KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY BY GUNSHOT
Appointed: July 11, 1911
End of Watch: June 26, 1912
Policeman Thomas J. Dowling of the Third Street and Fairmount Avenue station was killed in a pawnshop at the northeast corner of Fifth and Vine Street. He was shot at close range and without the slightest warning by a youth Homer C. Wiggins, 17 years old. Dowling was about to place him under arrest on suspicion of theft. After firing the bullet from a .38 calibre automatic revolver point blank at the policeman’s head, Wiggins jumped over the latter’s prostrate form as it lay across the doorway of the store, kicked the dying man twice in the head, and then dashed west on Vine street with a vengeful crowd at his heels.
Officer Dowling lived at 214 Noble Street. He was only 24 years old, and less than a year on the force. He had entered the pawnshop with one of the regulation police notices enumerating certain stolen articles for which pawnbrokers were to keep a look out. The proprietor of the shop, Joseph a. McGarry, suspicious of Wiggins’s ownership of the diamonds he was trying to pawn, had just telephoned detective headquarters under pretense of examine the diamond under a light in the rear of the store. When Dowling entered the broker confided his suspicions of him. Without thought of a difficult arrest the young policeman turned on Wiggins grabbing the lateral’s left arm with his right hand. The youth turned with a snaring remark ordered the policeman to unhand him, and before the latter could reply pulled out the automatic revolver and fired. Wiggins, after shooting and then kicking his victim, fled to the corner of Franklin and Vine street and there in the ruins of a building destroyed by fire last winter, held his pursuers at bay for ten minutes, a crowd of several hundred gathering in the meantime. Several times he fired into the crowd of spectators and policemen and the fire was returned. Two bullets spent their force on the bricks near him, but he remained untouched. While several bluecoats held the attention of Wiggins, Policeman Joseph Link crossed the street and took a position on Franklin Street, opposite the entrenched murderer. Then he fired at him. The bullet from Link’s gun sped across. Wiggin’s gun hand and he dropped the revolver.
Superintendent of Police Taylor said last night that Dowling is the tenth policeman to lose his life under very similar circumstances, that tragedy resulting in almost every instance because the policeman, in attempting an arrest used their right hands instead of the lift, and thus were unable to get at their own weapons without freeing the prisoner. As a result, Superintendent Taylor will suggest to Director Porter today he said a new police regulation compelling policeman in all arrests to use the left hand to hold the prisoner and keep the right free for emergency use.