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Officer Arthur "Archie" Cruse
(April 1899 Jan. 22, 1923)


On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 20, 1923, three years after the start of Prohibition in the United States, two men pounded on the front door of the home of Florence Conner at 733 Towne Ave., in downtown Los Angeles. When Conner answered the door, the two men displayed badges and told her they were deputy sheriffs, and they accused her of making illegal alcohol in her home, in violation of the 18th Amendment. She denied the accusation, but the men threatened her with arrest unless she paid them $50. The frightened woman paid, and the men left.

The woman's two sons, Tom and C.J. Conner, overheard the discussion, and knew that their mother hadn't been making illegal alcohol. Tom Conner chased the two men out of a rear door of the house, caught up to them, and demanded the return of his mother's money. One of the men hit him on the head with the butt of his revolver, knocking him unconscious.

Meanwhile, C.J. Conner went out the front door, found LAPD Officer Archie Cruse, walking his beat near 7th Street and Towne Avenue, and told him that his mother had just been robbed by two men. Cruse, who had been on the force for a little more than a year, saw the two men running north on Towne and chased them, catching up to them in a vacant lot between 5th and 6th streets.

As one of the men attempted to climb over a picket fence between the lot and an alley, Cruse grabbed his coat. The man pulled out his revolver and fired a single shot at Cruse. The bullet hit Cruse under the left armpit and exited near his right shoulder.

Cruse was shot exactly a week after the fatal shooting of LAPD Officer Charles Perry Williams Sr., less than four blocks away.

The other man ran a half-block north, into a rooming house, and exited through a back door. After shooting Cruse, the gunman jumped into a passing truck driven by Bert McMillen, pressed his revolver against McMillen's side, and ordered him to "drive like hell."

After the shooting, area residents joined police in searching for the two men. One man jumped on the running board of a passing auto, and told the driver to chase McMillen's truck. The truck went down Crocker Street to 3rd Street, turned left on 3rd, then right on San Pedro Street. The car stopped to pick up an LAPD traffic officer at 2nd and San Pedro streets, and the chase continued in the area of 1st and Los Angeles streets, near the current site of the L.A. City Hall. At some point during the chase, the gunman jumped out of the truck and escaped.

Police and dozens of citizen volunteers searched the neighborhood through the night. One of the men was eventually caught near 5th and Towne, but the gunman escaped.

An area resident put Cruse into his car and took him to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where Cruse was able to provide details of the incident and descriptions of the two men before he was taken into surgery. Dr. Edwin G. Goodrich performed the surgery, but offered little hope for Cruse's survival. Cruse was transferred to White Memorial Hospital in Boyle Heights, where he died two days later, at the age of 23.

An investigation revealed that the two men had a history of posing as deputy sheriffs, using obsolete badges, and attempting to extort money from residents and businesses in the neighborhood. Shortly before visiting the Conner house, the two men stole $50 from a soft drink parlor.

Two months after Cruse's death, the gunman was captured in Seattle, and was brought back to Los Angeles to face murder charges. The gunman had a lengthy arrest record, and had served time in both San Quentin and Folsom state prisons during the previous 10 years for robbery and grand larceny. At the time of the Cruse shooting, he was on parole from San Quentin.

Cruse's killer was found guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison. He died in Folsom State Prison in September 1956, at the age of 79.

Arthur "Archie" Cruse was born in April 1899 in Bishop, in central California, near the Nevada border. His father was 29-year-old George Washington Cruse, who was born in Missouri and came to California to seek his fortune, and was working as a gold miner near Bishop when his son was born. His mother was 18-year-old Anna L. Cuddeback Cruse. Arthur was given the nickname "Archie" after his grandfather, Archibald Cruse, who died the year before Arthur was born. A second child, Velma, was born in 1903.

Anna Cruse died in September 1906, at the age of 26, and George Cruse moved to Los Angeles with his two young children, ages 7 and 3. He found work as a railroad conductor, and married Mary J. Allen.

Archie Cruse enlisted in the Army during World War I, and served in Germany. When he returned from his military service, he joined the LAPD on Dec. 19, 1921. Four months later, on April 18, 1922, he married Martha Madonna Croff, on the bride's 20th birthday. The newlyweds moved into a house on South Berendo Street, just north of Pico Boulevard.

After the death of her husband of less than one year, Martha married Custer Hawley, and they had four children. Hawley died in 1952, and she died in 1971, at the age of 68.

Cruse's sign is located on the east side of Towne Avenue, between 5th and 6th streets



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