Forgiveness: A show on WGBH-TV, Boston’s PBS station about the shooting of Boston Police Officer Walter Schroeder killed in the line of duty in 1970. Here are my memories of the incident.
The late 60s and early 70s were a tumultuous time in Boston and across the Country with all the Vietnam War protests and unrest towards the government. I met Officer Walter Schroeder for the first time in the lobby of the Brighton district police station after he captured a bank robber. The robbery took place at the State Street Bank Branch on the corner of Western Avenue and Everett Street in Brighton, the same spot where he would try and stop another robbery several years later and was shot to death.
These were the days when yellow tape was not in play and interviews and photos could be taken right up close at the scene of the crime. In a photo opportunity after the capture, Schroeder had laid out the money on a bench in the front lobby of the station along with the rifle he confiscated from the would-be robber.
When the robbery that killed Schroeder happened on September 24, 1970, I was in Worcester with reporter, Ed Corsetti, when we were working for the Record American. We were in Worcester covering the murder of a Priest and a housewife near a Worcester church. While driving back to the newspaper we heard about the shooting and went immediately to the scene.
The only news photographer that got the video of any real action was Nat Whittemore of WBZ-TV. He had great film of Office Schroeder being worked on by medical personnel, pumping his heart, trying to save him as he was rushed into the emergency room of Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital. He died shortly there after from his injuries.
The night of the shooting I was asked to stick around after my shift because the editors had information from Boston Police that the department had several leads on the suspects of the robbery and the editors would know before anything happened.
Around 8 o’clock that night I was sent to a building in the 160 block of Beacon Street in the Back Bay. Detectives were getting ready to break down the door to a 1st floor apartment where they believed the suspects were or had been. I stood in the vestibule of the hallway as they broke the door down. As the police went about their work, I took a photo and yelled, “flash going off!” I did not want them to think a gun was fired.
I was allowed into the apartment and walked around with detectives. There was a radio which could get police calls, a green military ammunition box and reading magazines about weapons. The cops were great and I was allowed to do whatever so long as I did not touch anything. This was the apartment of Stanley Bond, the reported ring leader of the robbery.
Bond had the support of two female students from Brandeis University, Susan Saxe and Katherine Ann Power, who were eventually both wanted for murder along with the shooter Lefty Gilday. There was a 5th person wanted in the murder but I don’t remember his connection.
This story had legs and I was on it for many weeks. I spent time at Brandeis University when Boston Police worked the campus looking for anything that would lead them to the suspects.
Within a few days of the shooting there was a car chase in the Merrimac Valley area which began on Route 38 in the Tewksbury. I was in-line along with the police, chasing a car which had Lefty Gilday driving it and we were all flying north on Route 38 from Rt.128 to Rt.495 and several times I had to move over to let state police cruisers get in front of me.
I was in the chase with the police as we sped up and down the roadway and the chase continued on Route 495 in the Haverhill area. At one point I got off an exit on Haverhill driving about 80 miles an hour and as I applied the brakes or should I say jammed the brakes, the car rocked from side to side and I said to myself “I am not going to die in this chase!” Yes I did have my seatbelt on. I was driving a 1966 Plymouth Fury with a 383 engine. Wow did that car move.
Later that evening, while driving home on Route 60 in Revere I went down the breakdown lane to get to the front of an intersection where the lights were red. Moments later, I was pulled over by the police for my driving. I told the officer it was probably a good thing he pulled me over and explained what I had been doing earlier in the day. He told me to smarten up and gave me a warning.
Later in the week I was covering Officer Schroeder’s funeral when we got a tip Gilday had been captured in Worcester. Works out he had held a family in Haverhill at gunpoint for three days and left that morning. I raced out to Worcester where the captured Gilday was brought out to a BPD wagon and transported to Boston and his arraignment.
Gilday was captured by State Trooper Bobby Long (the bad one as the SPD also had a great Trooper by the same name).
On a side note: Bobby was in a class ahead of me at Revere High and always danced to his own drummer. Several years later after this capture and subsequently becoming a local hero, he shot and killed several people in Florida including his girlfriend and is now in a Florida Prison for life. At the time of his trial, he claimed he was having a flashback to his days in Vietnam and after the trial was told had he not reloaded his gun during the shooting that the defense might have worked.
Stanley Bond the reported ring leader of the robbery was captured in Denver bought back to Boston convicted and eventually blew himself up at MCI Walpole.
Susan Saxe and Katherine Ann Powers escaped capture for many years. Ms. Sax was eventually captured in Philadelphia and I covered her as she was brought into the Pemberton Square Court House for arraignment. Many years later Katherine Ann Powers gave herself up to authorities on the West Coast. Both woman served time at MCI Framingham.
Schroeder History: Detective John Schroeder of Boston Police, brother of Walter Schroeder, was killed in the line of duty in 1973 at an investigation. A third brother, Barney, became a Deputy Superintendent on the force and is pictured above on the day when “The Soiling Of Old Glory” photo was taken as he works to restrain the crowd.
Boston Police Headquarters is named “Schroeder Plaza” in memory of the brothers.
links to other stories on the incident: