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Officer Thomas Joseph Kronschnabel
(Dec. 22, 1879 Dec. 15, 1916)


Thomas J. Kronschnabel was one of the LAPD's first motorcycle officers -- then called "speed officers" -- and one of the city's first officers to be killed in the line of duty.

Born in Minnesota, Kronschnabel moved to California and joined the LAPD on Nov. 2, 1904. Eight years later, he passed the exam for the department's "speed squad," and became a motorcycle officer.

On Dec. 15, 1916, Kronschnabel attempted to pull over a car for erratic driving near the intersection of 23rd and Main streets, south of downtown Los Angeles. The car slowed to a stop, and the driver leaned out the window, pointed a gun at Kronschnabel, and fired one shot before speeding off. The bullet hit Kronschnabel's right shoulder, passed through both lungs, and lodged on his left side, just above his hip. Kronschnabel fell from his motorcycle, and died at the scene, a week before his 37th birthday.

What Kronschnabel didn't know when he attempted to make the traffic stop was that the driver of the car had just kidnapped a 13-year-old girl, and she was tied up, blindfolded and hidden under a blanket in the back seat of the car. After the shooting, the driver stopped, let the girl out, and told her that he had mistaken her for someone else.

By the time the LAPD identified the shooter, nearly two years later, he was serving a 20-year sentence in Pennsylvania for another murder, and the state refused to send him back to California to be tried for the death of Kronschnabel until he had served his sentence in Pennsylvania. The LAPD waited, but they never forgot.

When the killer was released in 1939, the LAPD was waiting outside the prison gates. He was immediately arrested, and brought back to Los Angeles, where he was tried and found guilty of kidnapping and murder, and sentenced to life in prison. He died in Folsom State Prison in 1946.

Kronschnabel was survived by his wife, Florence, and their 4-year-old daughter, Marion.

Kronschnabel is buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery.

Kronschnabel's sign is located on the southwest corner of West 24th and South Hill streets, near the location where he was fatally shot.

For the full story of the shooting, the investigation, and the capture of Kronschnabel's killer, click here.



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