Ambush Kills Beat Officer
54-year-old William Henry Anderson plied his trade as a St. Louis Police Officer for 25 years. Assigned a beat near Natural Bridge and Vandeventer Avenues, Officer Anderson was known as the “Friendly Copper” by the residents and businesses on his beat.
Working the overnight shift on a cold February morning, Officer Anderson was walking on Vandeventer just south of the intersection with Natural Bridge. Wearing gloves to keep out the cold, Anderson was walking near Brady’s Saloon, a notorious hangout, when he was felled by a shot to the neck from behind.
As Anderson lay on the sidewalk, the unknown assailant or assailants fired two more shots in the back of his head. Henry Marmor, who was delivering newspapers at Vandeventer and Labadie Avenues, heard five shots ring out and looked at his watch. It was 5:25 am.
St. Louis Police responded to the gunshots found Anderson laying in a pool of blood in front of Brady’s Saloon. The responding officers believed Anderson had no idea he was about to be ambushed. Anderson was wearing his mittens, his overcoat was completely buttoned up and his gun was fully loaded and still in his pocket.
St. Louis Police were convinced Anderson’s death was connected to Brady’s Saloon, a North Side gangster hangout. When the Vandeventer streetcar passed at 5:00 am, the lights were on in the saloon and two cars were parked out front.
When the streetcar passed again at 5:56 am, the cars were gone and the saloon was dark. A site of frequent police raids, many St. Louis criminals hung out at the bar.
However, Anderson did not take part in the raids of Brady’s Saloon. Earlier in his shift, Anderson walked through Brady’s Saloon, greeted most of the patrons and aroused no curiosity or concern by his presence.
Officer Anderson checked in on the call box at 4:10 am as he was scheduled and stated all was quiet on his beat. Anderson missed his next check-in at 5:10 am but no one knew what detained Anderson. Anderson’s failure to check-in did not seem to raise much concern until the report of shots fired was received at police headquarters.
St. Louis Police interviewed several of the patrons including a clerk of the St. Louis City Courts, professional baseball player and several unsavory characters but never identified any potential suspects. Unfortunately, the streetcar conductor did not get a good look at the vehicles, which may have helped the police identify the killer or killers. Today, Officer Anderson’s murder is still an unsolved crime.
Officer William H. Anderson was born on October 17, 1869 in Missouri. Anderson lived at 4567 Clarence Avenue with his wife Lida and grown daughter. Anderson was also survived by a married son. St. Louis Police Officers have suffered several mysterious killings but seldom one so senseless.
Sources: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 11, 1924 edition, p. 1 & 3 and St. Louis Star-Times, February 15, 1924, p. 1Pin It