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Q: Murder of Railroad Cop, Buffalo, NY 1908 ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Murder of Railroad Cop, Buffalo, NY 1908
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: hawkshaw-ga
List Price: $40.00
Posted: 17 Feb 2003 13:06 PST
Expires: 19 Mar 2003 13:06 PST
Question ID: 162646
What was the result of the investigation on the murder of Special
Officer McCrea of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburg Railway in
Buffalo, NY on the evening of June 20, 1908 by railroad burglar
Stephen Jablowicz?

Request for Question Clarification by luciaphile-ga on 20 Feb 2003 12:30 PST
Hi hawkshaw-ga,

I've been going through the microfilm for the Buffalo Evening News for
the pertinent time period. I have found articles about the incident,
McCrea's death (he didn't die immediately on the 20th), the man hunt
that followed for Jablowicz. However, I haven't been able to find
anything regarding his capture or trial as of yet. The other main
paper for this time period in Buffalo would have been the
Courier-Express, but I won't be able to access that for a few days.
The Courier-Express had a reputation for being a "better" paper so
it's possible there's more substantial coverage there.

Neither paper is indexed, that is, there are no finding aids to
pinpoint research. It's dimly possible this made it into the card file
(sort of a vertical file) put together by the Buffalo and Erie County
Public Library, but past experience with this source doesn't leave me

Do you have *any* additional facts you can add to this? Dates, other
names, other details? Anything you can give me will help
significantly. Thanks so much!


Clarification of Question by hawkshaw-ga on 20 Feb 2003 17:55 PST
All information is from a reward poster.  Stephen Jablowwicz had an
alias of "Sullivan."  He was a Pole, 22 years, 5 foot 7 1/2, 155-160
lbs., light chestnut coloered hair, blue eyes, medium complexion and
the end of the little finger of his left hand is deformed and the
little finger nail on his right hand is deformed, lopped shoulder and
bent nose. He served time in the Elmira Reformatory. His Bertillion
Measurements are available. All communications on the reward were to
the addressed to Michael Regan, Superintendent, B.R. & P.R.R. in
Buffalo, NY offered July 10th, 1908.

Request for Question Clarification by luciaphile-ga on 20 Feb 2003 20:48 PST
That helps a bit, thanks. I did turn up a mention that he was also
known as "Polack Sullivan." I went through most of July for the
Buffalo Evening News, but I'll see what else I can turn up in the
Courier Express.


Clarification of Question by hawkshaw-ga on 28 Feb 2003 17:29 PST
I will be satisfied with the information on the death and
investigation that are available from the different newspapers at the
time. I'd really like to know if his murderer was caught, but my main
objective is get enough supporting information on how he died and a
certified copy of his death certificate from the county so I can get
him inducted on the National Law Enforcement Memoerial in DC.  We
always want to know if the murderer faced justice, but it is not
adsolutely necessary.

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 28 Feb 2003 17:43 PST
Dear hawkshaw-ga:

I have already made initial contacts regarding Officer McCrae's
potential induction into/onto the National Law Enforcement Officer's
Memorial in Washington DC if information surfaces to corroborate this
story. If this is your only interest in the matter, I can provide you
with many more details on how to go about this. As a career law
enforcement officer and a founder of a law enforcement memorial
myself, I have done this before and I have contact with those who can
look into this further. As we speak, I have someone in Fairfax,
Virgina who is planning to research the matter for potential
inclusion, but the process is slow and as you mentioned, much more
will need to be known - though a death certificate is not always
necessary in order to make it happen.

