Tragedy will triumph on Broadway and Grand, July 8, 1936 | New


Enid, in July 1936, recorded the hottest temperatures on record in Oklahoma.

Frank Gray, whose Fillin ‘station was south of Highway 81, would gladly tell you that for 10 consecutive days the temperature was above 110 degrees. One day, Enid was the hottest spot in the country with 114 degrees, which was before the air conditioning.

The brand new Enid Ice and Fuel business has opened in Cherokee and Independence. It was a large factory that produced 90 tonnes of ice per day during this drought. Enid was still reeling from the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Frank spoke of the huge number of passers-by walking the freeway carrying backpacks, ready to work for food.

But, it was a hopeful presidential year with Franklin D. Roosevelt taking on Kansas neighbor Alf Landon. Enid’s most recent newspaper, “The Camel’s Calf,” was a weekly published by the Youth Prohibitionist Club.

Public enemies like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and Pretty Boy Floyd were all dead. Ma Barker and her son Fred were killed by the FBI the year before.

Sadly, however, the lawyers had failed to kill the psychotic and criminal trigger of the Barker-Karpis gang – Lawrence DeVol.

In trouble from an early age

DeVol was born in Ohio on November 17, 1903, moving with his family to Tulsa. He was a troublemaker from an early age.

At the age of 9, he was sent to the Brownsville, Texas Reformatory. At age 11, he was sent to Oklahoma State Training School for Incorrigible Boys. He eventually emerged as a member of the Tulsa Central Park Gang along with Barker brothers Freddie, Lloyd, and Arthur. He teamed up with Harvey Bailey to steal $ 70.00 from a bank in Vinton, Iowa, and $ 250,000 from a bank in Washington Court House, Ohio.

He joined Frank “Jelly” Nash in robbing a bank in Lincoln, New Brunswick for $ 2.5 million. He committed thefts, burglaries and cracking of safes too numerous to mention. He was a hit man and suspected of numerous murders.

In 1930, two businessmen had traveled to Muskogee to collect money on mortgages, but were later found dead. The hypothesis was that the mortgage holders had hired DeVol to silence them.

In Hannibal, Missouri, two officers, John Rose and George Scrivens, had approached DeVol. He left them to die on the streets. He killed two different smugglers who disobeyed the alcohol monopoly, beat up a sweatshop owner, and attempted to assassinate a sheriff.

He then joined the Barker-Karpis gang, which he knew from Tulsa. In 1932, they stole $ 226,500 from a bank in Minneapolis, $ 47,000 from a bank in Fort Scott, Kan., And $ 250,000 from a bank in Concordia, Kan. Their car was modified with armor to deflect bullets and had a rear-facing seat for crooks. shoot any pursuer. They robbed a bank in Minneapolis, and as officers Leo Gorski and Ira Evans arrived in their patrol car, 15 feet away, DeVol opened with his machine gun. Neither officer was lucky.

DeVol had become a nationwide police target. He was soon captured in St. Paul running completely drunk wearing a large fur coat and brandishing his gun. The officer hit him on the head with a gun to knock him out. The police had no idea who they had until they checked his fingerprints. He was placed in the state penitentiary in solitary confinement and ultimately he was placed in St. Peter’s Hospital for the Insane Criminals.

However, on June 6, 1936, he organized an escape for himself and 15 other insane criminals. A national search for DeVol has started.

A fateful meeting

Cantonese native Cal Palmer was a tall, jovial man with a ready smile. He had been Enid’s police officer for two years, coming from Fairview, where he had been Deputy Major County Sheriff. The heat really bothered him. He just wasn’t feeling well. Officer Bert Utsler offered to work for him, but he refused. He said he would feel better when the sun went down.

Palmer returned to work at 4:00 pm on Wednesday July 8, 1936. There was a recent bank robbery notification by two men in Attica, Little River and Turon, Kan.

Jim O’Neal, a former police officer, operated the German Village beer hall in the city center, on the corner of Broadway and Grand. At around 11 p.m., a man entered and took a seat in a forward cabin. A girl from outside the bar joined him. Jim was keeping an eye on the man as he felt like he saw the man in some photos. He called the police to come check him out.

Soon Agent Palmer and his partner, Agent Ralph Knarr, entered the bar. They visited O’Neal before approaching the booth where the man was sitting. Neither officer had a clue that they were approaching Lawrence DeVol.

DeVol and his escape mate Donald Reeder were using Enid as a base to rob banks in Kansas, with the Crawley County bank in Concordia ready to rob the following week. Mr. and Mrs. JW Edwards were right behind Constable Palmer as he asked the man to come and go with them.

The stranger said, “I think I know why you want me. Can I finish my beer first? “

Palmer agreed. DeVol finished the mug of beer and sat it down on the table and with the same movement had a pistol in hand and opened fire at close range. Palmer fell first, hit by three bullets, the fatal bullet penetrated his heart and killed him instantly. Knarr then fell, hit four times in the neck, shoulder, arm and abdomen. Mr. Edwards was next, shot in the leg by a stray bullet.

