|On the evening of Saturday, August 17, 1957, Officers Robert Fossum and Ward Canfield were on patrol driving down West Lake Street in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. They spotted a 1955 Chrysler make an illegal U-turn. It appeared suspicious in that there was a large metal place on the inside of the back window and three occupants. A check revealed that the car was stolen. When Fossum, who was driving the squad car, turned on the lights and hit the siren in order to get the car to pull over, the car suddenly took off. For the next several minutes, a sensational and dangerously high-speed chase took place through the residential streets of south Minneapolis between Lyndale and Nicollet Avenues and Lake Street and 39th Street. Gunshots rang from the Chrysler and from the shotgun of Canfield as the chase continued.
At around 8:40 pm, the fleeing car attempted to make a sharp left turn off Blaisdell Avenue heading east onto 39th Street. However, the driver misjudged the turn and hit the rear of a parked car on the right side of the street. Seconds later, the Fossum-Canfield squad car came around the corner, struck the curb and spun around stopping in the middle of the street just behind the Chrysler.
The two men in the front seat of the Chrysler jumped out, revolvers in hand. Fossum and Canfield exited the squad car at virtually the same time and came toward to two. As they did, the man who had been driving the stolen car fired at Fossum. The shot hit the 31-year-old officer in the head and he fell dead to
the pavement. Canfield, who had come around in front of the Chrysler,
raised the shotgun and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. A
second later the passenger from the Chrysler shot at Canfield and hit
him in the stomach. A second officer was down.
The killer of Fossum walked over to his victim and shot at him, but missed.
He did not bother to fire another shot, but instead ran back and got
behind the wheel of the car he had struck moments before, also a
Chrysler, but a 1949 model. His accomplice got in beside him. The
driver attempted to put the car in reverse, but its rear bumper was
locked with the front bumper of the Chrysler they had been driving
In the meantime, the third man had run down 39th Street in the direction of Nicollet Avenue. Unable to
dislodge the cars, the driver now pulled both cars forward, running
over Canfield in the process. What followed was a grisly scene as the
wounded Canfield, trapped underneath the 1955 Chrysler, was dragged 20
to 30 feet before his body came out from under the vehicle.
Just past Van Ness Avenue, a one block residential street running parallel
between Blaisdell and Nicollet, the two cars suddenly separated. The
older Chrysler with the two killers in it veered sharply to the left
and leapt the curb, traversing the sidewalk. The 1955 car veered to its
right, jumped the curb and hit the side of the house at 3901 Van Ness.
The two gunmen got out of their car and ran toward 39th and Nicollet
following their companion.
At a DX station, they forced Marilyn Langford, 3920 Pleasant Avenue South, out of her
1951 Chevrolet. She and her mother, Francis, had stopped to get gas and
her mother was outside the car talking to the station attendant when
the three men suddenly appeared and stole her daughter’s car. They now
took off and headed north on Nicollet Avenue. They went east on 39th
Street, then headed north on First Avenue South, a one-way street.
In the middle of the 3800 block, they forced over a 1950 Buick driven by
Alvin Anderson, 9448 Clinton Avenue South, Bloomington, who was with
his wife, Velma. They were on their way to a wedding dance on Lake
Street when the three men forced them out of their car. At gunpoint,
Anderson was ordered to run down the street and his wife was shoved
into the front seat between two of the men. The third man climbed into
the back seat and slumped down on the floor. Anderson, meanwhile, ran
to a house at the end of the block and got the owner to let him in and
call the police. By now, his car and his wife had disappeared into the
Within a few minutes of Anderson’s call, the area was swarming with police and emergency vehicles.
Canfield, in grave condition, was rushed to the emergency room at
General Hospital. Fossum’s body was removed by the coroner, and soon
one of the most intense manhunts in Minnesota history was underway.
The three killers abandoned the Anderson car a little over an hour later at
42nd and 2nd Avenues. They transferred Velma Anderson into another car.
Blindfolded practically from the time she was first kidnapped, she was
forced to lie down in the back seat of the second car, two men in the
front seat and the third in the back with her. Fifteen to 30 minutes
later, they released her in an alley behind the 3300 block of Columbus
Avenue. After they left, she scaled a fence and went to the side door
of the house at 3325 Columbus where the women who lived there let her
in and called the police.
For the next four weeks, a nation-wide alert was out for the three killer/kidnappers.
Each was described as short and slight in stature, well dressed and
ranging in age from late teens to mid-twenties. They were known to be
well-armed and obviously very dangerous. There were some clues from the
series of cars they had stolen and from the scene of Fossum’s death.
But, in truth, the police had little to work on.
Four weeks to the day of Fossum’s death, the critical wounding of Canfield
and the kidnapping of Mrs. Anderson, a series of lucky and bizarre
events unfolded which brought the killers to justice, but sadly,
resulted in the death of another innocent victim.
