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Paul Coates -- Confidential File, April 23, 1959

April 23, 2009 |  2:00 pm

April 23, 1959, Dear Nikita


Underworld Eyes Bounty on a Killer

Paul_coatesAs one who, from time to time, chronicles the grim game of cops and robbers, I have always believed implicitly that the underworld has a First Commandment:

"Never kill a cop."

And I have believed, too, that if the commandment is broken, law enforcement officers everywhere become relentless, dedicated avengers.

They never rest until the transgressor gets his.

Twenty-one months ago yesterday, a couple of El Segundo police officers were shot down in cold blood by a psychopathic killer.

Both victims were married and had families.

The twin slayings ignited one of the biggest manhunts in local history. All of California was outraged.

Within days, hundreds of suspects were picked up, questioned and released.

The newspaper played it big. For a couple of weeks, anyway.

April 23, 1959, Khrushchev Editorial But nobody got his.

 And, as time passed, I wondered if I'd been wrong.

Maybe, after all, the avengers had short memories.

Tuesday, Sheriff Pete Pitchess and El Segundo Police Chief Tom DeBerry announced the posting of a $5,000 reward for the killer.

And I knew I'd been right the first time.

In addition to the reward, Pitchess and DeBerry said they are sending 15,000 wanted circulars to enforcement agencies in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Hawaii.

They feel confident that someone, somewhere knows the killer and knows about his crime.

They hope the $5,000 buys this knowledge.

Yesterday, I talked to Lt. Tom Farrell of the Sheriff's Department.

"That's a pretty big reward," I said.

"We meant it to be," he replied.

"Where's the money coming from?" I wanted to know.

Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo put up $2,000, the Los Angeles Peace Officers Protective Assn. put up $1,000, Hughes Tool of El Segundo donated $550, the El Segundo Peace Officers Assn. pledged $500, the Peace Officers Assn. of Los Angeles County put up $500, Standard Oil in El Segundo donated $250, and North American Aviation in El Segundo added another $200.

"The reward," he added, "will stand for at least one year."

And I hope someone collects it.

April 23, 1959, Mirror Cover A lot of policemen and the wives of the dead officers hope so, too.

With them, it's probably pretty much of a personal thing.

And perfectly understandable.

Hunt the Man Down

But there's another side.

The guy who shoots a policeman is a deadly, dangerous menace.

Quite obviously he'd have no compunction about killing an ordinary, unarmed citizen.

And it's a frightening thing to know that a man like that is running around loose.

That's why I'm glad their fellow officers remember Richard A. Philips and Milton Curtis, the two dead policemen.

I hope they never forget.