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Officer Vernon Oliver Dinsmore
(Aug. 14, 1899 Nov. 4, 1922)


Officer Vernon Oliver Dinsmore, 23, a member of the Los Angeles Police Department for only eight months, was walking his beat near 1st Street and Central Avenue just before dawn on Saturday, Nov. 4, 1922, when he heard the shouts of a night watchman, H.A. Rude.

Rude had seen a man steal two bottles of milk from a wagon in front of a store, and was chasing the man south on Central. As Rude was shouting at the man to stop, Dinsmore joined the chase, and caught the man near the intersection of Central and 3rd Street. The man admitted taking the milk, and asked Dinsmore if he could go to his room at a nearby boarding house, to get some money and some of his possessions before he was taken to jail.

Dinsmore agreed, and he and Rude escorted the man to the boarding house at 817 E. 3rd St. As the three men walked up the stairs, Dinsmore was holding tight on the man's arm. The man struggled with Dinsmore, forcing the officer to hit him several times with his billy club until the man eventually agreed to calm down and cooperate.

Once inside the room, the man opened the drawer of a dresser, grabbed a .32-caliber automatic pistol hidden beneath some papers, and fired one shot at Dinsmore, hitting him in the chest.

The man then pushed Rude to the floor and ran past him, down the stairs and out of the boarding house. Rude grabbed the fallen officer's pistol from his holster and chased the man, firing several shots, but didn't hit him. Hearing the shots, another resident of the boarding house called police. Dinsmore was pronounced dead at the scene, with a bullet through his heart.

Vernon Dinsmore was born Aug. 14, 1899, in Culver, Indiana, a small town in the northern part of the state, located on the shore of Lake Maxinkuckee. He was the middle of three children born to Alexander Dinsmore, a carpenter, and Mary Green Dinsmore. Vernon's older brother, Arthur, was born in 1891, and his younger sister, Mildred, was born in 1901.

In 1902, when Vernon was 3 years old, his mother died. Vernon and Arthur remained at home with their father, while Mildred was sent to live with James and Carrie Price on their farm in Argos, Indiana, a few miles away.

In about 1907, Alexander Dinsmore, 46 years old and working as a farmer, married Laura Thornburg, a 43-year-old widow with three children. The following year, Arthur Dinsmore enlisted in the U.S. Army.

As soon as he was old enough, Vernon Dinsmore followed his older brother into military service. During World War I, Dinsmore served in the U.S. Navy, on the battleship U.S.S. Georgia. In 1917, when the U.S. entered the war, the Georgia was used to train naval recruits on the East Coast and as a convoy escort. After bringing soldiers back from France in 1918-19, the Georgia was transferred to the Pacific Fleet in 1920, based first in San Diego, then sent for maintenance to the Mare Island Navy Yard north of San Francisco in Vallejo, California.

At the end of his military service, Dinsmore remained in California, moving to Los Angeles and joining the LAPD in April 1921.

After Dinsmore's death, LAPD Chief Louis Oaks described him as "a particularly fine type of officer. ... His work was of a character to reflect great credit onto the police department."

Dinsmore's killer, a 53-year-old German immigrant, was captured about four hours after the shooting, at the Santa Fe Railroad yard, as he was attempting to hop on a freight train bound for Pomona, California. He was charged with murder, and admitted that he killed Dinsmore, but said he was afraid that Dinsmore was going to kill him, and he was dazed after Dinsmore had struck him several times with his billy club.

The trial started in March 1923, and was described by some newspapers as the "Milk Bottle Murder Case." Dinsmore's killer repeated his claim that he was afraid Dinsmore was going to kill him, so he grabbed his pistol and shot the officer in self-defense. After the trial, the jury deliberated for about eight hours before finding him guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to death. After the verdict, the killer attempted suicide at least twice while in custody -- once by slashing his wrists with a razor blade, and once by banging his head against the wall of his cell.

Dinsmore's killer was originally scheduled to be hanged at San Quentin State Prison on Friday, April 18, 1924, but California Gov. Friend Richardson postponed the execution because the date was Good Friday, and the execution was re-scheduled for April 25. On that date, 30 minutes before the scheduled execution, San Quentin Warden James Johnston informed the condemned man that he had been granted a reprieve so that the U.S. Supreme Court could consider his appeal.

The killer's defense and appeals were financed by the National League for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. After all appeals were exhausted, and Richardson denied a request for clemency, Dinsmore's killer was hanged at San Quentin on Sept. 10, 1926.

Dinsmore's body was sent back to Indiana, where he was buried in Poplar Grove Cemetery, in his hometown of Culver, where his parents, step-mother and younger sister are also buried. His older brother, Arthur, is buried in Indianapolis.

Officer Dinsmore's sign is located on the northeast corner of East 3rd Street and South Central Avenue.



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