I’m always pleased to welcome a guest blogger here at Slabtown Chronicle and I’m proud to
present our newest guest blogger Theresa Kennedy Dupay who has written a series of
articles on a crime I mention briefly in my new book Portland on the Take
(with JB Fisher). This very public murder-suicide rocked Portland in the months
before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but it was very quickly forgotten. Ms.
Dupay has really dug into the details and brings us the full story, starting
with Part One…
“MURDUR.” This is
the first word on the top, left-hand corner of the typewritten Officer's
Report, under “subject.” It is unknown who wrote the word, in cursive, as it
appears on three other witness statement forms, (probably carbon copies)
completed by different officers. The officer either didn't know how to spell
the word properly, or was merely in a hurry and too careless to correct the
glaring error. The likelihood is that he was rushed and didn't see it. Today
the term used would not be murder but rather homicide. The death the document references
occurred May 9th, 1941, when one police officer killed another police officer.
The bad blood grew over a decades old grievance, that apparently could neither
be forgotten, nor forgiven.
Early, that morning, Veteran patrolman Arthur “Blaine”
Chase, (who had recently been suspended and would have been formally terminated
that day by Mayor George Baker for “conduct unbecoming a police officer") entered the
old, East Precinct and a single shot was heard ringing throughout the building.
Commonly referred to then, as Precinct # 1, the building is located at 626, on
the corner of SE 7th and Alder Street and was formerly the location of the
original Water Bureau.
|Photo courtesy of Oregonian Historical Archive - Multnomah County Library.|
At 3:27 am, that morning, Chase shot his longtime rival
and enemy, Lieutenant Phillip Raymond Johnson. Chase walked to the office
doorway, after entering through the North-facing, double door entrance, and as
Johnson arose from his chair, Chase shot him, at point blank range, aiming for
Johnson's groin. The bullet entered the right side of the pelvis, shattering
bone, and exiting the right buttock. But the powerful trajectory did not end
there. The bullet penetrated a wall behind Lt. Johnson, entering a metal locker
and tearing through the left sleeve of a uniform blouse belonging to one
Officer Schenck. After being shot, Lt. Johnson fled through a doorway, to the
left of his desk, running into the desk officers quarters and into a back
office, on the other side of the building, with Chase following behind. Johnson
ran past Patrolman Cook and Special officer Turley, as Cook sat at his desk and
Turley stood nearby. Johnson uttered his last known words, when he breathlessly
exclaimed “Chase shot me!”
Chase followed, with a gun in each hand. He stood near
the doorway, looking into the back office, with numerous metal lockers behind
him, bearing their solitary witness to the murder he would so callously commit.
Chase held a powerful .45 automatic and a .38 revolver as Johnson crouched low,
trying to get cover behind a wooden desk. “When coming into the room Chase
ordered Special Turley out of the room and commenced firing at Johnson.” Chase is reported to have barked at
Turley, “Get out of here while
the getting is good!” But
another policeman reports that Chase said, “Get
out of here while you still have a whole skin!”
Whatever was said, Turley fled while he had the chance,
going the way Chase had come in, in an effort to secure his pistol and come to
the aid of his wounded Lieutenant. Patrolman Cook was trapped in back of his desk in the far left hand
corner of the room, and fell to the floor, taking cover behind his desk,
as both men exchanged rapid gunfire. Johnson shot at Chase five times, missing
him with each round. Chase shot at Johnson five more times, hitting him in the
right hand, between the ring and the little finger, with the force of the round
knocking the gun out of Johnson's hand. Johnson was also hit in the left hand,
just below the index finger and then hit in the left knee, on the outside
portion, just below the knee cap. After unloading most of the rounds in both
the .45 and the .38 revolver, Chase ran out the front entrance, running across
the street to the service station. There he got into his 1939, black Buick
Coupe and sped off, heading toward Washington street and ultimately, Barton
Bridge in Clackamas County.
Before Johnson was carried away, a Lt. Schulpius found
him on the floor and attempted to communicate with him. “We arrived at 3:36 am and
immediately endeavored to talk to Lt. Johnson, but he was unconscious and had a
glassy stare in his eyes” (Official
Officers Report, 1941). Johnson was taken to Emmanuel Hospital, by the Oregon
Ambulance Company, and sometime later, at 4:02 am, was pronounced dead by one
Dr. Lockwood. The likelihood of course, is that Johnson died well before 4:02
am and was probably dead or dying at 3:36 am, when Lt. Schulpius attempted to
speak with him.
