Notorious Chicago | Chicago Police Department
Chicago Tribune, January 22, 1916
In the height of the rush hour at 5 o’clock yesterday at State street and Jackson boulevard a robber, aided by a woman, shot the cashier of Thomas Cook & Sons Chicago agency, seized $1,000, killed a traffic policeman, and escaped.
Policeman Bror Johnson, member of the famed “Beauty Squad,” and detailed at Jackson and State, was the robber’s victim.
The robber entered the agency alone. He had come on foot. As he did so the woman working with him drove up in a taxicab. The Cook tourist agency is at 15 East Jackson boulevard, just off State street.
The cab drew up in front of 23 Jackson, three doors east and across an alley.
SHOPPERS THRONG STREET.
The streets were packed with a hurrying, homegoing throng of shoppers, workers, automobiles, trucks, and street cars. It was the busiest moment at one of the loop’s busiest corners.
The robber, a solidly built man of about 40 with a “Charlie Chaplin” mustache, drew two revolvers as he entered the Cook office. The cashier made a movement for a revolver. The robber shot him. Then he drove the cashier, Ernest L. Walsh; Edward Stone, the manager; Frank Benesch, a clerk, and Gertrude Piozynski, a stenographer, into a vault.
LOCKS FOUR IN VAULT.
He spun the combination of the vault. Running inti the cashier’s cage, he scooped up $1,000 in bills. Stuffing the money into his pocket, he ran to the door.
As he stepped out on the sidewalk, a revolver still in either hand, he was confronted by Policeman Johnson. He fired two shots point blank at the policeman. Johnson fell dead to the sidewalk. The robber rushed to the taxicab in which the woman was sitting.
Pistol in hand, the robber yelled to the chauffeur to “beat it out of here.” The chauffeur refused to drive, and at that the robber leaped out of the machine, slammed the door, and ran down the alley south and escaped.
WOMAN LOST IN CROWD.
A moment later the woman opened the taxicab door. She steeped out bewildered. Then, deserted by her robber companion, she wandered off into the crowd.
In a trice the man-hunt was underway. Policemen hurried to cut off the retreat from the Van Buren end of the alley.
Chief Healey, Capt. Hunt of the detective bureau, and Capt. Morgan Collins of the First precinct, after throwing a wide dragnet, centered on two individuals.
Gov. Dunne, when notified by The Tribune, offered a reward of $200 for the arrest of the murderer.
BLOND WOMAN TAKES TRAIN.
A blond woman answering the description of the robber’s accomplice took a New York Central train for Toledo at 5:25 o’clock. On Thursday afternoon a blond woman also answering the description made inquiry to the Cook agency for rates to Panama. She is said to have made a minute observation of the offices.
The police began a search for Pauline Bradford, known as the “queen of the shoplifters,” whose home is in Toledo. In the taxicab deserted by her was found an umbrella carrying the label, “Lambson Brothers, Toledo, O.” Cut in the handle were the initials, “N. P. W.”
A sketch showing the scene of the robbery.
VICTIMS IDENTIFY PHOTO.
Capt. Hunt wired the Toledo police to be on the lookout for her. Simultaneously the photograph of William La Trasse, train robber, murderer, and escaped convict was presented to the victims of holdup. All were fairly positive that La Trasse is the man. Walsh and Stone detectives declared that the robber wore a “Charlie Chaplin” mustache.
Included among those suspects was “Trilby” Thompson, an escaped Joliet convict, who has been terrorizing the vicinity. He is regarded as too dangerous for a single policeman to handle.
La Trasse has a long record of robbery and killing. He is now a fugitive from the Kansas State penitentiary.
Detective at once took into custody John McCabe, the chauffeur. He was questioned by Capt. Hunt at the detective headquarters, but proved that he was not concerned in the affair. Jackson Stovall, the cab starter at the Great Northern hotel, where the woman engaged the taxicab, also was taken to headquarters, where he told what he knew.
