KCPD Memorial   Lest We Forget
Police Officer
Harris W. West
Kansas City, Missouri Police Department
End of Watch: Thursday, July 26, 1917
Age: 26
DOB: July 25, 1891
Cause of death: Gunfire
Date of incident: July 25, 1917
Tour of duty: 3 years
Suspect information: Charged, exonerated
 

On July 25, 1917, the grocery store Carl Johnson at 1317 West Twenty-third Street was burglarized by Paul Scholz and his step-father, Adolph Petzenberger. Officers Harris W. West, Louis Fagan, John F. Schwalm, and Sam Moley responded to the call placed by concerned citizens in the area. Officers West and Fagan captured the two men, and placed them in a small police car for temporary transportation. As they drove on Twenty-third Street, on their way to meet Officers Schwalm and Moley - who were waiting with a patrol car to transport the prisoners to the station, the two men attacked the officers and jumped from the car as it neared Holly Street. Officer West shot Petzenberger in the back as he fled. Officer Fagan then took over the pursuit of Petzenberger, and Officer West went after Scholz. Officer Fagan soon caught Petzenberger, and joined Officer West in his chase. Oscar Bloom, 32, a resident of Holly Street, saw the two officers chasing and firing at Scholz and misconstrued the situation, as the officers were not in uniform. Bloom shot at Officer West once, and West fell. He then called out that he was a police officer, and Bloom rushed over and stayed with him until a police patrol came for Officer West. He was taken to St. Mary's Hospital, where he died on July 26, 1917.

Oscar Bloom was arrested and charged with 2nd degree murder in Officer West's death. Bloom had surrendered himself immediately at the scene, admitted to mistakenly shooting at Officer West and promptly offered to turn his .32 caliber revolver over to police. The surprising revelation then came when the deputy coroner, Dr. J. S. Snyder, examined Officer West removed a .38 caliber slug from the wounded Officer West, not one fired from a .32 caliber weapon such as Bloom's but may have actually been shot with one of the pursuing officers weapons in a friendly fire incident. It was also determined that Bloom was standing on his porch when he fired a shot at Officer West who was nearly a block beyond Bloom's residence when he fell and the suspects had not been known to be armed. A coroner's jury meeting on August 6, 1917 subsequently ruled that Bloom had not fired the shot that mortally wounded Officer West. His death certificate showed the cause of death to be homicide resulting from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Officer West joined the police department April 16, 1914. He was forced to leave in February 1917, due to cutbacks, but was able to come back May 15, 1917. Officer West recovered from a severe beating he received a year prior to his death when he came to the aid of another police officer who was also being beaten by gangsters at Rector's Cafe at 12th and Grand. He was attending the Kansas City School of Law to become a lawyer and was engaged to Ela Mae Godfrey at the time of his death. Interred: Cresco Cemetery - Howard, Missouri.


Article by Brent Marchant