END OF WATCH: December 1, 1919
Cleveland Police Department
William C. Isaac, an amateur baseball player and nephew of a former Lieutenant (Albert Isaac, now retired), was appointed to the police force on May 11, 1906. Serving as a patrolman for six years, he was then appointed to the Detective Bureau and later to the Vice Squad where he remained until being promoted to Sergeant in 1918. He had just celebrated his first year anniversary as Sergeant.
Early Monday morning on December 1, 1919, Sergeant Isaac and Patrolman John V. Masterson were on rounds and entered Coleman’s Saloon at 5208 Euclid Avenue through the side door. As they entered, they noticed three men in the kitchen. Sgt. Isaac led the way and ordered Patrolman Masterson to search the men. One of the men was seated and the other two were standing, one with his back to the sink. As Masterson started the search, the one with his back to the sink tried to slip a revolver into the sink. Sgt. Isaac started toward him ordering him to turn the gun over. The gunman fired two shots, one striking Isaac, sending him staggering into Patrolman Masterson’s arms. The impact of Isaac’s weight dropped Masterson to his knees.
As Patrolman Masterson tried to rise, the three men fled from a second door leading to a yard then ran through an alley to Prospect Avenue. Masterson called in and reported Isaac’s shooting. Sergeant Newgerbauer received the call at 12:20 p.m. Masterson said the last sound he had heard from Isaac was at 12:10 p.m. Newgerbauer notified the Detective Bureau of the shooting and immediately sent a man to the scene.
Isaac was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he died within a few minutes without regaining consciousness. Sergeant William C. Isaac was the third Cleveland policeman shot and killed in the line of duty that year and the fourth to be slain within a year.
A patron witnessed the shooting and ran to a police station at E. 25th and Perkins providing the names and addresses of the men who fled. Apparently the men ran all the way to an E. 22nd Street address.
Using the witness’ tip, the East 22nd Street house was surrounded by detectives who entered a rear door with revolvers drawn. Two of the three men surrendered without resistance and the third man dashed out the front door and was captured. The apprehensions occurred within an hour after the shooting.
The captured man was identified as 33 year old, Carl Iverson of 2112 East 22nd Street. He was formally booked on two charges of murder.
The others were identified as James Walsh and Earl Moore and were held as material witnesses.
These arrests were being linked to a gang of safe robbers and bandits that had been operating in the city for several weeks. James Walsh had been arrested November 12, 1919 and immediately released on bail. He had a criminal record and both Moore and Iverson admitted knowing with whom Walsh worked.
An abandoned car recovered outside the saloon was traced to Iverson. Iverson denied doing the shooting despite Moore’s and Walsh’s statements saying he had. An overcoat containing a revolver and flashlight found by Police in the yard where the gunmen fled the night of the shooting were said to belong to Iverson, but he continued to deny doing the shooting. Iverson’s wife claimed he was home helping with the children at the time of the shooting and that a “missing” man had escaped just prior to the police arrival and that this man had shot Isaac.
It was discovered the trio robbed George Waechter in his saloon at 500 Literary Road hours before and it appeared they planned to rob Coleman when he closed his saloon. Coleman stated he had $1200 and they were probably after it.
An autopsy performed on Isaac revealed a bullet passed through his intestine in several places and lodged in his spine. The bullet was from a .38 caliber revolver and was similar to the bullet found in the wall of the Saloon as well as those found in the revolver from the coat found near the scene.
Iverson stated he came from McKeesport, PA. And worked at a steel mill in Braddock. He came to Cleveland because of the steel strike and had started to work at Otis Steel Company. He also worked periodically at a lunch counter in Acme Hall.
Chief Smith now had a legitimate argument in Isaac’s shooting to justify police action being taken to halt men being brought into the city to work in the steel mills. An increase in the detective bureau’s members was being planned to combat gun-toting individuals and to run down criminals. An all-out effort was made to make the city safer for everyone.
On February 1, 1920, Iverson committed suicide in the county jail while his trial was in progress.
On February 7, 1920, Walsh pled guilty to robbery and was sentenced to the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.
On February 7, 1920, Moore also pled guilty to robbery on and was given an indeterminate sentence in the Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus, Ohio.
Sergeant William C. Isaac was survived by his wife, Jessie, a son Clarence, and a daughter, Jessie, his mother, Mrs. Henrietta Taylor, two sisters, Mrs. Herbert Green and Mrs. Al Jansen, and three brothers, Elmer, Clayton and Roy, all from Cleveland.
Mrs. Isaac stated that she knew when she heard shots in her sleep that something terrible had happened. She stated, “He never used a pistol in all his police career. He never sent anyone else into a place of danger. He always went in first.” Chief Smith stated, “There was no better Sergeant on the force than Sgt. Isaac.”
William C. Isaac’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 53, west wall, line 4.
By Recruit Kevin Freeman, Cleveland Police Academy