Lest We Forget – Officer E.L. Riddick – April 23, 1970

 

wreath

 

lestweforget

Tragic Thursday
Story by John “Two Gun” Powers

On Thursday, April 23, 1970, Inspector John McAllister and I were just leaving the office to go to lunch. A call came in that there was “an officer involved shooting at the bank at 6922 South Western”. We took my car and I drove as fast as I could to the scene.

When I pulled into the Security Pacific Bank parking lot, I saw Lieutenant Higbie and a couple other detectives from the Robbery Division. They were standing near a sheet covered body. We went over and Lieutenant Higbie told us what had happened.

A male Black, about thirty, entered the bank carrying a small black bag. He went up to a teller and held her up with a .38 revolver. On his way out, he shot the uniformed guard standing by the door, in the chest without warning. The guard was unaware that a robbery had occurred.

Off duty, Officer E.L. Riddick, in civilian clothes, was in the bank cashing a check. He followed the robber out to the parking lot. The bandit was getting into a 1968 brown Pontiac Firebird. According to witnesses, Riddick ordered him out of the car with his hands up. The bandit turned and fired, hitting the officer. The officer fell to the pavement, but managed to fire his weapon and shot out the rear window of the bandit’s car.

The bandit drove out of the parking lot and nearly collided with two motor officers. The officers went in pursuit of the bandit. An ambulance arrived and the attendant pronounced the officer dead, and removed the wounded guard to the Receiving Hospital.

A half dozen reporters were among the spectators being held back by uniformed officers. A couple of reporters I knew called to me, and wanted to know when they could get a statement. I asked Lieutenant Higbie how long before he could talk to them. Then I went over and told the reporters Lieutenant Higbie would give them a statement in five minutes.

At this moment, the police radio broadcast a call of “an officer involved shooting at 912 West 73rd Street”.

I told Lieutenant Higbie that McAllister and I would go over there, that it might be the bank robber involved. The scene of the next shooting was about half a mile away. I pulled up just as the last shot of twenty was fired.

It was the bank robber, and he was obviously dead of gunshot wounds. A small black bag was lying next to the body. He had run into the back yard of 912 West 73rd Street. There, he crouched under a twenty-foot motorboat that was sitting on a trailer. As the officers entered the yard, he fired at them and missed. They returned fire, with fatal results.

One of the motor officers had motor trouble and had to drop out of the pursuit. The other officer, C. E. Teague, chased the bandit, reaching speeds of eighty miles per hour. The chase went east on 69th Street which has many dips. At the start, the police radio broadcast the call of “an officer involved shooting at the bank at 6922 South Western”. Officer Teague knew who he was chasing; that it was not just a reckless driver or speeder.

A police helicopter joined in a broadcast of the progress of the chase. Radio cars and detective units in the vicinity tried to close in.

At 74th Street and Vermont, the bandit lost control of his car, while trying to turn the corner. The car skidded into the curb. He jumped out, carrying the black bag and ran into the back yard. The officers converged on the scene. There was an exchange of gunfire and the bandit was killed.

McAllister and I went back to the bank and I told Lieutenant Higbie the result of the motor officer’s pursuit.

Higbie had just learned that the guard, George MacMullen, age fifty, had also died. He had only been employed at the bank for the past two months. The bandit had obtained $1,600. This was later recovered in the black bag under the trailer.

At 11:20 a.m. the bandit had held up the attendant at a parking lot 1ocated at Temple Street and Grand Avenue. He took $27.00 and a 1968 Pontiac Firebird.

There wasn’t anything more McAllister and I could do. Officer Riddick’s Captain was on his way to make the death notification to Officer Riddick’s wife, now a widow. McAllister and I went to lunch at the Police Academy. We both felt that we wanted to be in the company of other police officers.

The robber murderer was an ex-convict, Charles Henry Mack, age thirty-two. He had killed before, probably one reason that he shot the guard without warning. His gun was ballistically connected to the murder of a woman and the shooting of a man during the robbery of a drive-in theater in Gardena. This occurred on March 12th, and Mack was accompanied by a female accomplice. Later the same night, Mack shot a seventeen year old, during the robbery of a theater in Compton.

Mack had been arrested eighteen times for grand theft, burglary, rape, robbery and narcotics violation. In November 1963, he was sentenced to five years to life as the result of a robbery conviction. He was paroled, October 22, 1969.

Officer E. L. Riddick received the medal of valor posthumously.