KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY FROM GUNSHOT
Appointed: December 20, 1904
End of Watch: January 17, 1929
INSPECTOR BLACKBURN SLAIN BY CLUBMAN IN CHESTNUT HILL HOME
MEDAL WINNER SHOT AND KILLED BY W. G. GIBBEL
Sergeant Warren Describes tense moments of Fatal Drama Step by Step
Recalls' Blackburn’s insistence on “No Gun Play”;
Says Slayer Kept Shooting Despite Tear Gas.
By SAMUEL WARREN Sergeant of Police
When we arrived at the Gribbel home, we met Mrs. Gribbel on the first floor. She was in tears and almost frantic, but Inspector Blackburn talked to her, learned what had happened. And then we had happened, and then we had a consultation as to what was the best thing to do. We didn’t want to have any gun-play at all. The inspector insisted on that.
I guess that Gribbel heard us talking because he shouted down the stairs, through the locked door of his bedroom: “If you come up those stairs. I’ll shoot you! If you come up. I’ll shoot you! If you come up. I’ll shoot you sure!”
We went up the stairs, Inspector Blackburn in the lead, then his chauffeur. Officer Joe Lawrence, then me and the rest of the detail. We had a pinch bar with us for breaking in the door.
If you dare to break that door in, I’ll kill you”. The man inside yelled, but we broke the door in anyway and then jumped back. As it swung off its hinges, I tossed in the two teargas bombs. I know that they went off, because you can smell that stuff up there now so strong it’ll drive you out, but Gribbel didn’t seem to notice it. After I tossed the rear bombs inside the door, we crawled back along the corridor, out of range, to see what would happen We talked it over in whispers. And we decided that I ought to go down stairs and bring up a hose line. Engine 37 had hooked up to a plug nearby and we thought maybe we could draw the man out. We didn’t want to shoot him. That was the last thing that John Blackburn told us.
“NO GUN PLAY”
He said, “Remember, now men. No gun plays. We don’t need it.” I went down to the front, and got the hose line, and brought it up the stairs. Just as I got to the top, I heard the inspector say, “Come on, boys, let’s rush him.” Blackburn was the first man in the room. Lawrence was right at his heels. Then came myself, Miller and Trott, all of us piling in right behind them, because he figured that we could rush him before he could shoot.
I never saw such a looking man as Gribbel was. He was a mad man if there ever was one. I had a second look before he shot, but I could see that his eyes were dilated and blood-shot, his hair was mussed up and he was red in the face, and he was highly excited.
Blackburn said, “Come on, old man you had better come with me.” Gribbel was standing square in the middle of the room, his feet apart, and that big automatic in his right hand, lowered half way the floor, as if he was undecided what to do.
Blackburn was just about to take a step forward, I think - and remember he didn’t have any gun in his hand - when Gribbel up with the automatic and shot twice. One of the bullets clipped the inspector on the ear, and the other hit him straight in the left breast, right through the heart.
It all happened in a couple of seconds. One - two - three - like that. Quick as a flash, Gribbel turned and jumped into a bathroom which was next to the bedroom. Just then, Corry and Lyons came up the stairs from Germantown avenue and Haines.
Me and Miller and Trott were sort of bending over Joe Lawrence, ready to carry, him out, when Gribbel came out of the bathroom again, He looked even wilder that he did before. He had to ugliest looking gun in his right hand I ever saw. They tell me it is some kind of a German rapid - fire gun, but it had a barrel that looked as big as a cannon. And in his other hand he had a little automatic - about .25 caliber, I reckon, but a wicked little piece.
Lyons didn’t even have his gun out, but he crouched down, like a wrestler, and rushed Gribbel, weaving in and out to confuse him as he charged. Gribbel was sprinkling bullets all over the place, but he was wild. Lyons swung his fist and hit Gribbel’s right wrist, and the gun fell. At the same time, Corry had jumped a little to one side, leveled his gun and fired three times. One of the bullets hit him in the arm, another in the knee and the third in the stomach.
He went down, but even then, he struggled to get up, and all five of us piled on him. All this time about forty of the boys were on the outside, firing at the windows hoping that maybe they would wound the crazy man. He fought a little bit, but then he collapsed, and he was unconscious when we put him in the wagon along with John Blackburn’s body - we knew he was dead, and Police Officer Joe Lawrence. Inspector Blackburn was appointed as a regular member of the Police Bureau in 1904. Inspector Blackburn was a veteran of the Spanish American War and served in the conflict. For the last twenty years he had been a member of Roxborough Lodge, No. 135, F. All his life he was a devoted church member and carried his reverence even into his line of duty. They called him the “Prayer Cop”. He survived by his widow and three children.