DeVol ran through the side door of the bar to the north. He ran down the alley next to the Broadway Tower and ran down the alley to Randolph Street, chased by Night Chief Lelon Coyle and Officers Ted Roberts, Phil Swyer, Earle Moore and Carl Bundren. Near the Max and Rex Café at the end of the driveway, DeVol hopped into the back seat of a parked car with Fred Caldwell and Dr. LD Huff in the front. He said to Caldwell, “Go fast.” Caldwell started the car and saw all the cops coming towards him with guns pointed at his car.

Sitting in the seat, he and Huff opened the car doors and jumped out. Officers started shooting at the car as DeVol jumped up and hid behind the car, while shooting at the officers.

Coyle got his finger pulled. In retaliatory fire, DeVol was shot nine times, including one to the head, killing him instantly. It was either Officer Coyle or Roberts who fired the fatal shot.

Last Depression Era Killer Gone The last Depression Era Killer was gone. The Enid newspaper said: “The officers had triumphed in a bloody battle, but they paid a high price. Palmer’s murder came as a shock to everyone and a sad silence hung in the air. Palmer, 38, left a wife, Mary, and two sons Daryl, 15, and JG, 12.

Constable Knarr was in critical condition at the hospital.

Donald Reeder was quickly arrested by Constables Roberts, Moore and Bundren after CC Gibson informed police that he saw Reeder enter a hotel. DeVol and Reeder had changed hotels between the Oxford Hotel and the Highway Hotel, which were close to the town center square. Police found the car used by DeVol and Reeder containing a sawn-off shotgun, two rifles, a bag containing $ 250 of cash and other stolen goods. The registration tag matched the car used in the bank robbery in Turon, Kansas. Other loot was collected from their hotel room along with the $ 110 withdrawn from DeVol.

It was one of the best hours for Enid’s police. They had quickly reacted to the cold-blooded murder of Agent Powell by killing the gangster in an attempted arrest, arresting his partner, finding their car used in bank heists and loot in the hotel room and their friends – all in less than two hours. Their actions saved many lives and prevented bank robberies.

Reeder sang like a songbird to Enid Daily Eagle’s Arthur Strauss about their Kansas bank robberies to Attica, Little River and Turon as he tried to get a life sentence in Kansas for the robbery bank, not a death sentence for murder. Strauss’s article was picked up by The Associated Press nationwide.

Cal Palmer’s funeral was held on the afternoon of July 10, 1936, at the Henninger funeral home. Hundreds of people were in attendance to honor the Palmer family and hear Reverend SP Gaskins preach. Special music was by the Mennonite Quartet from Fairview. Interment with honors took place in Memorial Park Cemetery. Mayor John J. Allen announced that all award money for DeVol and Reeder would be given to Mary, Officer Palmer’s widow. County Attorney Roy Holbird has filed a petition with the District Court for a court order to shut down the German Village Beer Parlor.

Mary Palmer Sumner touches a commemorative image of her grandfather, the late Enid police officer Cal Palmer, near the corner of Grand and Broadway. (Enid News & Eagle file photo)

Kansas authorities brought in Maxine Hilliard and Mildred Smith, who had been kidnapped by the Attica bank robbers, to see Reeder and see DeVol. They identified them as their kidnappers and bank robbers. DeVol’s body was sent to St. Paul, Minnesota, for cremation. Donald Reeder was arraigned in federal court in Wichita with officials seeking the death penalty, a life sentence for bank robberies and a life sentence as a habitual criminal. Almeda Fathergale, DeVol’s partner at the brewery, was taken to Tecumseh Institution for delinquents. Juanita Hunsaker, who was with Reeder, was handed over to her parents in Rolla, Kan.

Officer Ralph Knarr needed to make a full recovery. JW Edwards’ fleshy wound to his leg was healing well, as was Agent Coyle’s finger. Knarr became Enid’s police chief from 1943 to 1956.

In September 2018, Constable Palmer’s great-granddaughter, Annie Sumner, came with several generations of Palmer’s family to present the .38 caliber to Enid’s police department. Smith and Wesson with a pearl-hilted pistol that Palmer carried the night he was killed.

Chef Brian O’Rourke said, “It’s invaluable for us to have this. It is a piece of our history. We appreciate that. Palmer has never been forgotten. Outside the station is a marble memorial telling its story. The halls of the department have several photos of Palmer. The officers place flowers on his grave every year.

Palmer’s gun is on display in the lobby of Enid’s Police Department.

Hats off to the Enid Police Department, especially Captain Bryan Skaggs, Aaron Preston, archivist at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center, and Sarah Cariker at the Enid and Garfield County Public Library for all their help.

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