Crabtree Shoots Wilmers

     St. Louis Police Officer Louis H. Wilmers was patrolling his beat near Manchester Road and Chouteau as he did most evenings.  Walking along the busy intersection on Monday, August 25, 1890, about 08:30 pm, Wilmers spotted a local man with a poor reputation by the name of Louis Crabtree.  Wilmers forced his way into Crabtree’s nearby home in July 1890 to stop Crabtree from beating his wife.

     Crabtree held a grudge with Wilmers over the arrest.  Wilmers, a young officer with wife and child, did not approve of Crabtree’s marital violence and returned his dislike.  Observing Crabtree was drunk and aware of his propensity for violence, when under the influence, Officer Wilmers approached Crabtree.

old-stl-police-badge

Early St. Louis Police Badge from the Public Domain

     Wilmer asked Crabtree if he was armed.  Crabtree denied having a weapon.  Wilmers did not believe him and began to search Crabtree.  Crabtree broke loose from Wilmers and ran into the nearby Frisco railyard.

     Wilmers followed Crabtree but could not see well in the dark railyard with lots of obstructions.  As Wilmers ran past a wood pile, he observed a flash, heard a shot and fell to the ground.  Despite being shot in the back, Wilmers raised up on his elbow and fired three shots in the direction of the assailant.

     Crabtree decided to get out of town and hopped a freight train for Salem in Dent County, Missouri, where the uncle of one of his friends lived.  St. Louis Police soon discovered Crabtree knew people in Salem and sent word about the shooting to the Dent County Sheriff.

     St. Louis Police took Wilmers to City Hospital before transferring him to St. Luke’s Hospital.  Paralysis set in from a bruised spinal cord, so doctors tried a desperate operation to save Wilmers’ life.

     In the meantime, Dent County Deputies arrested Crabtree at the home of his friend’s uncle and returned him to St. Louis.  Wilmers identified him as the shooter on August 29, 1890.  Crabtree confessed to shooting Wilmers but said he would not have shot him, if Crabtree had been sober.

     On Thursday, September 4, 1890, after suffering for 11 days, Officer Wilmers died from the effects of the shooting.  The 25-year-old left a wife and child.

     Louis Crabtree successfully argued for a change of venue.  Crabtree’s case was sent to the Gasconade County Courthouse in Hermann, Missouri.  However, after almost three years out on bond, Crabtree jumped bond.  It does not seem like he was ever captured.  A Louis Crabtree died in Buchanan County on December 15, 1932.  According to his death certificate, if he is the Crabtree who shot Wilmers, he would have been 44-years-old at the time of the shooting.  It is impossible to tell if he is the same Louis Crabtree.

     However, the most tragic aspect of the case was not Crabtree escaping justice for the unprovoked murder.  Unbeknownest to anyone with the possible exception of Mrs Wilmers, Officer Wilmers and his wife would have one more child.  Mabel Wilmers would be born on February 9, 1891, five and half months after her father’s death.  Mabel would never know her father.

     What do you think is the most tragic aspect of this case?  You can leave a comment or ask a question about this or any post on my Facebook pageTwitter profile and Google+ page.

Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 26, 1890 edition, p. 5, August 29, 1890 edition, p. 2, August 31, 1890 edition, p. 5, September 1, 1890 edition, p. 5, September 4, 1890 edition, p. 5 and April 13, 1893 edition, p. 1.  Missouri Death Certificate Database

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