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Officer James C. Costello
(1901 March 31, 1930)


When Officer James C. Costello, 29, was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery on Friday, April 4, 1930, his body was escorted by what was described as the largest funeral cortege ever accorded a police officer in the city's history. The procession to the cemetery from the chapel at the Brown Brothers Mortuary on West Washington Boulevard was a mile and a half long. L.A. Mayor John Porter, Police Chief Roy Steckel, Assistant Chief Jack Finlinson, all of the members of the Police Commission, and all LAPD division commanders walked somberly behind the hearse carrying Costello's body.

The funeral procession included an escort of three police sergeants and 24 patrolmen, a color guard, an entire motorcycle squad of 30 officers, a large squad of county motorcycle officers, hundreds of fellow officers from around Southern California, as well as Costello's widowed mother, his brother and his sister.

At the cemetery, Officer Bert Brewer, who was also a pilot, flew over the grave site and dropped flowers.

Four days earlier, on March 31, Costello and his partner, Officer Elmer Hoffman, were driving east on 7th Street shortly after midnight when they noticed a car -- a green 1927 Dodge roadster -- parked on the opposite side of the street, near Lucas Avenue. The driver of the other car, Hoffman said later, was "acting suspiciously." Hoffman turned the police car around, pulled up next to the parked car, and Costello got out, to question the driver. As Hoffman pulled to the curb in front of the car and parked, Costello was walking up to the driver's side of the police car, with the other driver walking behind him, holding a gun.

"Move over, Hoff," Costello said. "This fellow has the drop on us."

As Hoffman slid from the driver's seat to the passenger seat, he pulled his gun from its holster. But before he could raise it, the other driver fired twice, hitting Costello, who fell along the police car's running board. One of the shots pierced Costello's heart, and he died at the scene.

Costello lived with his mother and sister at 400 E. 46th St. He joined the LAPD on Oct. 1, 1924, and was planning to be married in June.

After shooting Costello, the other driver ran back to his car and sped off. Hoffman climbed over the body of his fallen partner, and fired three shots at the fleeing vehicle. Hoffman told investigators that he thought at least one of his shots hit the roadster.

After receiving an anonymous telephone tip the next day, police arrested a 24-year-old former sailor from Michigan who admitted shooting Costello, but he told a slightly different story.

The man said he purchased his gun in Panama two years earlier, after he had been released from the Navy. He put the gun in his pocket on the morning of the shooting, "just to be smart," and drove around aimlessly for most of the day. He parked on 7th Street about an hour before the officers arrived.

When Costello approached and ordered him out of his car, the man said, he was afraid of being arrested for having a gun, so he pulled it out, and told Costello to walk back to the police car. "I told them to move on and go away," the man said.

"Then all of a sudden the other officer jerked his gun at me and fired," the man said. "The bullet struck me in the right knee. I saw he was going to fire again and, thinking quickly it was his life or mine, I fired. His second shot missed me and I fired again. Then I went back to my car and drove off. I went back to my room and dressed my wound as best I could."

The former sailor, who was charged with first-degree murder, claimed self-defense during his trial, saying that he fired his gun only after Hoffman shot him. After the former sailor testified at his trial, the jury found him not guilty of the murder charge.

Based on his testimony, however, he was later charged with robbing a street-car conductor and possession of a blackjack, and was convicted on those charges. He was sent to San Quentin State Prison for a term of five years to life. After his release from prison, he returned to Los Angeles, where he died on July 16, 1937, at the age of 31.

Costello's sign is located on the south side of 7th Street at Lucas Avenue.



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