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Error puts slain officer on lists as a Toledoan

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Indianapolis Police Officer Charles J. Russell was shot and killed in an incident that occurred Sept. 30, 1906, in Indianapolis. A misread police bulletin led to his being listed as a Toledoan.


For more than two decades, Charles W. Russell was thought to be a Toledo police officer killed in the line of duty in 1906.

He is honored on the Ohio Fallen Officers' Memorial in London, Ohio, and at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, and is listed among 30 other Toledo police officers killed in the line of duty at the local police memorial downtown.

But he was not a Toledo police officer. And his name is Charles J. Russell - not Charles W. Russell.

Officer Russell was a member of the Indianapolis Police Department when he was killed while looking for two people who reportedly had been involved in a fight.

And it appears he had no connection to Toledo or its police department.


Toledo Police Officer Beth Cooley points out Officer C. W. Russell s listing on the police memorial. She uncovered the error while working on the police department s 2007 annual report.


The case of mistaken identity is one Toledo police Officer Beth Cooley uncovered while working on the department's 2007 annual report, released this year.

She spent several months trying to verify information about the city's slain police officers to include in the report in an effort to keep their stories from being forgotten. Much of the information was relatively easy to find, she said.

Still, Officer Russell's existence remained a mystery.

There was no police-personnel file on him, and he wasn't in the Toledo city directory, which lists each resident and his or her occupation. There also was no death record for a man by his name who was killed in 1906.

"I couldn't verify him anywhere," Officer Cooley said. "I'm thinking, if a police officer was killed, there would be something. No, there was nothing."


The marker dedicated to Officer Charles Russell in Toledo s memorial garden will be removed. It may be given to the Indianapolis Police Department, but a decision hasn t been made.


Frustrated, Officer Cooley tried one last search - Google.

And it was there she found the answer.

"Go figure," she said.

Charles J. Russell, 35, reportedly was shot at close range by Jesse Coe about 8 p.m. Sept. 30, 1906, in a neighborhood near 24th Street and Indianapolis Avenue. He was taken to an Indianapolis hospital, but he died shortly after arriving.

Officer Russell's partner, Edward J. Petticord, chased after the alleged gunman, was shot in the back by another suspect, and died two days later, according to Roger Spurgeon, a homicide lieutenant with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

The man accused of killing Officer Petticord was arrested, convicted, and hanged at the Indiana State Prison in February, 1907.

Authorities launched a nationwide manhunt for Coe, who was believed to have left Indianapolis by train, disguised as a laborer.

The Indianapolis department sent out police bulletin No. 17 with a description of the suspect to law enforcement agencies across the country and offered a $700 reward for his capture.

A copy of the bulletin was likely sent to the Toledo Police Department to alert officers to be on the lookout for Coe, a 33-year-old man, about 5-feet, 5-inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, with brown skin and high cheek bones.

Two years after the fatal shooting of Officer Russell, Mr. Coe's cousin led authorities to him while he was squirrel hunting in Kentucky. When approached by authorities, Mr. Coe pointed his rifle at them and was fatally shot, Mr. Spurgeon said.

Exact details of how Officer Russell later became identified as a member of the Toledo Police Department are unclear.

But Officer Cooley said it likely began with police bulletin No. 17.

In a book, characterized as an unofficial history of the Toledo Police Department, Officer Russell is listed as being shot and killed in October, 1906, by Jesse Coe. The information, including a description of the suspect, is attributed to police bulletin No. 17.

Officer Cooley believes that the officer who compiled the book inadvertently included Officer Russell as a member of the Toledo Police Department after reading and misunderstanding the bulletin.

"Then somewhere along the lines, someone read [the book] and added him to our list [of fallen officers]," she said.

Officer Russell first appeared in the department's annual report in 1984. From there, he was added to the local, state, and national police memorials - each of which identifies him as a Toledo police officer.

Officer Cooley is working to have the mistake corrected at all levels. The stone marker dedicated to Officer Russell in Toledo's memorial garden will be removed.

She said there have been discussions about giving it to the Indianapolis Police Department, but a final decision has not been made.

As for the others, Officer Cooley has informed state officials of the mistake and will notify those at the national memorial.

"We will make this right," she said.

According to William Lichtenberger, a historian for the Indianapolis Police Historical and Educational Foundation, Officer Russell was one of the most written about officers in the history of the department.

He is included on a memorial honoring officers killed in the line of duty at their police headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.

Mr. Lichtenberger wrote in an e-mail that he has several hundred newspaper clippings and photographs from the incident in archives. Also included in his collection is the rifle used to kill Mr. Coe.

"You could write a book about what transpired," he wrote.

Contact Laren Weber at:

or 419-724-6050.

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