GREENE COUNTY, Mo. — This week marks the 90th anniversary of the bloodiest day in modern law enforcement history, excluding the terrorist attacks of September 11. January 2, 1932, six law enforcement officers were murdered in a gunfight with two brothers, Harry and Jennings Young, outside their house near Brookline, Missouri.
One of the officers killed was buried in Joplin, Mo. at Forest Park Cemetery, 102 North Rangeline. Springfield Police Patrolman Charles Houser, 28, was survived by his wife Augusta and a brother Fred.
The Greene County Sheriff’s office recount what occurred that day stating, “It is ultimately our responsibility to maintain the memory of those who gave their last full measure of devotion, losing their lives in service of the public.”
Police had arrested Young family members with a stolen vehicle and believed the wanted brothers, Harry and Jennings Young were visiting their mother in the area. Harry Young was wanted for the 1929 murder of Republic Marshal Mark Noe and the brothers were wanted for operating a stolen auto ring. Before the day was over, the brothers would be responsible for the murder of six more law enforcement officers.
Sheriff Marcell Hendrix gathered three of his deputies for the arrest team, Ollie Crosswhite, Wiley Mashburn, and Ben Bilyeau. They were in turn joined by Springfield Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver and Officers Owen Brown, Virgil Johnson, and Frank Pike, Sidney Meadows and Charley Houser and a citizen by the name of R.G. Wegman.
The arrest team arrived at the Young farm at approximately 4:00 pm. Detective Johnson fired a tear gas canister into an upstairs window with no noticeable effect. The officers took positions around the residence and
Sheriff Hendrix, accompanied by Deputy Mashburn and Detective Johnson, approached a back door to the residence. Sheriff Hendrix and Deputy Mashburn forced the door open. Deputy Mashburn was met with a shotgun blast to the face causing him to fall backwards into a stack of firewood. Sheriff Hendrix advanced through the doorway only to be met with second shotgun blast to the chest.
Detective Johnson then ran to the front of the residence and took cover amongst the cars seeking shelter from a gunfire emanating from the house.
Chief Oliver called out to Detective Johnson to drive back to Springfield for reinforcements. Detective Johnson jumped into a car and was joined by Bilyeau and Wegman. The rear glass of their vehicle was shot out as they drove away from the farm.
Deputy Crosswhite was pinned down by gunfire and took refuge behind a sod cellar.
Officer Houser, who had sought cover behind a tree was shot between the eyes with a high powered rifle when he looked from behind cover.
Deputy Meadows was also hiding behind a tree and was out of ammunition when he was struck in the forehead by rifle fire.
Chief Oliver attempted to run to the vehicles and fell, receiving a fatal gunshot wound in the back.
Detective Brown fled north from the house and joined Detective Pike behind a tree. They fled eastbound from the house to safety sustaining minor gunshot wounds.
Deputy Crosswhite was still maintaining his position of cover behind the sod cellar when one of the suspects approached him from behind and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun.
When officers returned to the farm with reinforcements they discovered the six deceased officers at the scene and that the suspects had escaped.
Three days later Harry and Jennings Young were subsequently located in Texas by Houston Police. On January 5, 1932, acting on a tip from a bed and breakfast owner, police stormed the house. A shootout broke out in hail of gunfire. The Youngs were trapped in a bathroom where the two brothers committed suicide.
The Missouri officers names are etched in stone and memorialized at the Greene County Courthouse, and in decals on a number of marked Greene County patrol vehicles.
THE JOPLIN CONNECTION FOR OFC HOUSER
“Charles Houser’s family lived in Joplin and he had a brother, Fred, who lived in Springfield,” distant relative Sarah Capps of Granby, Mo. tells us.
“Six of the family members died of influenza.” Which was the Spanish Flu in 1918. Houser’s father, Charles Houser is buried in an unmarked grave near Officer Houser. So is his brother Mark Houser who died at the same time at age 16.
Officer Houser’s grave was unmarked until April of 2016. Capps tells us her family was contacted by an officer of the Springfield Police Dept saying they wanted to place a marker on the grave.
“I had heard my grandma tell that story all my life, about her cousin who was a police officer and was killed in the line of duty. I never imagined how much of an event it was until I looked it up.”
Capps tells us about the stone being placed at Forest Park Cemetery in Joplin for Ofc Houser. “So in April 2016 they had a ceremony. It seemed like there were at least 50 or more officers both police and Highway Patrol. They apologized to our family for not placing a stone at the time of Charlie’s death.”
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