Patrolman Martin Kunkel | Cincinnati Police Department

Age: 32
Served: 5 years
1873 to January 24, 1878

 

BACKGROUND

About 3:30 a.m. on January 23, 1878, George Walker, a Cincinnati Enquirer employee, noticed a suspicious man standing in front of a physician’s residence at 30 Everett Street. Patrolmen James Farley and John Meyers, of the Oliver Street Station, ran that beat. Mr. Walker found the officers and reported his suspicions.

The patrolmen approached the suspicious man from opposite ends of Everett Street. Meyers arrived first with his revolver in hand, down at his side, when he heard a voice from behind a tree tell him, “Stand back or I’ll blow your brains out.” Meyers froze and the man came from behind the tree, walked up to him with the muzzle pointed at his face and said, “If you move your hand, I’ll shoot you dead.” Two other men ran from 30 Everett Street with pistols cocked.

Soon, Patrolman Farley arrived and was similarly surprised when two revolvers came from the darkness and appeared under his nose. The patrolmen were given a choice – flee or die. They fled.

When they were a distance away they blew their whistles for assistance. Patrolman Hunneman and Haller heard the call and responded, but too late to capture the burglars.

Later that day, the Board of Police Commissioners, in executive session, charged Patrolmen Farley and Meyers with Cowardice and summarily discharged them.

 

PATROLMAN KUNKEL’S MURDER

Just before 4 a.m. the next morning, January 24, 1878, four men were attempting to break into a home at 153 Dayton Street (now possibly 453 Dayton Street). A neighbor saw them and threw a flower pot to the ground from a 2nd floor window which alerted other neighbors. When a few men ran to see where the noise had come from, they were confronted by the four armed burglars who fired at them. The citizens ran for their lives west toward Linn Street.

At this time, Patrolman Kunkel, also of the Oliver Street Station, had been patrolling the east end of his beat which ran between Bank and York Streets from Linn Street to the Mill Creek. At Linn Street he met Sub-Patrolman T. J. Daugherty and Patrolman H. C. Davis who patrolled the east side of Linn Street. While they were talking, they heard the yelling and gunshots and saw the two men running toward and past them.

The officers ran to the source of the commotion on Dayton Street with Patrolman Kunkel in front by a short distance. The four burglars fired at the patrolmen and the patrolmen fired back in a running gun battle that continued eastward. Patrolman Kunkel’s .22 caliber Hopkins and Allen revolver misfired all three times as he pulled the trigger. Daugherty fired all his shots.

Though both were now effectively unarmed, they continued the pursuit of the heavily armed burglars. When Kunkel arrived at No. 82 Dayton Street, P. B. Armstrong’s residence, one of the burglars raised a Colt Army .45 Caliber revolver, deliberately aimed, and shot Patrolman Kunkel in the abdomen. Patrolman Kunkel threw up his hands and yelled, “My God! I’m shot!” and fell to the ground. The bullet had penetrated his abdomen and a lung and lodged in the spinal column.

The other two officers went to his aid and the shooters fled west on Dayton Street. Patrolman Kunkel was taken into the Armstrong residence. Medical assistance was requested, but he died before help could arrive.

PATROLMAN KUNKEL’S OBITUARY

Patrolman Kunkel was predeceased by his partner, Patrolman Anthony Kemper and his brother-in-law, Patrolman Frank Schneider. Patrolman Kemper had been murdered almost two years before. Patrolman Schneider had recently died leaving his wife and five children destitute. So, Patrolman Kunkel moved his wife and son in with his sister’s family at No. 2 Riddle Street and provided for both families.

He was survived by his wife, Mary (32), son, William (9), and his sister and her family. His funeral was held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 27, 1878, at St. Augustine’s Church, 923 Bank Street. Mourners crowded Bank Street from Linn to Baymiller in a pelting rain. Patrolman Kunkel was then escorted to St. John’s Cemetery in St. Bernard.

Mary remarried two years later to Bernard Willinger, a corrections officer at the Cincinnati Workhouse. She died two decades later and was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in St. Bernard.

 

THE MURDERERS

The murder investigation immediately focused on the “Everett Street Gang,” originally named after what was thought to be their first crimes on the 23rd. Further investigation revealed they were likely responsible also for previously reported burglaries in Mt. Auburn and at the northern end of Broadway.