At about mid-afternoon on Saturday, September 14th, two Anoka County
Sheriff’s deputies, James Sampson and Vern Gottewold, on patrol along
Constance Boulevard in rural eastern Anoka County, saw a short man with
dark, wavy hair in his mid-twenties, walking east with a gasoline can
in his hand. They pulled over and asked if he needed help. He said he
was headed back to his car, which had run out of gas. They offered to
give him a lift. He hesitated, then accepted and got into the back
seat. A few blocks further, he told them that his car was the one just
ahead on the right side. They stopped, he got out and walked over to
the car and appeared to be getting ready to put in the gas. Then, a man
came out of the house next to where the car was parked. He started
yelling at the man with the gas can, asking what he was doing to his
car. The two deputies stopped and got out. Suspicious when the man
appeared to be lying about whether the car was his, they then
handcuffed him and put him I the back seat of their squad car.
About that time, two other men came down the road from the east with
handguns. The deputies yelled for them to halt and pulled their
revolvers. One of the two men fired shots striking Sampson in the side
and leg. The handcuffed man in the backseat of the squad car managed to
get out during the shooting and sprinted in the direction of the other
two. Gottewold returned fire and came to Sampson’s assistance as the
three fugitives ran back up the road and into the yard of a house on
the other side of the street belonging to the Eugene Lindgren family.
Lindgren, his wife and three young children had hear the shooting,
looked out on the scene down the street and had taken refuge in their
In what turned out to be a fatal decision, Lindgren, a 30-year old painting contractor, slipped out the
back door and headed to the garage where he had a rifle. He intended to
bring it back into the house for protection. Just after he stepped
outside the three young gunmen confronted him. They immediately took
him hostage and forced him into the garage and into his late model
Cadillac. Lindgren was put behind the wheel with one of the gunmen next
to him, a revolver at his head. The other two fugitives got in the back
seat. Lindgren was told to drive.
At the same time the shooting and kidnapping was taking place on Constance
Boulevard, State Highway Patrolmen Jim Crawford and Ken Cziok were
conducting routine license checks in Wyoming, MN, about 15 minutes to
the north. Over their squad card radios they received the broadcast of
the shooting and kidnapping. Crawford hopped into his vehicle, headed
south into Forest Lake, then west out of town. Cziok drove parallel to
him further to the north, also in a westerly direction.
A few miles outside of Forest Lake, Crawford intercepted the Lindgren car
coming at him full speed. It forced him to swerve on to the right
shoulder. He spun around and continued after the Cadillac.
For roughly the next half hour, a dramatic high-speed chase unfolded on the
dirt back roads, which, in 1957, covered the countryside. Soon,
hundreds of law enforcement officers from Minneapolis and St. Paul,
surrounding counties, the State Highway Patrol and even from across the
St. Croix River in western Wisconsin, were involved in the pursuit of
the three men and their kidnap victim. A State Highway Patrol plane was
in the air and tracking the car, relaying information to the pursuing
Meanwhile, about seven to eight miles northwest of Forest Lake, Cziok got ahead of where the chase was
expected to soon pass and pulled over. A few minutes later, the stolen
Cadillac came roaring by and Cziok attempted to shoot out the tires,
but missed. Crawford came along right behind. Cziok got back into his
patrol car and took off after the two vehicles.
Then as Crawford entered into a tight, left hand turn, his brakes failed and
he was forced to go off the road straight into a field. Cziok pulled up
and Crawford jumped into Cziok’s cruiser and the chase continued.
The drama was now being played out in the Carlos Avery Game Refuge
northeast of Anoka. The Cadillac was perhaps a city block ahead of
Cziok and Crawford when Lindgren, still at the wheel, was ordered to
take a sharp right turn onto an earthen dike road that bisected a
swamp. As he did so, the car slid to the left and the front end went
down off the crude roadway and into the water. The four occupants
scrambled out and headed east down the dike road. They had gone just a
few yards when the two highway patrol officers pulled up.
The man holding a gun to Lindgren turned and used him as a shield. Walking
backwards with his hostage, the gun to his head. The two other
fugitives were further up the road by about 50 yards. Crawford exited
the cruiser from the passenger side, a shotgun in hand. Cziok opened
his door, pulled out his revolver and crouched behind the open door. He
immediately go on the radio to the airplane now circling overhead.
Crawford went behind the car and crossed over into the left side ditch,
creeping along. He approached the gunman holding Lindgren.
The gunman called out, “Get back, or I’ll kill him.”
Crawford kept moving ahead slowly, hunkered down with his shotgun raised. Then
the gunman pointed his revolver at Crawford. Crawford immediately
pointed his shotgun and commanded, “Drop that gun now and let him go.”
