Police cases from prohibition to kidnapping

June 28, 2001 11:00 pm
Chief Robert Babb and dispatcher Donna Ashley in 1979. ().
Chief Robert Babb and dispatcher Donna Ashley in 1979. ().

Policing in unincorporated areas is the responsibility of the County Sheriff's Department. Brookings learned that during the Prohibition era, if not before.

Cleanup Made at

Brookings Monday

After spending a couple of weeks in Brookings under the doctor's care, in which time he kept his eyes and ears open, Sheriff Tolman got well quick on last Monday and, with characteristic suddenness, staged a little surprise party at a place which ensnared several unsuspecting parties in the meshes of the law.

When he first went down to the lumbering town, Tolman says he saw very little signs of booze. But soon he began to meet men with wobbly legs and violent breath. The sight of a young lad under age, on the street in a drunken condition, was the last straw and he resolved to do a little cleaning up.

He, accordingly, instructed Justice E. H. Dye of this place, to send down the necessary papers, there being no Justice at Brookings, expecting to pull off the raid on Saturday night. But the documents did not reach him until Monday.

Sheriff Tolman proceeded immediately to the logging camp, stopping on the way at the residence of Toby Easter and made inquiry for booze. Mrs.. Easter, being home alone, obligingly pointed out a truck which contained several demijohns and mentioned the names of several owners of each. Further search revealed several bottles of beer belonging to other parties named. In rummaging about a trunk full of clothes, the sheriff discovered a bottle of fine brandy and when Mrs. Easter saw it she exclaimed ?My God!, there goes my Thanksgiving pudding.?

The persons indicted by this roundup were soon found and placed under arrest, including Mr. and Mrs. Easter, after which the raiders approached the logging camp. It was dark by this time and nothing was accomplished, so the party returned to Brookings. Arriving there, deputies were secured, and the coup d'etat, a raid on the workingmen's hotel, the St. George, was arranged for. Sheriff Tolman and a deputy searched the place from cellar to garret, and when they finished the task at midnight, they had added materially to their collection of booze and made more arrests. ? The Gold Beach Reporter, Nov. 28, 1918

Prohibition Days

Beer, wine, and whiskey were readily obtainable. Some made it for profit, some for their own use, and some to enjoy it. Beer either was given away or sold for five to 10 cents a gallon, wine was a $1 to a $1.50 per gallon, whiskey, from 75 cents to a $1.25 a fifth. You returned the bottles. I saw several stills which were for sale but none in operation. ? George W. Beers, Notes of Interest in an about Harbor and Brookings, Oregon, 1926-29. Unpub-lished Manuscript.

The Curry County Sheriff's Department provides police protection and other services to unincorporated areas in the county. That is the case in Harbor, and was the situation in Brookings until that city was incorporated in 1951.

Before incorporation, however, the merchants had hired Carl Means to help protect their properties. Upon incorporation, the City's first Police Chief, William B. Brown, was hired.

Police Chief Brown?s reports made for December, 1951, to the Brookings City Council:

Traffic Violations: Reckless driving 1; Violation of the basic rule 1; Non-moving violation 1; Other citations 12; Warning citations 47.

Miscellaneous Complaints Investigated: Investigations 4; Drunks 3.

Miles Patrolled 842

Fines Received $50.50

? The Pilot, Jan. 3, 1952

Chief Brown worked with Carl Means until June, 1952, when Means resigned and C.M. ?Bud? Cross was employed as a patrolman. Brown organized the Brookings Police Department and was considered to have made an excellent record. On one occasion, according to a report in The Pilot, "He single-handedly stopped two murderers fleeing form Crescent City. After they had passed his roadblock, Bill overtook them in Brookings, forced them to a stop, and took them into custody, although both were armed."

Shortly afterward, Brown resigned his post because of ill health.

The city council and Municipal Judge Hans Nelson went to Gold Beach and persuaded Bud Cross, who had moved there, to come back to Brookings as Police Chief. Don Webberley took over as patrolman.

Cliff House Raid

Eight state policemen raided the Cliff House here (Brookings) Saturday night, and stirred up a hornet's next of local opposition. The raid was strictly a state police show, and neither district attorney Ed Ackley, the Curry County Sheriff Glen Sabin or Brookings Police Chief Bud Cross were notified that the raid was taking place.

Danny Wagner, operator of the Cliff House, was arrested, although not taken into custody on the charge of operating a gambling house ... The police took a crap table, and picked up all the money on the tables ...

