Category Archive 'White House Police'

06 Oct 2013

1937 White House Police

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Old Picture of the Day says:

Today’s picture is from 1937, and it shows a White House police officer. This was after a shooting competition, and this officer had the top score. I am surprised however that in 1937 the officers would not be carrying more significant fire power . . . like maybe a Colt 1911 or a Tommy Gun.

Back in the old days, police officers could shoot and a six shot .38 Special revolver was thought perfectly adequate, even for defending the president.

Remember the 1950 attempt to assassinate Harry Truman by Puerto Rican terrorosts?

[Griselio] Torresola had approached a guard booth at the west corner and took White House police officer Leslie Coffelt by surprise, shooting at him four times from close range and mortally wounding him with a 9mm German Luger. Three of those shots struck Coffelt in the chest and abdomen, and the fourth went through his tunic.

Torresola shot police officer Joseph Downs in the hip, before he could draw his weapon. As Downs turned toward the house, Torresola shot him in the back and in the neck. Downs got into the basement and secured the door, denying Torresola entry into the Blair House.

Torresola turned his attention to the shoot-out between his partner Collazo and several other police officers. He shot officer Donald Birdzell in the left knee.

Birdzell could no longer stand and was effectively incapacitated (he would later recover).

Torresola stood to the left of the Blair House steps to reload. President Truman had awakened from a nap to the sound of gunfire and looked outside his second floor window. Torresola was 31 feet (9.4 m) away from Truman’s window.

At that same moment, Coffelt left the guard booth, propped against it, and fired his .38-caliber service revolver at Torresola, about 30 feet (10 m) away. Coffelt hit Torresola two inches above the ear, killing him instantly. Taken to the hospital, Coffelt died four hours later.


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