On June 28, 1902, at 8:00 pm, Sergeant McNamara was shot and killed by a suspect, Abe Emerson, also known as "Rue," as he attempted to arrest him for threatening to kill his landlady, Lolie Miller. Ms. Miller reported the incident at Police Headquarters and was sent to Fifth and Broadway where Sergeant McNamara was due on his rounds at 8:00 pm. Ms. Miller, accompanied by another man, met Sergeant McNamara and Officer Flanagan at the corner and set off towards her home at 422 Bank. They rounded the corner at 7th and Bank where they observed Abe Emerson standing twenty feet away from the officers with Ms. Miller's young son. As the officers approached, Emerson turned away from them as if to flee. Sergeant McNamara called for Emerson to halt, Emerson turned, raised a revolver he was carrying and fired twice at Sergeant McNamara. One bullet passed through Sergeant McNamara's left lung and another struck him in the right arm but he managed to return fire striking Emerson twice. One bullet struck Emerson in his extended arm and entered his body through the armpit. Emerson sank to the ground, turned and fired at Sergeant McNamara again but missed his mark. Sergeant McNamara staggered forward and fired striking Emerson again, then collapsed onto the ground, sinking into the arms of Officer Flanagan and died from his wounds within two minutes. Following the shooting, an ambulance transporting Emerson from the scene broke an axle. Officers guarding Emerson were forced to draw their weapons to keep an angry crowd that followed the ambulance at bay. A police wagon was then dispatched and used to transport Emerson to City Hospital where he died of his injuries.
Sergeant McNamara's body was taken to Police Headquarters and laid on the surgeon's table. Sergeant McNamara was widely known and people flocked to Police Headquarters in response to the news of his death. An estimated 1,000 people were allowed to pass by the viewing window of the surgeon's room to pay their respects to the popular police sergeant.
Abe Emerson was also wanted for a prior residential burglary in Rich Hill, Missouri where he had entered a constable's residence. He had been in custody for that crime but was at large after he escaped from the Richmond city jail.
In 1897, Sergeant McNamara narrowly avoided being killed at a tavern at Nineteenth and Main Streets. The then Officer McNamara were delivering a liquor violation in the tavern but were driven away by the shotgun wielding saloon keeper. Officer McNamara and Lieutenant Weber returned later and attempted to arrest the saloon keeper who stabbed and seriously wounded Officer McNamara in the wrist with a large butcher knife. Lieutenant Weber shot at the saloon keeper and his bullet struck the blade of the knife, disarming the man and he was taken into custody. In 1901, Officer McNamara arrested two robbery suspects at Union Station resulting in his promotion to sergeant.
The murder of Sergeant McNamara inspired the creation of the first police memorial monument honoring the sacrifices of Kansas City police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. The second police memorial monument was created in 1921.
Sergeant McNamara, 43, was born in Limerick, Ireland and was survived by his wife, Catherine; 3 children, Willie, Josephine and Bartholomew, and a brother also named Bartholomew.
The funeral was held in the family home at 2313 Holly. Services were held at Sacred Heart Church at 26th and Madison Streets.
Interred: Mount Saint Mary's Cemetery.
Article by Brent Marchant