Substitute Patrolman James R. Gallagher | City of Cincinnati

Age: 45
Served only a few months
To March 26, 1876


On the night of March 25, 1876, about 9 p.m., Miss Kate Grove of Court Street and James Gleason were conversing in front of the Longworth Street House on the northwest corner of Longworth Street and Central Avenue. Gleason was just about to introduce to Miss Grove another young man, James Wells, when a drunken John F. Dunbar, calling himself “Comanche Bill,” while making whooping sounds like an Indian war cry, tried to push his way through the threesome. He was easily pushed aside by Gleason.

Dunbar turned toward Gleason and said, “You’re a smart duck, aint you.” Wells told him to be on his way. Dunbar pulled a revolver and took two shots at the trio and missed. They escaped around the corner and he took two more shots at a lamp on the corner.

Though off duty, Patrolman Gallagher, who lived at the Longworth Street House, ran down the stairs and yelled, “Here! What’s the matter with you?” Dunbar replied, “I’ll show you what’s the matter with me, you son of a bitch,” and shot the officer twice; once in the abdomen, penetrating the stomach and lodging in a vertebra, and once through his thigh. Patrolman Gallagher pulled his revolver and returned fire, striking Dunbar once in the hand as he ran down Longworth Street toward John. Frank Noell, a citizen, gave chase and caught Dunbar before he went fifty yards.

Patrolman Gallagher walked around the corner into a tailor’s store. He faltered and had to be steadied and said, “I believe I’m hit somewhere.” Dr. Phillip Williams and the Coroner were summoned. It was obvious that Patrolman Gallagher was hemorrhaging internally and the wound would be fatal. By the time Police Chief Snelbaker arrived, Patrolman Gallagher could not see well; so it was decided not to bring Dunbar for identification.

In severe pain and unable to keep down any opiates, Patrolman Gallagher suffered in agony for fifteen hours. About 3 a.m., he asked his doctor to be candid with him about his condition and was told that it was surprising he had lived as long as he had. Patrolman Gallagher informed the doctor he had no relatives or personal property in the city, but that he would like to have his brother respond. Police Chief Snelbaker telegraphed his brother, Louisville Detective Jack Gallagher, but it turned out that he was in New Orleans on business.

Patrolman Gallagher died later that day on March 27, 1877, at 12:05 p.m. He was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery on March 30, 1876, at 3:30 p.m. in a lot donated by Richard Witt of Dunn and Witt.

Dunbar, it turned out, was actually an Englishman named John Tute. He had an extensive criminal history and became well known among law enforcement circles as a top notch safecracker. Prior to Cincinnati, his exploits were “out west” and in New Orleans.

In New Orleans, he was arrested in 1853 for burglary, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in the Louisiana Penitentiary. From there he escaped and was arrested again in 1869 for burglary and for garroting a man to death. The arresting officer died during the trial and the murder charge was dismissed for want of a prosecuting witness. He served one year for the burglary, was released, and then re-arrested in 1872 for the prison escape. Soon thereafter, the Louisiana governor pardoned him. He returned to New Orleans where he participated in a number of burglaries, killed his accomplice, and was found not guilty at his trial.

After killing Patrolman Gallagher and an impassioned plea before the Hamilton County judge, Dunbar was sentenced to only seven years in prison. Two years later, during 1878, the Ohio governor pardoned him.

He moved on to Rhode Island where, during 1881, he was charged with several burglaries. Again, he was sentenced to seven years. In 1882, he savagely assaulted two other inmates with a broad-faced hammer, nearly killing one. For that, he was sentenced an additional two years. He died in prison of Tuberculosis on January 11, 1887.

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This narrative was revised on March 20, 2011 by Cincinnati Police Lieutenant Stephen R. Kramer, Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society President. All rights are reserved to him and the Greater Cincinnati Police Historical Society.