For the entire day of the murder, the Police Department went out in force to canvass Cincinnati, Covington, and surrounding areas in order to locate the gang. Several suspects were detained for investigation. One was Dan Flannigan of 225 W. 6th Street.

During the next morning, January 25, 1878, Indianapolis City Marshal Manning was summoned by the conductor of a train outbound from Cincinnati. There were three men on his train that were similar in description to those wanted for the murder and who boarded the train fifteen miles outside of Cincinnati. After leaving Lawrenceburg, Indiana the conductor assigned a brakeman to sit and make conversation with them. He sat with a “John Davis” (alias for Dick Travis) who, by the time they made it to Indianapolis, lamented the death of the officer in Cincinnati, but did not actually admit to being involved in the killing.

Marshal Manning boarded the train, but the three became suspicious and got up to leave the car. Manning caught one called “The Kid” by the others (Alias of James Dougherty or Daugherty). A second pulled a revolver and Marshal Manning released Dougherty and struggled for the weapon, which discharged into the floor. The third man, identified as “Weaver” (alias for John Ryan), fired a shot at Manning. Fleeing passengers forced Manning through the door and all three suspects escaped and ran to a streetcar a few blocks away.

They hijacked the streetcar, then another, and drove that car out of the city until the horses dropped from exhaustion. The sheriff, police chief, and militia all responded and surrounded them in a barn six miles from that point. The gang threw out their weapons and gave up. The Indianapolis authorities agreed to postpone charges for trying to kill Marshal Manning until Patrolman Kunkel’s case was resolved in Cincinnati. Upon their return to Cincinnati, they registered as John Davis, Frank Weaver, and Joseph Davis.

During the morning of January 28, 1878, at the Bremen Street Stationhouse, former Patrolman Meyers identified Frank Weaver’s voice as the one that said, “Shoot the son of a bitch!” on the morning of the 23rd. Also on the 28th, it was determined that Weaver was using an alias of “John Ryan” and imprisoned for stealing cattle in Richmond, Indiana in 1874.

On February 4, 1878, a Coroner’s jury returned a verdict that Patrolman Kunkel’s death was caused by a pistol ball wound and implicated “Travis, Weaver, and Dougherty.” Further investigation focused on Flannigan as the actual triggerman. But, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the gang.

Cincinnati Patrolmen Ritter, Murray, Brazell, and Knox transported Travis, Weaver, and Dougherty back to Indianapolis to answer for the assault on Marshal Manning. They were incarcerated for months, but eventually only convicted of carrying concealed weapons and fined.

 

TRAVIS GANG

After the Kunkel Murder, the Everett Gang came to be called the Dayton Street Gang. Over time and after other exploits, it became known as the Travis Gang. The four were responsible for numerous thefts, burglaries, murders, and felonious assaults on and murders of law enforcement officers. (See Travis Gang)

 

FIREARMS NOTE

During the first report of the incident in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the disparity in side arms was noted by the reporter. It was optional at the time for patrolmen to carry firearms, but it was up to them to purchase them. Since the officers were not paid very well, few purchased for themselves quality firearms. The burglars clearly had fully functional, modern, and powerful firearms. Probably, all four had .45 caliber Colt revolvers – the largest caliber and highest quality revolver available in 1878. The patrolmen, at least Davis and Kunkel, had cheap, small-caliber, ineffective pepperbox revolvers. Cincinnati Police would not carry uniformed, fairly effective handguns until the mid-1880s when the Merwin & Hulbert .38 M&H was adopted.

 

FAMILY TRADITIONS

Martin Kunkel’s older brother, David, worked as a Constable for the Hamilton County Superior Court. As is mentioned, his brother-in-law was a Patrolman. His great grandson, Robert S. Kunkel, was a Reading Police Officer in 1954 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant and Acting Police Chief in 1983. From 1985 to 1990 he was the Chief Dispatcher in Springfield Township, finally retiring after 46 years of service.

If you have information, artifacts, archives, or images regarding these officers or incidents, please contact the Greater Cincinnati Police Museum at Director@police-museum.org.

 

This narrative was researched and revised on January 21, 2014 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer (Retired), Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President, with the help of Patrolman Kunkel’s great, great granddaughter, Debbie Kunkel Judd. All rights are reserved to them and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.