Downtown Los Angeles header image
Los Angeles Police Department Badge

Official Site of The LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT


 John Fitzgerald, Detective Sergeant

John Fitzgerald

Saturday, June 18, 1921



Fitzgerald, John

Rank: Detective Sergeant

Serial Number: Unknown

Division: Unknown

Location: 2392 W 13th St

Date Killed: Saturday, June 18, 1921

Cause of Death: Shot by a Narcotics Suspect

Bio: As the spring of 1921 waned, the population
of Los Angeles continued to grow rapidly having surpassed the 750
thousand mark. The Los Angeles Police Department was comprised of
705 employees, including Chief Lyle Pendegast, who served as chief
from 1920 through 1921. Central Station, the department's
headquarters was located at 318-328 West 1st Street. In addition,
there were seven separate substations, including University
Division, which was situated at 825 West Jefferson Boulevard. It
was here that Detective John J. Fitzgerald was assigned to work
burglary rings and pickpocket details.

John J. Fitzgerald was born inTralee Kerry County, Ireland on June
16, 1880. He immigrated to the United States in 1903 and made his
way to Los Angeles with his wife Margaret. On April 6, 1907,
Fitzgerald joined the Los Angeles Police Department. At nearly six
feet tall and weighing 235 pounds, Fitzgerald was powerfully built
and well suited for a career in law enforcement. Fitzgerald and his
wife Margaret would have two children, Patricia, born around 1913
and a son, John, born in 1915. The family lived at 1131 East 57th
Street, in today's Newton Division.

John excelled in law enforcement and quickly made detective
sergeant in 1909, where he began investigating pick pockets in the
downtown area. In 1912, he overpowered a would be bomber who
entered Central Station intent on blowing up the building.
Fitzgerald and two other detectives beat the suspect unconscious in
an effort to prevent him from detonating the bomb. By 1920, the 39
year old detective was a seasoned investigator with several
successful arrests to his record, including scores of burglars who
preyed on the many warehouses along the Los Angeles River.
Prohibition was in its nascent stage, having been enacted with the
18th Amendment's passing on January 16, 1919. Prohibition would
remain in place for a dozen more years before being repealed in
1933. With the onset of Prohibition, organized crime burgeoned to
deal with the lucrative business of bootlegging.

On June 18, 1921, Los Angeles detectives were involved in a raid at
2392 West 13th Street, following up on a lead involving a burglary
at the Hawley Drug Company located at 2753 West Pico Boulevard.
Some fifteen grams of morphine along with seventeen gallons of
alcohol were stolen. Several detectives including Detective
Sergeant Fitzgerald and inspectors from the State Pharmacology
Board, responded to the residence on 13th Street. Drugs, alcohol
and firearms were recovered from the home, which belonged to a man
named T. J. Farley. Police also had seven suspects in custody
believed to be involved in a burglary ring, which was suspected in
burglaries at the residences of two Hollywood movie stars.

Officers left the home and transported the seven suspects to
Central Station for questioning. Following the detectives'
departure from the home, a young career criminal arrived at the
home. Alert neighbors observed him and notified police officials
that an additional suspect was at the residence on 13th Street.
Detectives returned within an hour of departing but found the
suspect, Philip "Little Phil" Alguin gone. Detectives detained an
additional burglary suspect named Lazaro Medrano.

As Detective Fitzgerald grilled Medrano, he heard the creaking of
footsteps on the porch, followed by a light knock. Philip Alguin
had apparently returned perhaps unwittingly into the arms of
awaiting law enforcement officers. As Fitzgerald opened the front
door and looked out into the darkness, Medrano shouted a warning,
"Philly, Philly!" The quiet evening was suddenly shattered by the
blasts of several gunshots that lit up the porch. Fitzgerald ran
out the front door to chase his assailant while returning fire from
his own gun. Tragically, one round from Alguin's revolver struck
Fitzgerald on his 3rd vest button, just above the abdomen.
Fitzgerald pursued Alguin for several dozen feet before
collapsing.

Detective Fitzgerald was carried back to the residence on 13th
Street where an ambulance was summoned. He was transported to
Central Receiving Hospital directly across the street from Central
Station. His wife Margaret was summoned from her home and she
arrived at the hospital during the late hours of June 18, 1921.
Upon arrival, she walked into a waiting room filled with several
despondent officers. As Margaret clutched her two children Patricia
and John, she learned that her husband and father to the couple's
two kids was already dead. Overwhelmed with grief, Margaret
collapsed into the arms of several police officers.