I too would be interested in finding out more about this for you, or
in learning the details if someone else finds the information for you


Clarification of Question by hawkshaw-ga on 28 Feb 2003 19:53 PST
Yes, I am working on this one and about 10 other ones.  I already have
four officers included that I worked on and had submitted. The problem
with railroad police from the past century is the number mergers of
rairoads and all of the department records that are lost or distroyed
after the mergers.  There are now only 4 major railroads, UP, BNSF,CSX
& NS and a number smaller ones, IC, KCS, etc.  What I do is: find
which of the current railroads the older smaller line got absorbed
into, use the NLEMF forms , get all the information I can and send
them on the proper forms to the current chief of the that railroad
police department for signitue and mailing off to Washington.  I am
the historian for the IACP - Railroad Police section - so they all
know me.  The problem with researchers at NLEMF is they are
overwhelmed with research.  If you want to reach me I am at It looks like I will be paying (gladly) for what
has already been found. It is surprising but I have had little
difficulty finding death certificates, even as far back as 1882, if I
know the county the death occurred in. I am going to call up there and
see who is currently working on McCrea.
Subject: Re: Murder of Railroad Cop, Buffalo, NY 1908
Answered By: luciaphile-ga on 28 Feb 2003 23:05 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi hawkshaw-ga,

Thanks so much for your question. I'm not a big fan of microfilm as a
medium, but I always find reading old newspapers fascinating so this
one was a fun one to research. I just wish I could have discovered
what happened to Stephen Jablowicz.

In 1908, there were several English language Buffalo newspapers: the
Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo Courier, Buffalo Enquirer, Buffalo
Express, as well as a few others. As can be expected, coverage in
these varied in type as well as extent. I found microfilm for all of
these in the Local History Collection at the central branch of the
Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

Collections of Special Interest/Buffalo & Erie County Public Library,%20Records,%20Newspapers

Okay, onto the case.


Daniel F. McCrea, a 22-year-old railroad detective, for the Buffalo,
Rochester & Pittsburg Railroad was shot on June 20, 1908 at 5:30 P.M.
[other papers put the time at 6PM] while chasing a gang of five men in
the Buffalo Creek railroad yards. These were located at Clinton Street
and Fillmore Avenue.

About an hour prior to the shooting, McCrea had been trying to clear
the yards of “suspicious characters.” The aforementioned gang of five
did not want to be removed from the yards and according to witnesses,
were lying in wait for a train. McCrea engaged at least one of the men
at one point, reportedly striking him over the head with a blackjack.

“…McCrea boarded a moving freight train, the five men suddenly
reappeared beside the track, a few cars below the point where McCrea
was standing between the cars. One of the men was seen to break away
from the group and board the train. He walked along the cars to where
McCrea was standing…” Someone affiliated with the train had called out
to McCrea [whether or not it was about the trespasser is not made
clear in the article]. “McCrea climbed up the ladder at the end of the
car. When his head appeared above the top, the man drew a revolver and
fired point blank at the detective from a distance of about seven

The bullet went into McCrea’s head, near the right side of the brain.
McCrea fell onto the ground, while his killer leapt from the car to
the ground and with his compatriots fled [albeit in separate

Witnesses to all this were Harry C. Hooper, the brakeman, and resident
at 919 Perry Street; Patrick J. Butler, the conductor, resident of 148
Abbott Road; Charles Wendt, switchman, 631 Hopkins Street; and Gus
Bayot of 674 William Street [no profession or affiliation with
railroad given].

McCrea was removed to Emergency Hospital. Although he didn’t die
immediately, doctors believed that it was only a matter of time. Dr.
O’Donnell of the Emergency Hospital attempted to remove the bullet,
but was unsuccessful, as the bullet had lodged in the brain.

Superintendent Regan was in charge of the investigation and
immediately set up a dragnet. They arrested a 19-year-old named Joseph
Ratagczak of 365 Lovejoy Street and subsequently searched his house
for weapons. Charges were not placed.

The killer was not immediately identified. The first suspect was named
as “Sullivan,” a Pole who had “made repeated threats against the life
of McCrea because the detective had driven from the yards
frequently…some time ago McCrea is said to have beaten ‘Sullivan’ with
his ‘billy.’”