The standoff continued for several seconds. The two other gunmen were
crouched down on the other side of the road, still about 50 yards
further east. The first gunman holding Lindgren then stepped down into
the swamp on the other side of the road. Within a few seconds they were
in the tall grass, the tops of their heads barely visible.
A few more seconds passed, then one shot rang out from where the two had
disappeared. Crawford slowly climbed out of the ditch. From the road,
he could see the first gunman running away from him and into the swamp.
He raised his shotgun, took aim and fired. The man dropped.
Crawford moved toward the other side of the dike road. To his left he saw the
other two gunmen duck into the swamp and began running the same
southerly direction as their downed companion. Crawford zeroed in on
the nearest, a short wavy dark haired man in perhaps his early to mid
twenties. The fugitive was about 75 yards away. He squeezed the trigger
and the man fell forward into the swampy grass. The third man ducked
down and was now out of sight.
Cziok was on the radio and calling for backup. Crawford moved to the other side of
the road and then to his left a few feet. He was uncertain what the
situation was on the other side of the road. The plane radioed that it
could see one person, lying face down in the shallow water where the
first gunman had gone off the dike road with Lindgren. Speculation was
the kidnapped victim was the dead person spotted from the air.
was well over an hour before the other law enforcement officials
started arriving at the scene. Because a Washington County Sheriff’s
plane was also up that day, it had gone into a circular holding pattern
to stay out of the area occupied by the Highway Patrol plane. Many of
the law enforcement people became confused and thought the chase had
culminated over where the sheriff’s plane was circling, a small
residential area called Coon Lake Beach.
dozens of local police, highway patrol and Minneapolis police
detectives were now at the right place. It was decided that a row of
armed men would work their way into the swamp. Slowly, several dozen
moved ahead. As expected, the body of Eugene Lindgren was found within
just a few feet off the edge of the road. A bullet hole was discovered
on the right side of his neck near the base of his skull. He was laying
face down in about a foot of water.
line continued forward. They soon came upon the first of the two men
felled by Crawford’s shotgun. He was also lying dead in the water,
several shotgun pellet holes visible in his chest and back when he was
turned over. Then, within a minute or two someone down toward the left
end of the line yelled out, “Here’s another one. He’s dead.”
couple seconds passed, then a shot rang out from a grove of willow
trees up ahead and to the left. Everyone ducked, and then with guns at
the ready, they slowly crept forward to the grove. As they got closer,
they heard moaning. Several men cautiously went into the grove where
they discovered the third man, lying wounded on the ground. He had
botched a suicide attempt. At least he was still alive.
now, speculation was starting among the law enforcement scene that the
three might be the ones wanted in the death of Bob Fossum and the
wounding of Ward Canfield 28 days before. A stretcher was brought in
and the wounded fugitive put on it. An ambulance arrived.
bodies of the first two killers were dragged out and laid on the road.
They wore leather jackets and had belts of ammunition around their
waists. The news media arrived and photos and TV footage of the two
were taken. The citizens of the Upper Midwest and even in other parts
of the country would see those images within a few short hours.
third man, still alive, was loaded into the ambulance. That night at
General Hospital, the surviving killer confessed to the murder of
Fossum, the wounding of Canfield and the kidnapping of Velma Anderson
and kidnap and murder of Eugene Lindgren. His name was James O’Kasick,
19, and his two dead brothers, Roger, 26 and Ronald, 24 were now
household and historical names.
November, James O’Kasick was tried in both Hennepin county and Anoka
County Courts for murder and kidnapping and sentenced to a combination
of life and long-term sentences as St. Cloud Reformatory.
now, the public was told the story of the three who had come from a
highly dysfunctional family of eight children who grew up in complete
poverty in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis. A lazy,
drunken father, himself possessing a criminal record, headed, in name
only, a family doomed from the start.
Fossum was laid to rest four days after his death. He was survived by
his wife, Dorothy, who was pregnant at the time with their fourth
child, and three other children.
Canfield miraculously survived the multitude of injuries suffered that
night in August 1957. But he paid a terrible price. He underwent more
than 40 operations, including the amputation of his right leg. The
father of three returned to very light, limited police office work a
few years later, but finally had to resign from the Department. He
later served on the Civil Service Commission for the City. At the time
of this writing, he still lives with his wife, Evelyn, in the same
south Minneapolis home where he lived on that fateful night.
O’Kasick committed suicide one year and one day from the date of his
capture. On the morning of September 15, 1958 in his cell at St. Cloud,
he cut a main artery in his abdomen with a butter knife he smuggled out
of the commissary and sharpened over several days. When guards
discovered him an hour later, he was bleeding to death and died within
minutes of their arrival. He was buried next to his two infamous
brothers in Crystal Lake Cemetery in North Minneapolis.