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 Clyde A. May, Policeman

Clyde A. May

Thursday, February 28, 1907



May, Clyde A.

Rank: Policeman

Serial Number: Unknown

Division: University Division

Location: 665 E. Adams Blvd at Presbyterian
Church

Date Killed: Thursday, February 28, 1907

Cause of Death: Shot by a Burglary Suspect

Bio: At the onset of 1907, San Francisco,
California's largest city, reeled and struggled to recover from the
cataclysmic April 18, 1906 earthquake. Los Angeles meanwhile, was
still a modest city with a population of around 275,000. However,
the reverberation of the devastating earthquake would soon be felt
as displaced Japanese residents, would flee the devastation of San
Francisco and migrate to Los Angeles, altering the landscape and
enhancing the culture of the soon to burgeon city of angels.
Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States and
forty-five states comprised the union.

Clyde A. May, a Los Angeles Police Department patrolman and Spanish
American War veteran would marry his fiancé Dolly L. Shepardson, on
January 3, 1907. The couple lived at 2139 ½ South Los Angeles
Street, in today's Newton Division. Tragically, in less than two
months, Clyde A. May would become the first Los Angeles police
officer to be killed in the line of duty, when he died on February
28, 1907, following a shootout with a burglary suspect.

Clyde A. May was born in April 1879 in Olive, Michigan to Frank and
Clara May. Frank was a farmer, like his father before him, while
his wife Clarrie, kept house. The couple had three sons, Ora, Clyde
and Charles H. May. Unfortunately for the May family, Frank, the
family patriarch died before 1900.

On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine mysteriously exploded in
Havana harbor resulting in 266 U.S. deaths. Within two months, the
United States declared war on Spain. With this declaration,
thousands of young men enlisted, including Theodore Roosevelt, who
was then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Like so many others,
Clyde A. May enlisted and joined the 30th Michigan regiment where
by 1900 he was stationed in Atomonan, Philippines, some 100 miles
southeast of Manila. May served for nearly four years as a courier
and saw combat against the native insurgents who were looking to
oust the United States.

In 1906, Clyde May joined the Los Angeles Police Department and was
assigned to University Division, which was then located at 825 West
Jefferson Boulevard. By then, his brothers and mother had also
moved to Los Angeles, where Clyde's older brother, Ora, also joined
the LAPD. May's military experience made him a capable patrolman
and his commanding officer, Captain Avery J. Bradish, soon assigned
him to work a night watch plain clothes detail in the southern part
of the city. Following a rash of burglaries and street robberies in
January 1907, Chief Edward Kern issued an edict, ordering patrolmen
to stop and detain anyone out after midnight without legitimate
business.

The early morning of February 3, 1907, was cool and cloudy by Los
Angeles standards, as temperatures dipped into the lower forties
and a light wind swept across the city. Around 12:45 a.m. Patrolman
May and his partner John M. Hoover walked eastbound on Adams at San
Pedro Street, when they observed a man later identified as William
J. Ross walking westbound from Central Avenue. Ross closely matched
the description of a burglary suspect who together with a cohort
had been loitering on the porch of a citizen's residence at 222
East Jefferson Boulevard some two hours earlier. As Ross drew
nearer, Patrolman May pulled back his overcoat and flashed his star
shaped badge while identifying himself as a police officer.

Patrolmen Hoover and May asked the suspect what he was doing out in
the early hours of the morning. The suspect angrily replied that
his name was Ross and he was coming from around the corner. Without
warning, Ross stepped into the street and armed himself with a
revolver he had carried in his coat pocket. As May tried to seize
the revolver, Ross broke away and quickly fired a shot that struck
May at the base of his neck just atop his left shoulder. As May
fell, Ross turned towards Hoover and fired two more rounds. Hoover
deftly ducked and drew his own revolver firing twice at Ross. One
of Hoover's shots caught the would be cop killer squarely between
the eyes,leaving Ross dead before he fell to the ground.

The shooting occurred directly in front of the 3rd Presbyterian
Church, whose original building is still in existence at 665 East
Adams Boulevard. A citizen heard the gunfire and came running to
investigate. He later stated that as he charged to the scene, a
second individual ran by him and jumped on-board a passing street
trolley. Police surmised that this was Ross' partner in crime. May
was seriously wounded but awake. He was transported to Clara Barton
Hospital then located at the intersection of Olive and Pico
Boulevard. Surgeons worked through the morning and prolonged May's
life, as they desperately sought to find the wayward bullet that
had gravely injured Patrolman May.

The suspect was later identified as William J. Ross, from Kansas
City, Missouri. Ross was from a good home and his father was a
justice of the peace. Ross was a trained carpenter and cabinet
maker who had arrived in Los Angeles the previous year. He took to
drinking in the saloons that littered east First Street and his
life spiraled downward from there. In his pocket, police
investigators found twenty cartridges and a rolled up felt hat. At
the time of his death, Ross wore a small cap on his head and two
different shirts. Police noted he could easily change his
appearance with the change of hats and removal of one shirt.
Lastly, they found a skeleton key that would open most simple door
locks.

May was young and vibrant. As his health improved over the next
week, May was sent home to his south Los Angeles residence to
recover.For several weeks May's health seemed to improve. As
February wound down, May's condition suddenly worsened and he was
hospitalized with severe abdominal pain. Doctors took X-rays of May
hoping to find the bullet, but their efforts were futile. May's
condition worsened and he died on February 28, 1907, twenty-five
days after being shot. His brother Patrolman O. H. May, brother
Charles H. and new wife Dolly were at his bedside when he
died.

Clyde A. May was 27-years-old at the time of his death. His service
was held at Pierce Brothers Funeral home on south Flower Street.
Fifty uniformed officers led the procession and the wagon carrying
the dozens of floral arrangements, was said to have been
overburdened by the flowers' weight. May's pall bearers included
Captain Walter Auble, a former chief of police, who would also die
in the line of duty in September 1908. Joining Auble was Captain
Avery J. Bradish, May's commanding officer along with Lieutenants
William Murray and George Williams. An additional hundred uniformed
officers dressed in their dark uniform coats and stove pipe patrol
hats followed behind the hearse.



The procession proceeded from Flower and Seventh Streets to north
Broadway, where it continued to First Street. There May's body was
transported to Evergreen Cemetery. At graveside, a firing squad
from the California National Guard gave the Spanish American War
veteran a gun salute. A bugler somberly played Taps as the
afternoon faded away.


Lieutenant J. A. Macias, #27710


LAPD Fallen Officers Badge

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