Jail Break and Murder
When William Rudolph broke out of the St. Louis Jail on Independence Day 1903, the newspapers called it an act of unprecedented daring. However, twenty-two years earlier, Frank Fone and John D. Shea broke out of the St. Louis Jail the same way.
Fone and Shea were local thugs, who frequented the Downtown area. Shea was violent, while Fone was a sneak thief. Fone also had a reputation for being able to escape jails and prisons. On November 7, 1881, Shea and Fone were arrested for a number of thefts.
Perhaps taking Shea and Fone lightly due to their youth, the corrections officer in charge did not chain them together. Shea and Fone took advantage of their free limbs to climb to the skylight on the third floor, kick it out and exit through the opening. Once on the roof, Shea and Fone jumped down 20 feet and ran out to Clark Avenue.
Shea and Fone were so cocky, they returned to their old haunts in Downtown instead of lying low. Around 9 am, Shea and Fone were with a crowd of youths on Eighth and Olive near the Custom House. Shea got in a fight with several youth, ran from the group, threw a rock at one of the participants and fired a pistol in the air.
Officer Finn observed the altercation, walked to the crowd and placed a hand on Shea’s shoulder to indicate he was under arrest. Finn didn’t know he was dealing with an escapee.
Shea struck Finn a hard blow. Finn was slightly staggered but clubbed Shea to the ground. Bleeding from a head wound, Shea fled with Fone as he fired the pistol at Finn. Finn returned fire.
St. Louis Police Officer Patrick Doran was in Zahn’s Saloon on Seventh Street between St. Charles and Washington Avenue. Doran, an exemplary officer with a good record, heard the running gun battle and exited the saloon. As Doran stepped out onto the pavement, he slipped and almost fell.
As Doran was bent over trying to regain his feet, Shea pointed his gun at Doran as he ran by and shot the officer in the head. Doran fell back onto a cellar door. Doran died almost immediately.
Shea and Fone continued to run. Shea tried to shoot a private watchmen named Hill but his revolver was either empty or misfired. Shea inadvertently ran into a dead-end alley. Officer Finn and Hill were at the end of the alley but hesitant to run in not knowing how many bullets Shea had left.
Officer Walker arrived, ran into the alley and fired at the silhouette of Shea. Shea surrendered. Walker, Finn and Hill dragged the bloody Shea to the Third District Station. Officer Doran was carried to his home at 1516 Clark Avenue. A post-mortem was held.
Shea claimed insanity but no one believed him. Shea was a desperate criminal attempting to escape punishment. Nothing more.
Fone continued to be an escape artist. Fone escaped the St. Louis Jail at least three more times before he moved from St. Louis. Officer Doran left a wife and family, who lost a husband and father for petty reasons. Sad end for a brave man, St. Louis Police Officer Patrick Doran.
Sources: The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, November 8, 1881, p. 8.