Walsh and the policeman were removed to St. Luke’s hospital. Examination showed that Johnson had been instantly killed. Walsh recovered sufficiently by 8 o’clock to go to his home, 3549 Ainslie street.
Diagram shows how La Trasse entered the Cook agency, wounded the cashier as he attempted to shoot, killed Officer Johnson,forced four agency employees into a vault and locked the door, grabbed $800 in bills and escaped as a woman aid waved to him from the window of a taxicab.
SLAYING DRAWS THRONG.
The scene of the robbery and the immediate vicinity was one of confusion. The killing of the policeman drew an immense throng.
G. L. McInerney, special detective of the Hub clothing store, was the first to enter the Cook agency after the murder. He found the place deserted. A noise in the vault attracted his attention, and he was able to converse with Stone, who, with his office force, was locked inside.
Stone shouted under the steel door of the vault and gave McInerney the combination and was released.
Thomas Cook & Son are known to almost everybody whoever considered a vacation. They have offices all over the world. Their Chicago office is situated at the southeast corner of Jackson boulevard and State street.
On Thursday afternoon a big blond woman entered and addressed Edward Stone, 1641 Moss street, the manager.
“There was no special activity in our store at that time,” said Mr. Stone, “and I had cause to remark her appearance and the purpose of her visit.
“Her hair was light, she was not prepossessing—rather plain, I should say—and she wore simple clothing. Her hat was dark and of a sailor design, without plumage of any sort. She wore a dark two piece suit.
“She made inquiries concerning Panama tours, and we gave her information concerning such a trip, together with booklets and descriptions.
“After she had obtained the usual information and explained that she would return to complete her arrangement she smiled and left.
Bror A. Johnson, traffic policeman, shot dead while performing his duty in a daylight holdup on Jackson boulevard near State street yesterday, and his wife and little daughter.
Chicago Tribune, January 23, 1916
Photograph and description of William La Trasse.
Pauline Bradford was arrested in Chicago on Dec. 3, 1914, for the theft of $35 worth of merchandise from Marshall Field & Co.s store, but was paroled by Judge Kersten. For some reason she was not photographed at the bureau of investigation.
Chicago Tribune, December 26, 1915
Chicago Tribune, January 26, 1916.
Today the motion picture theaters of Chicago and the United States will present what is regarded as the greatest news scoop in the history of news presentation by means of the motion camera.
This feature, which also is the first use of the motion picture in the search for criminals, is produced by the Selig-Tribune service with the cooperation of Chief Healey and the Chicago Police department.
It is the reenactment of the robbery of the Thomas Cook & Son Tourist agency and the murder of Policeman Bror Johnson.
Healey Calls It Achievement.
“I regard the Selig-Tribune film of the robbery and murder in the fight of an achievement in criminology,” said Chief Healey. “I only wish that every criminal could be so photographed. It would be a vast step toward the capture of criminals, as it would bring to the notice of the public peculiarities in gait, the poise of the body, and other features that are impossible of description even by the best Bertillon measurement.”
When Chief Healey asked the Selig-Tribune to undertake the picture it was with the idea that the capture of the slayer of Policeman Johnson is of vast significance.
Criminals Must Be Caught.
“Criminals must not get the idea that they can kill policemen and go scot free,” said the chief. “For this reason I urge the capture of Johnson’s murderer. Every method should be used, and I think the motion camera is a huge asset.
“Not only is the picture valuable from a point of identification, but it will teach the public the hazards that a policeman encounters in the performance of his duty.”
The complete story of the crime is told faithfully, with a view to giving the public proof of the vigilance and devotion of policemen. It is the hoper of men high in the police department that several needed reforms be made soon, and the Selig-Tribune film is an exact corroboration of their claims.
The films will be shown today in the theaters designated in the advertisement of the Selig-Tribune.
No one was ever caught and officially charged with the murder/robbery, though suspects were apprehended.