Tales from the Morgue: This guy gave cops a bad name

2013-08-21T09:45:00Z Tales from the Morgue: This guy gave cops a bad nameJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 21, 2013 9:45 am  • 

There are some people we are supposed to trust. We tell our children that they can go to a police officer if they need help. They are expected to keep us — and our property — safe.

But sometimes they just don't live up to these expectations. The police officers in question weren't hurting children or committing murder, but they certainly were earning the trust of the citizens of Tucson.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Thursday, Dec. 12, 1918:

POLICEMAN IS ARRESTED FOR GRAND LARCENY
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William Lauthen, Late of San Antonio, Jailed Following Story to Police That Lauthen Had Offered Him "Hush Money"; Hunt Accomplices.
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Policeman William Lauthen was arrested yesterday and locked up at the county jail on the charge of grand larceny. The county attorney prepared the complaint against the policeman yesterday afternoon, but the investigation being made by the police and the sheriff's office is still in progress.

Lauthen had been a member of the police force for the last six weeks, coming from San Antonio, Texas, where he is said to have been an officer for 15 years. He had excellent recommendations. He is a man of splendid physique, being over six feet tall and well-proportioned. He is a man of about forty years of age and is married.

Lauthen is charged with the theft of three new trunks from the Van Noys Interstate News Company, which operates on Southern Pacific trains. The theft is alleged to have occurred Sunday morning after the arrival of Southern Pacific train No. 4. Lauthen was patrolling the depot beat.

Driver Tendered Bribe.

The police are said to have been informed of the alleged theft by an auto-express driver, who told the police that Lauthen approached him with a tender of forty dollars, as coming from the alleged accomplice of the officer, as his fee for hauling the trunks, which officers believe contained whiskey.

The theory upon which the police are conducting their investigation is, according to the chief of police, that Lauthen and the unknown man who is said to have posed as a United States officer, were importing liquor into the state, using the wooden trunks used by news butchers to keep their stocks of periodicals and other wares.

Story Partially Confirmed.

The story of the express driver was confirmed to the extent that the trunks were unloaded on the ground a short distance from the extension of South Sixth avenue, at the point where the cut-off connects that highway with the mission road. The ground at the place indicated by the driver, showed the tracks of the casters of the trunks and other marks which might have been made by the dumping of the trunks from the express wagon.

Afterward, according to the information given to the police, the trunks were taken to a house on South Fifth avenue, but a search of the house and premises failed to discover them.

According to Lauthen's story, the trunks were claimed by a man who said he was a United States officer, but he did not investigate to ascertain if the man's pretensions of authority were genuine or false. He witnesses the loading of the trunks onto the wagon and did not investigate to see what they contained.

According to the story of the man who "tipped off" the police, Lauthen offered him forty dollars, which he said had been given to him by the "United states officer" for his work in hauling the trunks from the station.

The officers are looking for the man who represented himself to be an officer, and for several others suspected of knowledge of the alleged theft.

Manager Ned H. Nieukirk, of the Van Noys News Company, is assisting the officers in their investigation.

The Morgue Lady is happy to know that the accused man is of "splendid physique." She isn't sure how that is relevant except that Lauthen wouldn't be able to claim disability if he failed to chase a suspect.

An alleged accomplice was indeed arrested, and another was named. From the Star, Friday, Dec. 13, 1918:

SIMPSON HELD AS ACCOMPLICE OF WM. LAUTHEN
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Another Policeman Arrested in Connection With Alleged Theft Of "News" Trunks; Patrolman S. V. Ford is Suspended
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Policeman Simpson was arrested last evening on Congress street by Deputy Sheriff Hollowell on a warrant issued late yesterday afternoon, for alleged complicity in the theft from the Van Noys News Company of three new trunks, believed by officers to have contained whiskey.

Policeman Simpson and Policeman S. V. Ford had been suspended by Chief of Police Frank Bailey earlier in the day, for being on their respective beats on the day of the alleged theft, for failure to investigate the circumstances attending the taking of the news trunks, and for failing to make a report of the circumstances.

No criminal charge has been made against Policeman S. V. Ford.

It is understood that further information supplied to the sheriff's office as to the movement of the three new trunks after they left the office of the news company at the depot, resulted in the issuance of the warrant against Policeman Simpson, who was licked up at the county jail last night.

No complaint has been made against Policeman William Lauthen in the justice court.

The identity of the putative "United States officer" who personally got the three new trunks, according to Lauthen, has not been established, nor have the trunks been recovered. If they are discovered and are found to contain whiskey, the whole character of the case would be changed.

The two suspended officers are said to have been in the vicinity of the depot when the alleged theft occurred, being off their assigned beats.

Former Immigration Service Inspector Walker has been appointed to the police force to fill one of the vacancies caused by the suspension.

There were three Fords on the police force, D. Ford and U. Ford, brothers, and S. V. Ford.

D. Ford and U. Ford probably wished not to be associated with the case at all, and perhaps they would have gone unnoticed if the Star had not named them because of the coincidence of the last name.

But Tucson was still a small town back then, and it may be that any Ford, especially one who is a police officer, would be suspected by the general public.

The Morgue Lady feels compelled to point out that Prohibition was not yet in effect. If whiskey was in the trunks, it seems more likely that the issue is smuggling and theft.

Next: The trunks are found.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Tales from the Morgue is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library - also known as News and Research Services - for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com.

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