Turnkey John J. Lanahan

Fallen HeroTurnkey John J. Lanahan  

On this day in Baltimore Police History 3 July 1919 we lost our Brother - Police  Officer John J. Lanahan to gunfire based on the following:


Newspapers of the times reported on; 4 July 1919; pg. 14

Turnkey John J. Lanahan, 57 years old, of the Central Police Station, whose home is at 2028 Robb St. Northeast Baltimore, was shot to death at 8:55 o'clock yesterday morning [3 July 1919] by Frank Wozniak, 31 years old, an unnaturalized Russian pole, who the night before burglarized the office of the American railway express Company's office at Sudbrook, on the Western Maryland Railroad.

The murder of Turnkey Lannahan happened before the eyes of Lieut. W. F. Klinefelter and patrolman Crass and Traupe had taken Wozniak to the Police Station for examination as to his possession of watches and jewelry. Which he was trying to dispose of to a Harrison Street secondhand dealer.

Two shots were fired by the Pole, one entering Turnkey Lanahan's breast and the other going through the open window of a petition and lodging into a plastered wall of the signal operator's office.

Headquarters Detective J. F. Dougherty, of the homicide squad, in making an investigation after the shooting, obtained information indicating that Wozniak fired the shots with the idea of affecting his escape after realizing that imprisonment was unavoidable.

Slayer admits Robberies

The Pole was questioned yesterday afternoon by Capt. A. L. League, of the Central District, and he admitted that for several weeks he had gone out on thieving expeditions.

He confessed that he went to the Sudbrook Station Wednesday night, broke into the office and rifled express packages, seeking money and or jewelry. He made his escape with two boxes containing watches and when he attempted to sell the watches yesterday Patrolman Crass arrested him. Crass did not call for the patrol wagon, and as the prisoner offered no resistance he walked him to the police station.

Wozniak was before the desk in the usual manner and there was nothing in his attitude to indicate that he contemplated either escape or attack. He gave his name, age, and the address of 1637 Eastern Ave. He said later, however, that he had not lived at the Eastern Avenue address for several weeks and his statement was verified by police of the Eastern district.

Lieut. Kleinfelder called turnkey Lannahan, and in his usual jovial, sympathetic manner Lannahan approached the prisoner.

"Come, my boy, that's me see what you've got," said the turnkey as he raised Wozniak's hand and started to feel the pockets of his coat. At this juncture patrolman crass was standing a few feet from the prisoner and Patrolman Ttraupe was standing at the entrance to the core door leading to the lockup. Patrolman Kerns and Kelly, housemen, were behind the desk and Capt. League was at his desk.

Backs away and fires

As Turnkey Lannahan raised his hands Wozniak backed away a pace, drew a pistol from his right hip pocket and fired two shots. One bullet struck the turnkey and the other the wall. Crass and Troupe pounced upon Wozniak and Capt. League withdrew a pistol, ran from his desk. The prisoner was beaten into helplessness and was dragged away. His arms were held by four policemen.

The pistol was taken from his hand and a second weapon was taken from his pocket. 20 bullets were found in another pocket. The central ambulance was on a call, but no time was lost getting turnkey Lannahan to mercy hospital. Policemen carried him to the automobile of Frank H. Cook, 318 North Charles St., and Mr. cook sped to mercy hospital. Dr. Eustace H. Allen, of the surgical staff, pronounced turnkey Lannahan dead. The bullet penetrated his heart, causing internal hemorrhage.

Had it not been for the manner in which Wozniak was overpowered by patrolman troupe and Crass, the murderer of the turnkey would have been shot by Capt. League. The prisoner was badly mauled and he was taken to Mercy hospital to have his injuries attended. After being returned to the police station he was questioned.

Statement made by Paul

"I am a native of Wienstow, Russian Poland, and I have no relatives in this country," was told Capt. League, "I came here in 1914 and landed at New York, where I lived for several months, later I went to Cumberland Maryland and I have worked on farms in Western Maryland. I came to Baltimore two years ago but never had any regular home here. I used to stop at the home of a friend on Eastern Avenue, near Broadway, I am a member of no organization and I have never taken out any form of naturalization papers. I can't say why I shot the man and don't know why I pulled the pistol from my pocket."

Jewelry was found in Wozniak's pocket and he admitted that he had robbed homes in the neighborhood of back River. He also said that he formally was employed at a South Baltimore shipbuilding plant. Questioned about the burglary at Sudbrook station by the postal inspector Brill, Wozniak said that he went to the station Wednesday night and entered the place by breaking open a window. He got to boxes of watches, consigned by a New York firm to Robert Corbett and son at Pikesville.

Marshall Carter and members of the police board were shocked when they heard of the murder of turnkey Lannahan. Gen. Riggs and police Commissioner E. F. Burke are cognizant of the work required of a turnkey because of their visits to the police stations at night. Gen. Riggs often has witnessed the difficulties experienced by turnkeys and footmen of patrols in the handling of prisoners.

Turnkey Lannahan was regarded as one of the most efficient turnkeys in the department. He was known particularly because of his kindness consideration for prisoners, and he always tried to cheer them and make things as easy as possible for them while in his custody. He was appointed to the department 19 years ago. He had been one of the alternating turnkeys at the central police station for seven years. He is survived by his widow Mrs. Mary Lannahan: two sons, who are in the armed forces of the United States, and two daughters.

States attorney Harry W nice, coroner W. T. Reilly of the Central District, an assistant state's attorney Siegel conducted the inquest held at the central police station last night. The witnesses included Lieut. W. F. Kleinfelder, Patrolman Crass, troupe, turns and Kelly all of the central district, and Dr. H. J. Mauled perform postmortem examination. He told the jury that the bullet caused internal hemorrhaging and that it struck the turnkey's heart and left lung.

The jury, of which John A. McDivitt, was foreman, found that "turnkey Jay. Jay. Lanahan came to his death on 3 July 1919 at 9 AM from a gunshot wound at the hand of Frank Wozniak." Comments were prepared and Wozniak was committed to jail pending his trial in the criminal court. Wozniak was brought before the jury, but he said, "he was in no condition to make a statement."

Because of the seriousness of the crime states attorney nice declared that the case would be set for trial early in September and that no delay would interfere.

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More Details

End of Watch July 3, 1919
City, St. Central District, Cell Block
Panel Number 25-E: 1
Cause of Death Gunfire
Weapon - Handgun
District Worked Central

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