Wabash Railroad Safe Burglary
On a cold January 9, 1915, Sgt. Michael Gibbons stepped off the westbound Delmar owl streetcar about 3:00 am. Sgt. Gibbons walked towards the Wabash Railroad’s Delmar Station, which was in complete darkness. Gibbons kneeled down and wrapped his nightstick on the platform to signal any nearby beat officers to report to him. Patrolman Arthur J. Saxy heard the night stick and proceeded to the area.
Besides Patrolman Saxy, Gibbons rapping on the platform attracted the attention of two burglars preparing to blow the safe in the Wabash Delmar Station. Sgt. Gibbons didn’t realize anything was going on inside the station as his coat was completely buttoned up preventing him from getting to his revolver. Sgt. Gibbons was one of the most best marksmen on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. His buttoned coat would soon lead to a tragedy.
One of the men called for Sgt. Gibbons to throw up his hands. 73-year-old Phillip Koerper, a watchman being held at gunpoint by the burglars, heard Sgt. Gibbons reply, “Well, I guess not.”
Before Sgt. Gibbons could free his gun from inside his coat, the burglar shot Gibbons through his right arm into his heart. Gibbons died instantly and fell on the platform with his head hanging over the platform.
Patrolman Saxy was two blocks north at Clemens Avenue and the Wabash tracks. He started walking towards the station, when he heard the shots. Saxy ran towards the station. When he arrived, he initially did not see Sgt. Gibbons laying on the platform as it was a foggy night.
Saxy engaged the gunman, who started a running gun battle with Saxy. As he ran around the station and shot at Saxy, the other burglar blew the safe with bullets flying around him. The burglar emptied the safe, which contained about $4.00. As Saxy came back around the north side of the station, he found Sgt. Gibbons lying on the platform.
Saxy checked on Gibbons but it was obvious he died. Saxy was overcome with grief as he worked for Sgt. Gibbons for several years. Saxy looked up to and admired Gibbons greatly.
In the confusion caused by the discovery of Gibbons, the two burglars escaped running north from the station. It was the last time they would be seen as the burglars were never captured. In the years prior to the widespread use of fingerprints, criminals would leave town after such an incident and setup somewhere else.
Chief of Police Young believed the men to be professional safecrackers or “yeggmen”. Young believed due to the skillful way the gunman led Saxy away from the safe breaking spoke to professionals. The other burglar blowing the safe, while a gunfight raged around him, also indicating professional criminals.
60-year-old Michael F. Gibbons was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery on January 11, 1915. Sgt. Gibbons left a widow and children.
Sources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 9, 1915 edition, p.1 and January 10, 1915, p. 21. Missouri Death Certificate Database 1910-1965