Chief Desmond Nabs Pair of Pants

     William Desmond nabbed many thieves during his 17 year career as St. Louis Chief of Detectives.  He developed a nationwide reputation as “The Thief Taker”.  On Monday, October 15, 1900, Chief Desmond nabbed the pants of a thief but not the thief himself.


Chief Desmond Article from the Sunday, October 30, 1904 edition of St. Louis Republic

     Jonas Washington entered the yard of Shickle, Harrison and Howard Iron Foundry at 12th and Gratiot Streets around 5 p.m.  Washington began to load his two-horse wagon with a ton of steel castings.  It was normal for drivers to pick up material in this way.  Washington went about his work with such boldness he did not attract any attention at first.

     Foundry clerk David Young noticed Washington and approached him about loading his wagon.  Washington told Young he was loading the wagon to take it to the scales which was the normal process for picking up materials.  Young went back to his office.

     A minute later, Young looked out his window and saw Washington heading for the 12th Street Viaduct.  Young began to pursue Washington but he whipped the horses to full speed and left Young behind.  Young told St. Louis Patrolman Con Hough of the Central Police District about the theft.


Chief Desmond’s Sweating of Suspects from the St. Louis Republic

     Patrolman Hough joined about fifty foundry employees in pursuing Washington through the streets on streetcars and buggies.  Washington abandoned his cart ironically in front of the Four Courts Building, headquarters to St. Louis Police and Courts, at 12th and Clark Streets

   Washington ran into a restaraunt and vaulted two tables to escape St. Louis Police Detective Tom Walsh.  Washington ran into the new City Hall, down through the basement and came out on Market Street.  St. Louis Chief of Detectives William Desmond was headed home in his buggy and gave Roscoe Shaw, Chief Campbell’s stenographer, a ride to his home.

     Desmond and Shaw observed the pursuit of Washington and engaged in the pursuit.  Pursuing Washington into Center Street where he attempted to climb a fence, Desmond alighted from his buggy.  Desmond grabbed Washington by his pant leg and started to pull him back from the fence.


Early St. Louis Police Badge from the Public Domain

     Washington slipped out of his pants and dropped to the other side of the fence.  Roscoe Shaw, who jumped the fence while Desmond had Washington by the pant’s leg, wrapped him up in a bear hug.  Other officers arrived and took Washington into custody.

     Washington served a term for theft in Illinois under the name John Doyle.  Washington received three years for this theft.  In 1905, Washington received a pardon from Governor Joseph “Holy Joe” Folk but he would not stay out long.

     St. Louis Detective Evans arrested him for theft of scrap metal.  Chief Desmond had Washington charged as a persistent offender.  Desmond ended up with both his trousers and his man.

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