None of the shots Johnson endured were lethal gut or head
shots, so its likely that Johnson died of shock, blood loss and the massive
heart attack that would follow. He lasted only about nine minutes after the
first round tore through his pelvis. Johnson was 66-years-old at the time of
his death, Chase, the shooter, 57. But what could fuel such lethal hatred? What
could drive one policeman to kill another?
|Photo courtesy of Oregonian Historical Archive - Multnomah County Library.|
When I first learned the story of Arthur “Blaine” Chase
and Phillip Raymond Johnson, through my friend and crime historian JD Chandler,
it seemed fairly simple. And like your typical non-law enforcement civilian, I
found myself making enormous blanket generalizations about the tragedy. Poor
Chase, I thought to myself. Johnson must have really crossed the line. Once I
secured complete copies of all the documents in Chase and Johnson's files, perfectly
preserved by one Sergeant Ralph O'Hara, (who rescued thousands of such PPB
personnel files from the destruction of the incinerator) I discovered a very
different story about two highly imperfect, yet multi-faceted men. Two very
different men who would pay a heavy price for the choices they'd made decades
Blaine Chase, much like Phillip Johnson came to his
career in law enforcement late in life. Chase was 34-years-old when he was
sworn in, April Fool's Day, 1918. Johnson, was 36-years-old when he was sworn
in as a peace officer, October 16th, 1909. Johnson had been born and raised in
the South, coming of age in Montross, Virginia and then moving to Oregon as a
young man. Chase was a native Oregonian, born in Logan, Oregon, an
“unincorporated community in Clackamas County,” near Milwaukie and the Barton
community, coming of age in both close-knit farming communities. Chase's
occupations are listed as an “Express Messenger” and a “farmer” before becoming
a police officer, while Johnson worked as a “Laundry Driver” for the Troy
Laundry Company in Portland, on SW Pine Street before he became an officer.
They had started out as equals, of a sort, and had even worked as partners, but
differences relating to personality, education level, drive and ambition led to
a distinct disparity socially and professionally. And that eventually led to
|Phillip Johnson joined the Police Bureau in 1909 and worked as Blaine Chase's partner before being promoted to Lieutenant. Photo courtesy of Oregonian Historical Archive - Multnomah County Library.|
While leafing through Blaine Chase's personnel file, it became clear that by the late 1930's, this officer was profoundly burnt-out by the profession. Its also very likely, Chase had been a poor choice from the start. The file details more than one motor vehicle accident Chase had been involved in. In one such accident, Chase was seen “swerving all over the road” yelling profanity, and repeatedly ordering another driver to “get over!”which was the vernacular of the day for “Pull over!” In another report, a Portland citizen discovered and reported a stolen car and wanted to be paid the listed reward money, but to his dismay he discovered that Portland Police Officer Arthur Chase claimed he found the car first. Chase was given the reward money and would not even consider giving the other man half. The civilian wrote a letter of complaint to the chief of police in protest. The chief backed Officer Chase and the matter was closed.
Chase was described by more than one civilian and police
supervisor, as angry, bull-headed, overly aggressive and impatient. In one
“History Sheet” form, written up by the Women's Protective Division, an
allegation was made that Chase had gotten a woman known only as “Miss Andrews”
pregnant. The charge is listed as “Bastardy” which refers to “the begetting of an illegitimate
child.” The form documents
more than one meeting with Miss Andrews, Chase and chief of Police Leon Jenkins to
resolve the matter. Miss Andrews claimed that on October 25th, 1925 she was
invited by Chase to spend time with him in his room. They had met at Ireland's
Sandwich Shop in Portland, in
July or August of that year and became friends. The report goes on to say, “She had burned her arm; was
feeling badly. He was kind; wanted her to rest awhile in afternoon.” At that first official meeting
with the police Chief, November 10th, 1925, Chase said he would “...see her through.”
The woman needed money for an “operation” as Dr. L. R.
Roberts had written a letter claiming she was too delicate and weak to “carry a
infant to maturity” and “live.” The letter claims she was two months pregnant.
It is also revealed that due to the distress of the situation, Miss Andrews
attempted suicide November 2nd, 1925. Later during another follow-up meeting
for the same issue, dated January 10th, 1926, Chase offered to give the woman
$200 if she would release him from any “future obligation.” He wanted nothing to
do with her or the baby she claimed to be carrying.
