Bi-monthly Newsletter No. 24 July/August 2007


Honoring a Century of Sacrifice Oscar Bayer, a Fightin’ Hero

By: Glynn Martin Executive Director

Military service has preceded LAPD service for many, many years and for many, many officers. Undoubtedly, the experiences and adventures related to military service lend themselves well to a career in law enforcement. In the post-war periods, LAPD ranks have swollen with returning veterans. Some vets have ascended the ranks, others have distinguished themselves through acts, heroic or otherwise. There is no definitive historical pigeon-hole in which to place returning veterans. Until you consider Oscar Bayer. He has a place to call his own, a very distinguished place in Department history. Bayer served with distinction in the Navy, the LAPD and the Army Air Corps Reserve. Each of these brought injury, but not death. He perished before he completed eight years of LAPD service, and his was not a line of duty death.Oscar Bayer is not one of the honored 200 we have lost in the last century. Yet his is a story that needs to be told. Not one to shout from the mountain tops, but certainly one deserving boldface type in the annals of police service. Doubtful that anyone squeezed more into a brief career than Oscar Bayer, doubtful anyone had more reported brushes with death, and it is truly unfortunate that few know of his exploits. Oscar Bayer attended LA city schools, and entered the Navy during World War I. Shrapnel wounded Oscar, but he made it home alive and at the age of 23 joined the Los Angeles Police Department. Before he reached his twenty-fifth birthday, Oscar was detailed as a motor officer. This is when things started to get interesting, particularly as it related to news reports. Stories about Oscar began to make the newspaper. He arrested a prominent preacher for speeding . Another story spoke of a violator who went to trial because Oscar referred to him as “Buddy.” The judge didn’t buy the defense. The violator bought a fine. Then there was the Duke. The one from Hawaii. The local Duke was just finishing high school. Duke Kahanamoku was brought in by Oscar Bayer for speeding. The Duke faced a fine, or jail, but his status as a championship swimmer, and erstwhile celebrity earned him a suspended sentence. While Oscar was busy pursuing speeders, the papers reported on some of his other pursuits. In early 1924, Oscar was involved in a shooting while trying to apprehend a burglar with his partner. The thief survived, only to be cut down by the justice system. His conviction was returned in six minutes. By any standard this was swift justice. Justice and motorcycles weren’t the only swift moving articles in Oscar’s life. Aviation, in fact the Army Air Corps type was one of Oscar’s pursuits away from the job. As a member of the 478th Pursuit Squadron, Oscar owned the titles of pilot and Master Sergeant. His avionic attractions would soon extend beyond the military into other areas of his life. In this bit of newspaper reporting, Oscar was detailed to two solid weeks of peacetime aerial maneuvers. Not long after his return from the Army, Oscar was involved in another shooting, this time with a knife-wielding bandit. All of the exploits that had been reported on paled in comparison to the next set of events for our slick-sleeved cycle cop. In August, 1925, five gun-toting thugs led by a Chicago based exconvict robbed the Hellman Bank in downtown Los Angeles. As they fled, the robbers were pursued by another vehicle, whose occupants yelled to Officer Bayer, alerting him of the robbery. The robbers’ flight turned murderous when they engaged Officer Wylie Smith and his partner Officer Moore in a brief gun battle. Smith was struck in the chest and died. Oscar Bayer continued his attempts to apprehend the handful of heavily armed assailants, as other officers joined the running gun battle.

