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Policeman Sneesby Shot


On this day in 1924, night policeman C.R. Sneesby of the Devils Lake Police Department died from a gunshot wound to the head. While patrolling outside the local post office the night before, Sneesby encountered a gang of four men who had broken into the basement of the post office using a crow bar. Panicking, the lookout shot Sneesby, and the rest of the gang dashed out of the building, piled into their Big Six Studebaker, and sped away into the night. Posses surrounded all the possible escape routes and eventually managed to capture the gang.

In their hurry, the clumsy bandits left behind a mountain of evidence. Two tanks, one full of oxygen and another full of acetylene, were found near the post office. Police deduced that the gang planned to cut through the steel door of the post office vault with a high temperature flame. A likely motive was difficult to discern, as the post office kept very little money in its vaults. Richer, easier targets were certainly available. The robbery, said investigators, was the work of amateurs - amateurs who proved deadly nonetheless.

Although Sneesby did not usually include the post office in his patrol rounds, an attempted robbery of the post office earlier that year had prompted the Devils Lake Police Department to include the building in the night patrol. Many people on the street heard the gunshot, but mistook the disturbance for the firecrackers that had been going off all evening. However, Sneesby was discovered in the back driveway of the post office shortly after the shooting by two men who drove past the scene. In the dim light of the flashlight, which still burned on the ground beside him, the men saw Sneesby lying on his back, still breathing, with his arms outstretched. Though he was rushed to the hospital, Sneesby died the next day.

Sneesby had only been a member of the Devils Lake police force a little over a year before losing his life in the line of duty. Sadly, when Police Officer Sneesby passed away, he left behind his wife and three children. If only Sneesby's trusty Airedale watchdog, which usually accompanied him on his patrol, had been there to warn him of the danger lurking around the corner, he may have survived his encounter with the gang.

Dakota Datebook written by Carol Wilson


Devils Lake World, July 2, 1924.