A long and desperate manhunt began for Alguin, a three time
convicted felon who had served time at San Quentin and Folsom for
robbery and burglary. Alguin had just paroled on May 3, 1921.
Fitzgerald himself had arrested Alguin several years before in
1913. Several hundred officers scoured Los Angeles and Orange
Counties for the fugitive. The manhunt continued far and wide
across California as reports came in about Alguin's whereabouts,
all to no avail.

The Fitzgerald's front yard on east 57th Street was completely
covered by the dozens of floral arrangements sent to the family.
Services were held on Wednesday, June 22, 1921, at St. Patrick's
Catholic Church which today is located across the street from
Newton Police Station. The church was filled as a thousand more
mourners spilled onto east 32nd Street, just west of Central
Avenue. Among the pall bearers were officers Frank Beaumont, Frank
Roberts and Thomas Beigler. Two thousand automobiles comprised the
funeral procession. Detective Sergeant John J. Fitzgerald was
buried at Calvary Cemetery located at 4201 Whittier Boulevard in
East Los Angeles.

A continuing two year search would unfold as LAPD relentlessly
pursued Alguin. Chief of Police Lyle Pendegast ordered all
available officers summoned from their homes to hunt for the
suspect. Soon after the murder of Fitzgerald, Alguin hopped aboard
a train bound for El Paso, Texas, hiding between the cars before
crossing into Juarez, Mexico around June 21, 1921. He stayed there
briefly before crossing back into the United States and moving
constantly across the Midwest United States with a traveling
circus, where he worked as a clown. He eventually returned to
Juarez in September 1921, when word of his possible whereabouts
reached law enforcement officials in Los Angeles in September
1922.

By then, the reward for Alguin's arrest had ballooned to $6000, a
hefty sum in 1922. LAPD Chief Louis Oaks travelled to El Paso,
along with World War I hero Sam Dreben and a police captain from
the El Paso Police Department. Driven by a chauffeur, the group
traveled into Mexico upon learning of Alguin's incarceration in the
Juarez jail. Upon Alguin's release, the group led by Oaks,
attempted to kidnap Alguin and take him back into the United
States. A wild struggle unfolded during which they got Alguin into
a vehicle only to be turned back by a mob that rescued Alguin from
Oaks' clutches. Dreben shot Alguin in the process, grazing him on
the head.

Chief Oaks and his companions were held briefly in Juarez before
being released. As for Alguin, he was eventually detained and held
in a Chihuahua state prison until Mexican officials decided what to
do with the fugitive. Political intrigue would follow as efforts
were made to extradite Alguin to Los Angeles. Future Mexican
President Plutarco Calles sought to extradite a political enemy
from the United States in exchange for Alguin. Eventually, the
Mexican government established that Alguin was born in Arizona,
thus making him a United States citizen. On February 6, 1923,
Alguin was placed aboard a freighter called the Freeport Sulpher
No. 6, bound for Galveston, Texas.

Chief Louis Oaks accompanied by various Texas law enforcement
officials, road a ferry and met the freighter at sea. Alguin was
delivered to Oaks and on February 9, 1923, Oaks and a second LAPD
officer left for Los Angeles with Alguin in their custody via the
Sunset Limited Train. During the trip, Alguin was fed well and
opened up to Oaks, recounting the shooting and his flight from
justice. Oaks would state that Alguin was well behaved explaining,
"I never had a better prisoner in my life."

The 28-year-old Alguin would eventually be found guilty of
Detective Sergeant Fitzgerald's murder and was sentenced to life in
prison in October 1923. He was foiled in an escape attempt from
Folsom prison on October 29, 1923. In 1936, he was tried and
convicted for a second murder he committed while fleeing from the
shooting of Detective Sergeant Fitzgerald and was given a second
life term. Alguin purportedly killed his second victim to take the
man's hat for use as a disguise. Alguin sought parole during the
1940's but was turned down every time. In 1953, Alguin was offered
parole on the condition he allow for his deportation to Mexico,
which he readily accepted.

"_blank">On September 15, 2011, while at a ceremony at LAPD
headquarters, John J. Fitzgerald's grandson, accepted the first
issued Los Angeles Police Department Purple Heart on behalf of his
grandfather, who was killed in the line of duty 90 years before to
the year.

Lieutenant J. A. Macias, #27710

LAPD Fallen Officers Badge

INTERESTING FACTS