aug_07_1

The Los Angeles Times wrote, “In the next few minutes the Officer wrote a page of police history of which the department will be eternally proud.” Even though driving a motorcycle Bayer was able to return fire, reload and fire again. The bad guys’ bullets began to strike Bayer, but he persisted. At 7th and San Pedro, the vehicle came to a halt, all five of the suspects exited the vehicle, three were firing at Bayer. Each was armed with two guns. Bayer killed one, and wounded another. With a revolver on empty chambers, Bayer’s command presence led to the surrender of the wounded robber. An extensive manhunt for the remaining three was conducted. One was captured. The others carjacked a citizen and escaped. Bayer was shot nine times, but survived to receive the hero’s rewards he deserved. Two rewards totaling fifteen-hundred dollars were presented to Bayer (it’s important to note that his home cost fourteen-hundred dollars) as was the Department’s highest honor for bravery, the Medal of Valor. Our hero, however, was nowhere near done with the headlines, nor with his brushes with death. A few short months after the Hellman robbery, Bayer was flying his personally owned airplane, and by newspaper reports flying over a crowd of folks that included his police officer pals when a fuel malfunction necessitated an emergency landing. Bayer put his plane down in a vacant lot at Third and Vermont, narrowly missing a popular restaurant. The nose-in landing damaged the plane greatly, but Bayer and his passenger walked away unhurt. Bayer’s role as an aviator landed him a role as an expert witness in a manslaughter trial involving another emergency landing. This one occurred at the beach and two people were killed. Bayer provided the expert testimony that assisted with a conviction, and the newspapers reported on it all. Still, there was more news of Bayer. This time he was burned when gas vapors were ignited in an electrical accident that occurred while working on his plane. Bayer’s face and arms were burned, but again he survived. No news pictures accompanied this story, but later that year, Bayer was shown with the recovered body parts of the kidnapped and murdered Marian Parker. Bayer was no longer a motor officer. He had earned a promotion to Detective Lieutenant, and was excelling at this business, too. Aviation, it seemed, kept Bayer in the news. In April, 1929, Bayer was at the airfield when a fellow pilot lost his wheel during takeoff. Bayer quickly and wisely grabbed another wheel and took to the skies. Bayer signaled to the other pilot by waving the wheel and yelling to the pilot. The signal was effective. Bayer’s alert allowed the pilot to crash land in the soft sand and avoid another aviation tragedy. Unfortunately, Bayer himself could not avoid such a fate. Two months later Bayer’s plane crashed on the Santa Monica Golf Course, and Bayer was lost. Bayer had been flying in hopes of becoming a member of a rumored aviation unit on the Department. The tragedy struck the family when they learned his pension would not be awarded. A Hollywood fundraiser helped defray some of the expenses, but no amount of maneuvering helped with the pension board decision. With barely a hash mark and a half to his credit, Bayer was gone. Nearly eighty years later, it is doubtful that any officer fit so much into such little time. Obviously, a spirited officer of great courage and intrepidity, or as one headline reads, “Hail Bayer Fightin’ Hero.”


What’s Happening at
Old Number 11

By: Glynn Martin Executive Director

We are quickly nearing the 14th Annual Jack Webb Awards. Accordingly much of our time is spent preparing for this event, scheduled for September 8th at the Sheraton Universal. This year, three deserving honorees will be turning out for the night’s events. Valley businesswoman Jane Boeckmann heads the list. Jane has been a long-time supporter of the Department and many other worthy causes both in and out of the San Fernando Valley. She will be joined by “Mr. Robbery,” Detective Jack Giroud. Jack recently wound up a police career of more than 51 years, an incredible accomplishment by a truly talented man. We are also honoring some television talent. For their role in bringing scientific investigation to the television, the cast and crew of CSI is being recognized for their depiction of police work in the crime lab. We think this is a great cast that reflects the theme of the Jack Webb awards appropriately. We ask all of you to consider attending, if you need more information, contact us at the museum. When we haven’t been tied up with Jack Webb preparations, we have been busy pushing along some long-term projects, and working to acquire some interesting artifacts, and Robbery- Homicide has been deeply involve assisting us with this pursuit.

museum

 

For quite some time, Detective Mike Gannon vowed to complete the property disposition for the oodles of evidence from the North Hollywood shootout. On the day before his retirement, Mike made good on this promise. With the assistance of Tom Wich, the remaining material was loaded up and brought over to the historical society. Even though our current North Hollywood exhibit is interesting, the balance of the evidence tells even more about the events and the time leading up to it. We send our thanks out to Mike for all of the effort that went into getting this done. Likewise we wish him well in retirement. Not long after wrapping up the North Hollywood artifacts, we received some material from it’s predecessor in the annals of protracted shootouts. Detective Vivian Flores recently took possession of some items long stored by the coroner’s office from the 1974 engagement with the Symbionese Liberation Army. Vivian championed the conversion process and brought these unique and interesting items to the historical society. Hers was an interesting journey that may well make it into the upcoming SLA exhibit. Again, we thank her and all of the RHD folks that constantly support our efforts. Both of these are cases that will cause us to look at how we can meaningfully incorporate some of our new holdings into museum exhibits. As we look to next year, we hope to put together another small exhibit related to a major case, the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. The fortieth anniversary rolls around next year, and we are looking to acquire a copy of the report from the Special Unit Senator investigation. Anyone who may have this document, or anything related to the case could help us greatly by getting in contact with us. This was a significant chapter in the Department’s history, and we plan to share the story next year.