mask concealing his features. Acting on the assumption that the wanted man may have been injured and sought attention, the authorities checked all hospitals and physicians in this section. Finger prints taken proved to be mostly those of the victim. A careful check of Flood's account in detail satisfied the investigators of its accuracy.

[Related articles in this edition provided details about the arrest of Shepherd and how Officer Flood had been planning to celebrate his birthday.]

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone know if there are descendents of the Floods or Barhams in Matawan or the surrounding area?