McCrea was a Bradford, PA native and resident. At the time, his
father, a one-time chief of Bradford, PA’s police, John C. McCrea was
an agent for the B.R. & P. detective force.  He was at his son’s
bedside at the hospital.

Fellow detectives referred to Daniel McCrea as “one of the brightest
and cleverest on the staff of the B. R. & P. McCrea had made
successful raids on car burglars in the past and had risked death

“Detective is Fatally Shot.” The Buffalo Courier. June 21, 1908, p.

Another paper, the Buffalo Express reported that McCrea “was hated all
through East Buffalo among the lawless element, and within the last
three weeks had been fired upon by car burglars several times.” This
article names another detective, one Detective Stewart [for the New
York Central line] as being on the scene with McCrea.

According to this article, five minutes after McCrea hit one of the
men with his blackjack [the gang scattering after this], a B. R. & P.
train came through the yard. McCrea jumped onto the train and stood
“on the bumpers between the fifth and sixth car.” Harry Hooper told
the police that he saw one of the gang climb on top of the sixth car
and move toward where McCrea was standing, while the other four men
stayed on the ground.

The assailant, here referred to as “Polak Sullivan,” drew his gun and
shot McCrea, jumped from the train and took off down Fillmore Avenue.
Gus Deyot [not sure which spelling is correct, the Express or the
Courier’s], a coal-and-wood dealer, of 674 William Street witnessed

As McCrea fell, a laborer [not named] pulled him out of reach of the
moving train.

The Express reported that “the police believe the shooting
premeditated and deliberate…men watched their chance to get McCrea
alone and then down him. He has broken up many gangs during this
winter and his name had become a source of fear to car burglars.”

McCrea had been rooming on South Division Street near Michigan Street.

“Detective is Shot in Head: Daniel F. McCrea Dying at the Emergency
Hospital with Bullets [sic] in Brain,” The Illustrated Buffalo
Express. June 21, 1908, p.2, pt II.

In the days following the shooting, police identified Stephen
Jablowicz a.k.a. Polack Sullivan as being a chief suspect. A
17-year-old named Wladislaus Boczyonski of 40 Detroit Street was
arrested in connection with the crime. The Express reported that it is
believed that Jablowicz left the area on a freight.

“Detective Is Dying” The Buffalo Express. June 22, 1908, p. 7.

McCrea had been sworn in as a special officer three months prior to
the shooting.

“Assassinated by a Car Burglar: Daniel F. McCrea, Railroad Detective,
Shot Through Head by Thug.” Buffalo Sunday Morning News. June 21,
1908, p. 2.

Jablowicz is named as being the “leeader [sic] of a bad gang, a Polish
youth, who is known as ‘Sullivan,’ has had trouble with McCrea
…several times.”

“Detective Will Die As Result of Shooting: Life of Daniel F. McCrea
Hangs by Slender Thread—Assailant Is Still at Large.” Buffalo
Enquirer. June 22, 1908, p. 9.

Another citation that might be of interest, although there’s no new

“Detective M’Crea Dying at Hospital: Car Burglar’s Victim Unconscious
Since Shooting—Assailant Still at Large.” Buffalo News. June 22, 1908,
p. 1, 12 o’clock ed.


McCrea succumbed to his injuries at died at 9:56 PM [I have to insert
a caveat here—the microfilm copy was horrendous and it’s possible that
the 56 part is off] at the Emergency Hospital on June 24, 1908. His
sisters, Laura of Chicago and Clara of Bradford as well as an aunt and
uncle from Salamanca, NY [close to Bradford] were present. His parents
had been persuaded to get some sleep and weren’t there at the end.
McCrea never regained consciousness.

“Detective M’Crea Dies of Wound: Railroad Special Shot in East Buffalo
Yards Breathes Last at Emergency Hospital,” The Buffalo Courier. June
25, 1908, p. 11.

