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August 6, 1918: Police officer John Callahan is shot and killed

On this day in Duluth in 1918, DPD Police officer John Callahan was shot and killed by a burglary suspect he was pursuing in Duluth’s Bowery. Callahan had responded to reports of robberies at two downtown jewelry stores, the first at 1:30 a.m., and had cornered suspect Levi W. Turbell at the corner of 5th Avenue West and Michigan Street at about 2:15 a.m. after street cleaner Joe Dalinski alerted him to the second robbery. Callahan had chased Turbell down Michigan from 4th Avenue West. When Turbell reached 5th Avenue, the Duluth News Tribune reported, he “headed toward the railroad tracks and opened fire on the officer.” The first shot apparently hit Callahan “above the heart,” and he dropped to his knees where he “continued firing until his revolver was empty.” Turbell ran along the tracks until he was spotted by Special Officer W. J. Swanson, who fired several shots, wounding Turbell in the leg. A patrolman named Sundberg later found Turbell walking along Lake Avenue, where he was apprehended. Callahan, meanwhile, had been taken to St. Luke’s hospital, where he died. Turbell, a native of Spokane, Washington, had just arrived in Duluth that day. Callahan was 33 years old, a seven-year veteran of the DPD, and he had recently taken the sergeant’s test and was expecting a promotion. The community came together to raise money for his widow, with the News Tribune setting up a relief fund. Her husband’s pension came to $8.75 per week for 300 weeks, plus funeral expense of $100, a total of $2,734, less than $42,000 in today’s dollars. It took the jury just 3.5 hours to find Turbell guilty; he was sentenced to life in prison.

A sketch of the Duluth Police Department’s patrolman badge first issued in 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)