The Pilot called the state police headquarters at Medford and asked a Lt. Morgan there if the raid was held by the state police, by-passing the local authorities because "the local authorities weren't doing their job." Morgan said that "the gambling was wide open, and they had numerous complaints." He said that there wasn't any attempt to embarrass any local authority, and that they had tried to get in touch with Ackley before the raid. "Chief Bud Cross said that they have no complaints locally on gambling." Ackley said, too, that his office has had no complaints. ? The Pilot, Aug. 16, 1956

The Chief of Police has always been responsible to the Police Commissioner. From incorporation until 1975 the chief also served as the commissioner, but in that year a city manager was hired and the authority of police commissioners was vested in him.

The department became a three-man organization in 1958. Eight years later it had four men, and in 1975, there were five sworn officers and four full time dispatchers plus one part-time dispatcher.

Until 1967, the police department's offices and jail were located behind a Shell gasoline station on Chetco Avenue. In October of that year, several city departments, including the police, were housed in the present city hall, then just completed. The first full-time dispatcher, Donna Ashley, was hired at that time. Prior to her employment, that responsibility had been carried for several years by Merton Thompson. He had served both fire and police dispatcher at nights and on weekends.

The police department currently dispatches for its own operations and also for Curry County Sheriff's Department, the Brookings Fire Department and for various other emergency agencies.

Policemen Will "Dust" Stands in Brookings

Newspaper stands and newspaper reading machines in the Brookings area will be dusted with infra-red powder in order to help prevent thieving, Brookings Police Chief C.M.. "Bud" Cross warned today.

The machines will be dusted with the powder, which is invisible to the naked eye, following a rash of thefts in the past few weeks.

The powder can only been seen when the object is placed under ultra-violet light, the police chief said, and the powder is almost impossible to wash off. Only certain parts of the machine will be ?dusted,? Chief Cross added, and the process will not interfere with he legitimate purchase of newspapers from the racks. ? The Pilot, April 10, 1969

After 23 years as Chief of Police, Bud Cross retired in 1978. He was succeeded by Assistant Chief Robert Babb, who had been with the force over 20 years.

Former Chief Cross said that one of his most memorable cases occurred some 20 years ago. When four young men had walked into a supposedly empty cabin in the hills near Brookings. There they were taken by surprise by a pair of kidnappers who were holed up in the cabin -- a man of 32 named Henry Hill and his 16-year-old cousin, Dorothy Decker. Both were armed with shotgun and revolvers, and they were known to be dangerous.

The drop was on them. They were forced to drive their car as a getaway vehicle. Hill and Decker rode in the front seat with one of the hostages, George Haines, was the driver. The other three were ordered to sit in back. Two of them were cuffed together; the other was tied with a rope.

Haines later wrote an article recounting what happened:

"She had climbed into the front seat, with the shotgun beside her and a .38 revolver in her hand. She was half-turned around so the revolver covered the three handcuffed and roped men in the back seat.

Hill kept his gun on me.

?Okay, drive and go carefully. We aren't going to be stopped,? he told me ....

It was just then that we saw the Oregon State Police car. I don't know whether I was glad to see it or not. I was half afraid that the car would take out after us and there'd be shooting. Hill didn't say anything to set my mind at ease.

"That a cop car?" he asked.

"Yes."

?Just keep going. Remember, nobody's going to take me alive.? ...

We just kept going. We were going around a curve when I first saw the roadblock. Everybody in the car saw it about the same time. It was about 500 feet dead ahead. There were police cars parked alongside the road -- several of them. In the middle of the highway, two police officers were standing with flashlights, flagging down the passing traffic.

I thought I heard Hill tell me to make a run for it. But I knew I wouldn't -- couldn't. I was afraid there would be shooting ... and we'd all be right in the middle of it.

For a minute, when I first braked the car, I felt Hill's gun in my ribs. I thought he might shoot. Then I knew he wouldn't. He looked around at all of us suddenly. ?Keep your mouth?s shut,? he warned.

I pulled the car to a stop at the roadblock and rolled down the window. Then I looked straight ahead. I was afraid to look out at the police - afraid of what might happen.

"Let's see your I.D.'s" the patrolman who stood alongside the car said. ?Yours first,? he indicated Hill. I wondered what would happen as Hill fumbled in his pocket and pulled out his identification. I thought, even then, he might shoot. The policeman looked over the identification. ?Get out of the car, Henry,? he said, reading the name on the card.

Both Hill and Dorothy Decker got out, while the four of us sat still -- all looking straight ahead. The two policemen -- State Policeman Kenneth Hemmerling and Deputy Sheriff Ross Bates -- stood at the front of the door as it came open. Hill stepped out behind it.

It all happened so fast, I didn't see it start. All I know was that there was a tremendous blast from Hill's gun. A bullet plowed into the door about an inch below the window. Just a bit higher and it would have caught one of the policemen full in the chest. Both policemen leaped in front of the car and both fired. Hill stumbled backward a few feet and then fell. He was dead before he hit the roadway. As he dropped, Dorothy Decker fainted, falling sideways into the car.

Hill had meant it. He wasn't taken alive.