Sometime later, Miss Andrews offered another letter to
Chief Jenkins, claiming she suffered from “Albumin” and“should have treatments for some
time.” She indicated that she
wished Chase to pay for this as well. The condition of having Albumin unusually
refers to a blood disorder from low protein levels. This can be caused by many
things, such as Tuberculosis, poor nutrition, kidney and liver disease due to
alcoholism, infections of the feet, decayed teeth, infected gums and even
chronic bladder infections. All of those symptoms might be consistent for a “Chippy” or an amateur, or sometime
|By the 1930s Blaine Chase was a burned out cop. His personnel file shows that he was probably not fit to be a cop in the first place. Photo courtesy of Oregonian Historical Archive - Multnomah County Library.|
Miss Andrews did not however, follow up with any claims
for money for the “operation” she had previously stated she needed.
And “Officer Chase did not
make any attempt to raise the money,” the
report concludes. The information presented in these documents presents a
challenge. Was Miss Andrews really pregnant or was she merely a
prostitute looking to make some quick money by smearing the reputation of a
well-known, hot-headed, local policeman? In a time in Portland's history when
prostitution was rampant and indeed accepted, the con of accusing a police
officer of making a woman pregnant might seem an attractive idea to those
criminals who might believe they could get away with such a ploy. And Chase
would have been an easy target, particularly if he was known to visit
prostitutes. There is no follow up information on the issue and no resolution
offered or recorded in the file.
Another woman entered into the beleaguered life of
Patrolman Chase; a Mrs. Lois Mae Davis. She was a good friend who refered to
Chase in the familiar, as “Blaine” and claimed to be a “very close
friend.” She sent a letter to Chief of Police Jenkins, begging for help. She
asked the Chief to force Officer Chase to repay a $140 loan she said she could prove, by virtue of a bank promissory note, that she had afforded him. As Mrs.
Davis was a widow with two small daughters, who earned “half” of what Chase made, and who was
struggling financially, she sent a letter, full of typo's and misspelled and
crossed-out words to the Chief. He responded sometime later in a Memo, in which
Chief Jenkins indicated that Officer Chase claimed “he does not owe you any debt,” and informed Mrs. Davis that it was a
civil matter and she should take it up in the courts, “...in the proper
manner.” The matter was closed. The woman was ignored and Chase did not repay
the alleged $140 loan.
Two years later, July 22nd, 1927, another History Sheet
from the Women's Protective Division was filled out with yet another accusation
against Chase. This charge is described as “Neglect
of Aged Woman.” Mrs.
Isacson was elderly and alone. Her husband had recently died. “Mrs. Isacson is sick, not able to
be alone and without funds. Husband died two weeks ago. Arthur Chase, a
policeman, is her son; he lives in Montgomery Apartments. Third and Montgomery.
Chase knows his mother is destitute and does nothing to help her.” This form also has no stated
resolution to the problem or if Chase offered any funds to prevent the
homelessness of his aged mother, other than $10 which he claimed to have given
her sometime before.
What would compel a man to ignore his elderly mother and allow her to
become destitute and perhaps even homeless? When Chase was born in 1884, there
were no real laws against child abuse. Fathers and mothers could beat their
children to the point of near death and were rarely charged with a crime.
Census records indicate that Chase's mother “Clara” had been married at least
four times during her life and possibly more than that. Census records from
1900 also show that Blaine Chase was living with a Step-father with the surname
of “Richey” and that his last name had been changed to Richey for a short
while. Chase must have resented his mother Clara for forcing him to change his name, because as soon as he was able, he changed his last name back to his
natural father's surname of Chase.
Phillip Johnson's personnel file shows a very different
sort of man. He was a self-starter, studious and ambitious. He attended three
years of Chiropractic college in Portland and became a licensed Chiropractor.
He was an enlightened healer. Eventually, he also earned a law degree from an
Oregon University and after becoming a patrolman, slowly advanced through the
ranks, earning high praise from all those he worked with. Johnson is described
as having “a pleasant
personality” and as “easy
going.” He was a man who “rarely gets ruffled.”
Chase on the other hand, did not advance through the
ranks and remained a patrolman, walking a beat his entire career. The more Chase
remained on the job, the more surly, disengaged and alcoholic he became. At one
point an evaluator describeed Chase as a man who suffered from a “superiority
complex.” He became known as someone who was given to bragging about his
superior policing skills at the expense of other officers who were apparently,
not as tough or capable. At no time in Chase's career though, did he earn any
commendations from his superiors or letters of praise from
Theresa Kennedy Dupay continues her research into this story and we can expect further chapters on this case from her in the near future. JC Here is part two.