Robert Laughlin

Appointed May 5, 1884
Died July 28, 1884
On Monday, July 28, 1884 the headlines read, “Officer Laughlin expires at three o’clock. Relieved from suffering.” At 3:15 o’clock this afternoon a telephone message to police clerk Stevens from Officer Kennedy announced the death of Officer Robert Laughlin, who was shot on Washington Avenue North on Saturday morning by one of a party of roughs whom he was endeavoring to arrest, and all of whom are now in jail.

Robert Laughlin was born in Pennobscot, Maine in the spring of 1848. Robert grew up on a farm with his parents. After leaving home Robert held several jobs in the New England area. Some of these jobs included cooking, saloon owner, and undertaking. Robert moved to Minneapolis because of a great desire to see some of the great Northwest. Robert clerked on a number of riverboats until he took a job as a cook for the Governor’s staff at White Bear Lake.

After returning from another job in Fargo, Robert was appointed a member of the Police Force and served in that capacity with general satisfaction. Officer Laughlin was particularly popular with his brother officers and considered an unusually good officer by the residents on his beat. He was a peaceable temperate man, always well liked, and as an officer displayed a careful attention to duty. The brutally murderous assault upon him by “Cantieny” and his brother toughs was the first occasion on which he ever had particular difficulty with anyone whom he attempted to arrest. The manner in which he faced his assailants showed him to be a man of unquestionable nerve.

Officer Charles R. Hill testified that he was at the lockup on Saturday morning when he heard shots. Sergeant Fox went to see what the trouble was and meantime a special officer brought in one of the suspects. Sergeant Fox then returned with Officer Laughlin in a hack. Hill went to Laughlin’s house where he was being attended by a doctor. When asked who shot him, Laughlin said: “Yes, it was Tony Cantieny who shot me; the tall man with the dark clothes.” Laughlin also said that he was coming down Third Avenue North and heard two shots fired. He then came upon Cantieny and his two companions, who began to abuse him, when he whistled for a special officer. One of the fellows then broke away and the other turned and shot him.

When Cantieny was arrested by Officer Hill he refused to say anything about the shooting, but told Hill he would live to get even with me (Hill).

While in jail Cantieny was unwilling to talk about the shooting. His defiant air has made him notorious as one of the nerviest and most brutal toughs ever known by the Police of Minneapolis. After attempts by an angry mob to remove Cantieny from jail he said, “They are a pack of cowardly d-d fools, and there ain’t none of ’em would dare to tackle me alone outside. I ain’t afraid of no crowd like that.” Whether his brutal boldness is natural to him or the result of a studied effort, he is certainly one of the very gamiest scoundrels ever behind bars.

As far as we can tell Officer Robert Laughlin was the first Minneapolis police officer killed in the line of duty. Why he was not placed on the plaque that hangs in the Chief’s office, we have no idea. Officer Laughlin left behind a wife. The couple never had children.