The Buffalo Evening News put the death at 10PM [at least one other
paper reported the death as occurring at 9:55]. In any case, it also
reported that Superintendent Regan and Chief of Detectives Taylor
organized a search of the William street yards of the New York Central
on June 25th after Jacob Lipp, a patrolman reported spotting a man
resembling Jablowicz on Broadway and Fillmore.

“Car Burglar’s Victim Dead: Detective M’Crea Succumbs,” The Buffalo
Evening News. June 25th, 1908, p. 1, 5 o’clock ed.


Superintendent Regan, among other efforts, sent out circulars with
Jablowicz’s description and photograph [here not yet identified as
Stephen Jablowicz, but as “Polack Sullivan.”] to police chiefs
throughout the U.S.

The Buffalo Enquirer reported that “his photograph has been in the
rogues’ gallery at Police Headquarters for some time.” The circular
also had the Bertillion measurements you mentioned. No reward was
offered. Police told the paper that they believed Jablowicz had left
town after the shooting.

Jablowicz was last seen in a “saloon” in East Buffalo. He apparently
gave the proprietor the revolver he’d used on McCrea and then took
off, “distancing several men who tried to capture him.” The proprietor
turned over the gun to the police. The revolver, itself, had been
stolen off a freight car (carrying a consignment of guns) in the East
Buffalo railroad yards several months prior. It was police issue. “The
stolen gun, used by Polack Sullivan, leads the police to believe that
he was implicated in the theft of the police revolvers.”

“Stolen Pistol Used to Shoot Detective: ‘Polack Sullivan’ Had One of
Thirty-six Consigned to South Bend, Ind. Police Department,” Buffalo
Enquirer. June 24, 1908, p. 7.

Other accounts had it that the police believed Jablowicz was hiding
with friends in the Buffalo vicinity.

“That Bullet Kills M’Crea,” The Buffalo Express. June 25, 1908, p. 2.

A fuller account of Patrolman Lipp’s sighting occurs in the Buffalo
Express. Lipp, near his own home on Detroit Street near Broadway,
spotted Jablowicz around noon. He telephoned the police and gave chase
(about 20 cops joined the hunt), but lost him in the railroad yards at
Milburn Street. A young boy told two other detectives chasing the man
that it was Jablowicz, claiming to know him. The chase continued until
midnight. The Express reported that Jablowicz “has many relatives in
the locality where he disappeared. A watch was placed on every house
where he might seek shelter.”

At the same time, Superintendent Regan was doubtful that this was his
man. “He [Jablowicz] is said to be an easy man to pick out because of
his short stature, square and humped shoulders, and unusually
prominent nose.”

“Hunted Man Is at Large: Man Wanted for the Killing of Detective
McCrea Has Not Been Tracked,” The Buffalo Express. June 25, 1908, p.

Another citation, although only a paragraph in length, gives a brief
description of the chase.

“Man-hunt Failed,” The Buffalo Evening News. June, 26, 1908, 5 o’clock

Despite Regan’s doubts, the manhunt stemming from Lipp’s sighting
continued, “with every available man in the Police Department.”
Various East Side residents informed the police that Jablowicz had
been spotted in the East Side railroad yards [which were and still are
pretty extensive]. A hundred policemen, including Regan combed the

About six people without legitimate business for being in the yards
were detained, but were eventually released. At 4PM on June 25th,
Detective John Williamson [Austin Street Station] saw someone
“slouching along” Curtiss Street, near Grime Street. This person
matched up with the Bertillion description and Williamson gave chase.
The suspect disappeared over a fence and “lost himself in the mass of
cars in the railroad yards.”

Another alarm went up in the Buffalo Iron Foundry [also in Curtiss
Street], but this was apparently a false alarm.

The paper reported that “probably since the slayer of President
McKinley [who also bought it in Buffalo] was arrested never have there
been so many police officers detailed to look after one person.”

