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©1999 - 2012
Edward D. Reuss
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THE FIRST BRONX N.Y.P.D. POLICE OFFICER KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY

Roundsman Oscar Rheinhardt - 31st Precinct

The unusual cold weather of winter had been hanging around Morrisania all month, coming  to a climax on the morning of April 20, 1897, when the thermometer dropped to a record frosty 24 degrees.  As members of the 33rd Precinct* (Mounted) NYPD busily prepared to turn out for the day tour, Ptl. George Williams checked his gear for what would probably be the most eventful tour of his entire life. George, normally assigned to mounted patrol, had a foot post this morning--Post 14, 3rd Avenue from 156th Street to 163rd Street.  For on a chilly April morning in the rural north side, as the sleepy Bronx was known back then, things were not supposed to happen.

The entry in the Blotter read, 3rd Section inspected, "Uniforms, Fire Keys, Horses and Equipments" all in good order. All police officers were  present and accounted for,  and the 33rd Precinct's 19 horses were healthy and ready to patrol.  For cops, who put in over 90 hour weeks, the day tours in bucolic Morrisania were not reputed to be eventful. 

Francisco Squilla, an illiterate junk dealer from 2194 First Avenue in Manhattan, was happily having the same thoughts about 10 a.m. as he was busily removing $5 worth of Mrs. Mary McGreal's "iron garden railing" at 848 Vanderbilt Avenue, until he was spotted by Ptl. Williams and reality set in. 

The chase was on.  Squilla jumped in his horse-drawn junk wagon as Ptl. Williams commandeered the first of several horse drawn wagons. Driving hard to escape, Squilla beat his horse with an iron rod instead of a whip until it was covered with blood. Ptl. Williams, "pressed into service two wagons and also used a trolley car, besides keeping up the chase a considerable distance on foot."  Up Park Avenue they went from 166th Street to 169th Street and then to Franklin Avenue. Then across to Boston Road, the junkman continuing to beat his horse bloody. South to Union Avenue and then on to Southern Boulevard and 149th Street, the chase ensued. Back to 150th Street and Eagle Avenue, where Squilla's badly beaten horse finally gave out after the hour-long pursuit. At this point, Ptl. Williams placed the junkman under arrest for Petit Larceny and Cruelty to Animals.

After the chase and unknown to Ptl. Williams, one of Williams' old "side partners," Roundsman Oscar Rheinhardt of the "Highbridge Mounted Police", the 31st Precinct** (Mounted) NYPD, was found unconscious after being thrown from his horse at Birch and Jerome Avenues. Roundsman Rheinhardt's horse, threw him off while galloping, fracturing his skull, and then stepped on him, breaking three of his ribs.  "Rheinhardt's shield was bent almost double, and upon it was the mark of the horse's shoe." Unconscious, he was removed to Fordham Hospital where he died 4 days later.

The New York Times reported that Roundsman Rheinhardt, who was forty-three years old when he died, was born in Wurtemberg, Germany, coming to this county when he was fifteen.  After working on a farm for a few months to learn English, he joined the 6th U.S. Cavalry at West Point, which would enable him to get his citizenship and become a police officer. After spending 5 years at West Point, Rheinhardt was sent to Arizona, where he participated in several Indian campaigns.

He returned to New York, where he was appointed to the NYPD in 1882. He spent his first year and a half assigned to the 18th Precinct,  (today's 13th Precinct) 325 East 22nd Street. From there he was transferred to what today would be the 42nd Precinct in Morrisania.  He was then promoted and assigned to the 31st Precinct (today's 44th Pct.)  The Times also reports that he received "Honorable Mention" several times, one time for saving the life of a young child on the corner of 125th Street and 3rd Ave. by "snatching it from in f/o a cable car at the risk of his own life."

Roundsman Rheinhardt lived at 969 Cauldwell Avenue and had a wife and a fifteen year old son.  He was buried at Flushing, L.I.

The Aftermath:

For Francisco Squilla, the illiterate junkman -  He was removed to the Morrisania Police Court at 158th Street and 3rd Avenue, where he was held on $300 bail for suspicion of being concerned in a theft and $100 bail for Cruelty to Animals.  On May 13, 1897, he was released by Judge Jacobs, Court of Special Sessions with time served and a $25 fine.

For Oscar Rheinhardt - He was given a Police Inspectors Funeral and then forgotten for the next 100 plus years.

* Today's 42 Precinct
** Today's 44 Precinct
Roundsman - Today's Rank of Sergeant

Sources 33rd Precinct Blotter April 20, 1897; other various 33 Precinct Blotters from the mid 1880's to 1897 establish the close relationship of Ptl. Williams and Rheinhardt - at the Huntington Free Library by appointment, 9 Westchester Square, Bronx, New York.
N.Y. Times April 21, 1897 - page 3, col. 5
N.Y. Times April 25, 1897 - page 4, col. 5
Bronx Police HistoryMichael E. J. Bosak


Copyright © 1998 Michael E. J. Bosak   All Rights Reserved

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