Officer Printz Shot By Thug

On the evening of June 1, 1879, St. Louis Police Officer Charles Printz was walking his beat near 505 Marion Street on St. Louis’ South Side.  It isn’t clear if Printz’s attention was attracted by the actions of Charles Sanders or he stumbled upon the man.  However, Printz walked up on Sanders, who had a revolver in his right hand.

When Sanders saw Printz he fired a shot, which missed the officer.  Printz attempted to strike Sanders with his club but missed.  During the tussle, Sanders was able to get a second shot off.  This bullet struck Printz in the chest and he fell to the pavement.  Officer Printz would become the fifth St. Louis Police Officer killed in the line of duty.


Early St. Louis Police Badge from the Public Domain

Charles Sanders was only 22-years-old but already a hardened, vicious criminal.  A member of the Duncan Island Gang, Sanders had just been released from St. Louis’ Workhouse after completing a 9 month sentence for stabbing a man.  Sanders procured a gun and went to his brother-in-law’s and sister’s house on Marion Street.

Sanders’ father had recently passed away.  Authorities believed he intended to force Leon and Sophie Martin to give him some money as his portion of the estate.  Sanders stood at the gate of the home on Marion Street demanding to see his brother-in-law Leon.  Sanders was visibly drunk.

During this tirade, Officer Printz approached Charles Sanders and attempted to calm him.  However, a melee ensued, when Sanders shot at Printz.  Printz never pulled his revolver, which was secured under his tunic.  As Sanders made his escape, the shot attracted the attention of neighbors.

The neighbors took Officer Printz to Julius Koch’s drug store at Carondolet Avenue and Marion Street.  Doctors Hartmann and Yoerster examined Printz, who was already dead.  The bullet ripped through his aorta and was fatal within a few second of the bullet striking him.  The 37-year-old Printz had been on the force since August 3, 1872.  He left a widow and several children.

Sanders escaped St. Louis.  Eventually, he would be arrested in Chicago in 1883.  Upon being returned to St. Louis, he would be tried several times eventually being convicted of fourth-degree manslaughter for Officer Printz’s murder in 1885.  He received a four-year sentence but received credit for time served in the St. Louis Jail.

In 1887, Sanders was released from prison and quickly attempted to stab two other men to death.  Sanders was again convicted and sentenced to two years in prison for attempted murder.

At this point, Charles Sanders fades from history.  He doesn’t show up in the Missouri Death Certificate database, so he likely died before 1910.  A violent death would not be surprising for such a violent man.

You can leave a comment on this or any post in the comment section below.  What struck you about this incident in St. Louis Police history?

Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 2, 1879 edition, p. 4, April 6, 1883 edition, p. 5, February 3, 1885 edition, p. 7 and May 10, 1887 edition, p. 2

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