END OF WATCH: January 21, 1964
Lorain County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Palermo and Auxiliary Deputy Kubuske were on a routine pick-up ordered by the Lorain County Probate Court, of a mental patient. The court warrant stated 35 year old, Elbert Rush was to be transferred to Tiffin State Hospital.
Rush’s father, Eugene, signed the warrant for his son to be committed. Arriving at the home, the deputies were met at the door by the son, who immediately began screaming, “I’m not going back to Cuyahoga Falls.” This was a reference to Rush having been voluntarily committed to Summit County Receiving Hospital no less than five times.
Deputy Palermo tried to convince Rush he was not going to return to Cuyahoga Falls, but Rush kept shouting. Finally, Palermo asked Rush to get his coat and assured him that nobody was going to hurt him. Rush darted into a bedroom, Palermo kicked the door open and was met by Rush armed with a revolver. Trying to reason with him, Palermo said, “Now we don’t need that gun, We aren’t going to hurt you.” Rush fired two shots into Deputy Palermo.
Deputy Kubuske, an unarmed auxiliary, dashed off the porch into a snowbank, hearing five more shots. One of the bullets hit Palermo’s right shoulder and another passed through his heart, lodging in his left arm. Palermo staggered out of the house clutching his chest and fell near his cruiser. Palermo looked up at Kubuske and said, “I don’t want to die.” He then took a deep breath and died.
Elbert Rush fired wildly at other deputies and a gathering crowd as he darted several times onto his front porch, flourishing his revolver. Nobody was hit. Finally, Rush was routed from the house with tear gas and wrestled to the ground by two deputies trying to arrest him. He was finally subdued by seven deputies. Sheriff Smith said the crowd threatened to riot. Some, because they resented the seven-to-one odds against Rush, and others, because they considered the deputies “yellow-bellies” for not killing Rush. Shotgun-wielding deputies dispersed the crowd of about three hundred.
Elbert Rush was treated for his injuries and transported to Tiffin State Hospital.
Deputy Palermo was on lay-off from his regular job. His widow stated, “It was just yesterday he went to the Sheriff’s Office and notified them he was available for duty calls. I guess that’s why he was called today, they needed a man.”
Palermo was in the Army Medics ten years at Walter Reed Hospital and he competed in cross-country track in high school and later enjoyed hunting, bowling, archery and guns. He was a member of Local 925 Allied Industrial Workers.
His widow Elizabeth described her husband as “gentle and kind.” She believed his training as a medic helped him never to get excited. He was always saying, “Take it easy.” She thought John had taken the take-it-easy attitude in this case. If he had been tougher in his talk, he might have lived.
Deputy Palermo was survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughter Louise, and two sisters.
John Palermo’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 44, west wall, line 11.
By Norm Drew, Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society