NOVEMBER 24, 1917 BOMBING
Prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, the single deadliest event in national law enforcement history occurred in Milwaukee on November 24, 1917, when nine officers and two citizens were killed in a bomb blast. The bomb exploded inside the assembly of the Central Police Station at Broadway and Oneida Street, now known as Wells Street.
Police were not the intended target.
The 20-pound bomb was discovered in a passageway between the Italian Evangelical Church located at 355 North Van Buren Street and the neighboring mission house by the 10-year old daughter of the church cleaning lady on Saturday morning. In the evening, a young man named Sam Mazzone, a member of the church and an unnamed man, brought the device to the police station.
Station Keeper Henry Deckert took the device from the young men and brought it to the lieutenant’s office and then into the assembly. A number of detectives who had just answered to roll call were in the room. Several of them were examining the infernal device when its hell and fury was unleashed.
Of the ten officers who were in the police station assembly room at the time of the explosion, eight were killed and two were injured. The names of the eight men killed are: Detective Stephen H. Stecker, Detective Charles Seehawer, Detective David O’Brien, Detective Albert Templin, Detective Paul Weiler, Detective Fred W. Kaiser, Detective Frank Caswin and Station Keeper Henry Deckert. Injured were Detective Louis Hartman and Detective Herman Bergin.
A watch on one of the men stopped at 7:57 p.m.
Above the assembly was the operator’s room where Operator Edward Spindler was killed by shrapnel blasting through the floor. Killed near the entrance were citizens Catherine Walker, who was making a complaint in another matter, and an unidentified Italian man who, along with another young man that was uninjured, brought the infernal device to the station. In the Lieutenant’s office, off the assembly, were Lt. Robert Flood and Detective Bart Maloney. Both escaped injury. Also uninjured were the eighteen prisoners in the cell room.
It was believed that the bomb was placed at the church by sympathizers of the anarchists who were arrested in connection with the Bay View riot of September 9th, 1917. An Italian gang attempted to disrupt a patriotic rally led by the pastor of the church. The anarchists had been threatening the group when one man pulled a revolver and shot at a detective. Another detective drew his weapon and killed the man. Then several members of the gang drew guns and began firing. In the end two alleged anarchists were killed and five persons injured, including two detectives.