“Jablowicz Has Not Been Caught,” The Buffalo Enquirer. June 26, 1908,
p. 1.

The next article of substance comes from the Courier. “…the police
last night came to a conclusion that Stephen Jablowicz, the man who is
thought to have been implicated in the fatal shooting…is no longer in
the city.”

The paper reports that tips and leads had been followed without
success. “Tips have been run down, houses have been watched. Every
avenue of escape apparently has been headed off, and yet without
results.” Jablowicz evidently didn’t leave word with his parents. The
paper also indicates that he had a girlfriend in town and the thinking
had been he might stay in Buffalo because of her, but that’s the only
mention of her.

“Believe M’Crea's Slayer Escaped: Police Search for Suspected Man Is
Fruitless,” The Buffalo Courier. June 27, 1908, p. 6.

The last mention I could find about Jablowicz comes from an article in
the Buffalo Courier. Rumor had gone around the area that he had
finally been apprehended and a large crowd gathered at the Prudential
building to inspect the prisoner. However, the man in question turned
out to be a sailor named Frank McNamara.

“Prisoner Wasn’t ‘Polak Sullivan’,” The Buffalo Courier. June 28,
1908, p. 8.

And that is that. As I explained in my comment below, I examined the
microfilm for the rest of June and July and found nothing relating to
Jablowicz or the McCrea case. To be honest, I was a little surprised
that the coverage ended so abruptly, but the summer of 1908 was far
from being a slow news period: Grover Cleveland died (and he was a
Buffalonian so you can imagine the coverage); William Jennings Bryan
was nominated for president. There were an assortment of particularly
gruesome murders. An attack on the Czar of Russia and a brutal heat
wave was sweeping several cities. That may explain why the local
papers decided not to cover the police efforts to apprehend Jablowicz,
particularly as they weren’t getting anywhere. Again, it’s very
possible he did eventually get caught. Unfortunately without some idea
of when it happened, it’s not feasible to comb through reel after reel
of microfilm.

Search strategy:
After some unsuccessful web searching, I went to two area libraries
and perused the microfilm for the Buffalo Evening News and other area
papers. Having done newspaper research in the past, I was aware of the
local resources available as well as the non-existent indexing for

I hope I’ve answered your question. If you need additional
information, please ask for clarification before rating my answer and
I’ll do my best to assist you.

hawkshaw-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
I thought Luciaphile did a great job with the information I had
available. I appreciate the work and I believe this will be enough to
get done what I need.  This was my first question and I will use this
site again after I finish working this project.

Subject: Re: Murder of Railroad Cop, Buffalo, NY 1908
From: luciaphile-ga on 27 Feb 2003 16:42 PST
Hi hawkshaw-ga,

This is quite a stumper. Let me begin by explaining that this is the
kind of thing that you probably won't find online. IMHO, it's best
found by using the local newspapers of the time.

I've gone through the microfilm from June 20 to late July of 1908 on
all the available Buffalo newspapers of the time (and there are more
than I originally thought). All of them covered the incident, some
more extensively than others, from the attack on and death of McCrea
to the pursuit of Jablowicz. However, other than some articles which
indicated the police believed he'd fled the area, I've found nothing.
After these articles, which were mostly from the late June dates,
there's very little coverage at all. Jablowicz may have been
apprehended at some point in time, but in order to determine that, I
would have to go through reel after reel of microfilm and hope to find

Ordinarily, it's very simple to locate information from historical
newspapers. You go to an index and look up some key terms, find the
dates and go to reel in question. The problem is that none of the
Buffalo papers were indexed until the 1970s. The only finding aid
exists in the card file at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.
This tool was put together for a WPA project and kept up by library
employees. Unfortunately, it's not comprehensive and even more
unfortunately, I found no reference to your guy. Because you had dates
to begin with, I was able to locate the articles about McCrea and
such, but not knowing if he was ever caught, I don't realistically
expect that I can find what you need.


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