before 5 a.m. on August 9, 1931, a customer was leaving the hamburger
shop at Twenty-eight Avenue So. and Lake Street, when he came face to
face with a tall, well dressed man who was wearing a handkerchief about
the lower part of his face.
This fellow seemed
surprised. He jerked the handkerchief off his face and took his hand
out of his back pocket. It was apparent he was just entering the shop
to hold it up.
The customer jumped into his car and
drove to the Minnehaha police station. He told the desk sergeant about
it and the sergeant directed him to tell the patrolman at the corner
The man drove back and Patrolman Clayton
OLSON was on the corner. The holdup man apparently had seen the
policeman coming and abandoned his plan to rob the place. He was
standing across the street, on the north side of Lake Street.
customer told Patrolman OLSON of what had happened and he started
across the street toward the suspicious man who began walking east on
Lake Street, then broke into a run. Patrolman OLSON started running
The holdup man raced behind a signboard on
Lake Street between Twenty-eight and Twenty-ninth Avenues So. Patrolman
OLSON ran in after him.
There was a sudden blast of pistol shots, a short pause, then another volley.
customers in the hamburger shop, and a milk wagon driver heard the
rapid series of reports and came running toward the scene.
OLSON staggered out from behind the row of billboards and crumpled to
the ground, his pistol still in his hand. A later examination showed
that the patrolman had fired five shots but his body had been riddled
with eight bullets.
A man in the crowd who was a friend of Patrolman OLSON rushed to the wounded policeman’s side.
“Who did it?” the friend cried. “I don’t know,” OLSON gasped. “Give me your gun,” demanded the friend.
OLSON weakly handed the young man his pistol, then sank back, dead. The
man rushed behind the signboards but the slayer had fled.
an ambulance was called and others in the crowd had torn strips from
the apron of the manager of the hamburger shop and attempted to bandage
Patrolman OLSON’s wounds.
The shooting occurred at 5:10
a.m. Immediately, Chief of Police William J. Meehan was notified and,
within 15 minutes, the entire district was flooded with patrolmen,
detectives and gunsquad cars.
Forty-five minutes later,
a 12 year old newspaper carrier delivering the Sunday paper near
Forty-third Avenue So. and Twenty-ninth Street, spied a man hiding in
tall grass beside the street.
“Get away from here,” the man growled.
youth went on delivering papers, then suddenly he thought, “Maybe
that’s the fellow that shot the policeman.” He ran to the home of his
uncle and awakened him. Then they both went into the street and hailed
a gunsquad car.
In the car was Patrolman A. J. Des Lauriers.
“You take the wheel of the car,” Des Lauriers instructed the boy’s uncle, after he heard the story.
drove to Forty-third Avenue So. and Twenty-ninth Street and, not seeing
the man, turned down Twenty-ninth Street toward the scene of the
shooting. They spied him on Twenty-ninth Street, between Twenty-eight
and Twenty-ninth Avenues So.
“There he is,” the young boy cried excitedly pointing at the suspected slayer.
“Are you sure?” Patrolman Des Lauriers demanded.
“Yes, I know him by his walk,” the boy replied.
that moment, the uncle had driven the gunsquad car beside the curb and
the man swung around, spied the officer and pulled out his .45
Before the suspect had a chance to
shoot, Patrolman Des Lauriers broke a window of the car, thrust out his
riot gun and fired three charges of slugs, dropping the killer to the
ground, his pistol still in his hand. Des Lauriers then raced up to the
wounded man and stepped on the pistol as he was raising his hand in an
attempt to shoot once more.
Chief Meehan was only a
block away, heading a searching party, at the time of the shooting. He
heard the shots and was one of the first to reach the scene. He
assigned two detectives to accompany the wounded slayer to the hospital
and attempt to question him.
The policeman’s killer was
fatally wounded while standing only a block from the spot where he had
killed Patrolman OLSON an hour earlier. He apparently was drunk, police
said, and had wandered aimlessly back toward the scene of the crime.
Patrolman Des Lauriers, having completed his job, walked alone and
unnoticed to the Minnehaha police station, while the news carrier’s
uncle drove on ahead of him to give the news.
Des Lauriers was a veteran policeman, having served on the force 18
years. He had had long experience as a gunsquad man.
“I like policemen like Des Lauriers,” Chief Meehan said. “They make sure they are right, then shoot, and then ask questions.”
the meantime, the young paper carrier, not realizing his presence of
mind had made him a hero, walked over to a police sergeant at the
station house. “Say,” the boy complained, “I dropped my papers when I
saw this fellow and I’ve lost them. I have to make my deliveries.”
The sergeant assigned two policemen to find the young news carrier’s papers and help him deliver the rest of them.
police department citation was awarded to the 12 year old news carrier,
for his quick wit and courage in leading police to the bandit who shot
and killed Patrolman OLSON.
Shortly after the wounded
slayer was taken to General Hospital, he was identified as Magnus
Opdahl, a 25 year old St. Paul sign painter who came to America only
two years earlier from Norway.
Opdahl died of his
wounds a few hours after arriving at the hospital. He had lived at the
home of distant relatives in St. Paul. They were at his side at General
Hospital when he died. His only statement was, “I’m sorry it happened.”
“I can’t understand why Opdahl should do a thing like
this,” one relative said. “He was not in need of money, although he had
not had much employment recently.”
Police found $9 in
currency and some change in Opdahl’s pockets. They also found a half
filled bottle of alcohol and two loaded clips for his .45 automatic
It was learned that St. Paul police, a week
ago, questioned Opdahl concerning several robberies. Opdahl’s body was
to be viewed at the county morgue by victims of a score of Twin City
robberies staged by a gunman who gained the soubriquet of “the fashion
The first two St. Paul men who viewed
the body of Opdahl identified him as the man who robbed them recently
in St. Paul. One of them, a taxicab driver, said Opdahl held him up a
“I had only $2 with me and I gave it to him,”
the driver told police. “He flew into a rage and acted like he was out
of his mind. He pulled his pistol and fired six shots into my taxicab.
It’s a wonder I wasn’t killed.”
This incident was one of the factors that led police to believe Opdahl was deranged.
services for Patrolman OLSON were conducted at Crystal Lake chapel on
August 11, 1931. With six of his closest patrolmen friends on the
police department as his pallbearers, Patrolman OLSON went to a hero’s
grave in Crystal Lake cemetery.
He joined the small
group of immortals of the Minneapolis police department who have given
their lives to protect the city from bandits. All officials of the
police department were present to pay homage to the slain officer.
OLSON was 36 years old, and a five year veteran of the department. He
was survived by his wife and a 4 year old daughter. OLSON had served
two years in France in the World War. Only a week earlier, Patrolman
OLSON used his war bonus money to make the first payment on a small
home at 5344 Fifty-seventh Avenue So.