Answer Man: Two constables were killed in 1949

News-DemocratDecember 4, 2013 

When I was a kid back around 1950, there still were constables in the area. Sadly, two were killed while attempting to apprehend a suspect. I forget the circumstances. Can you help? -- Joe Quevreaux, of Columbia

As you obviously remember, horrific shootings are not a modern phenomenon.

"Officer Slain, Negro Held Here," read the banner head in the Sept. 10, 1949, Belleville News-Democrat. "Crazed Gunman Jailed Here" countered the Belleville Daily Advocate. From the wording, you can tell that times were a little different, but it described the same tragic outcome.

Shortly before 3 a.m. that Saturday, Andrew Betts entered Nick's Country Club in Centreville, pulled out a revolver and threatened to "shoot up the whole world." He left without incident, but not before constables Paul Kisselbach Jr., William "Scotty" Mason and Frank Baur were notified.

They had just investigated a nearby stabbing when they saw Betts' 1946 Pontiac parked in the 4200 block of Baker, just a block from Nick's. When they saw Betts walking toward his car, Kisselbach got out of the police car and ordered Betts to raise his hands.

Instead, Betts again pulled out his .38-caliber revolver and fired "at least three shots." The first struck Kisselbach between the eyes, killing him instantly. The second hit Mason in the stomach, and the third wounded Baur in the shoulder. Baur emptied his gun in Betts' direction, but Betts escaped unhurt.

An intense manhunt followed until Betts was found 12 hours later hiding in a toilet back at Nick's Country Club. According to the News-Democrat, he was arrested on information from county Supervisor Francis Touchette, who said he had received a tip that Betts could be found in the toilet. Betts told officers he had fled immediately to the outdoor toilet and remained there until his capture.

Kisselbach, who also ran a cabinet shop, was a one-time professional wrestler and active Ainad Shriner. He was survived by his wife and two small children. It had been his first term as a constable.

Mason, who had been a constable for eight years, was critically wounded and died six days later. Baur, who had just been released from the hospital after an extended illness, was not seriously wounded.

Betts later was convicted of murder and sentenced to 99 years. You can find pictures of Mason and Kisselbach at www.odmp.org -- the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tries to keep alive the memories of "all of law enforcement's heroes."

"When a police officer is killed, it's not an agency that loses an officer," Chris Cosgriff, the website's founder, says. "It's an entire nation."

Years ago when they held Old Newsboys Day in the fall, it seemed they had people giving away papers for donations at every major intersection. I haven't seen anyone the past few years. Did they give up on the metro-east? -- Bob

The news is you simply didn't drive or walk past the right spots, according to the Old Newsboys website.

You have to remember that a lot of towns now discourage the so-called "charity roadblocks" out of the desire for public safety and lawsuit avoidance. Nerves, too, can become a little frayed when drivers encounter three or four slowdowns along Main and Illinois streets in Belleville, for example, on their morning commute.

As a result, you'll find volunteers at less risky locations -- the St. Louis Bread Co. in Belleville, for one, although they also were supposed to be at State/Main and Illinois 157 at the bottom of Edgemont Hill. They could also be found in Millstadt, O'Fallon and East St. Louis, among others.

If you're interested in finding a location, giving or volunteering, visit the page at www.stltoday.com. Started by St. Louis Globe-Democrat publisher G. Duncan Bauman in 1957 to help disadvantaged kids, the charity has raised $16.5 million in 57 years.

Today's trivia

What are the "Strawberry Fields" in the Beatles' hit "Strawberry Fields Forever"?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: During the first-ever National Football League playoff game in Chicago on Dec. 18, 1932, Chicago Bears fullback Bronko Nagurski changed the face of pro football forever. Until that game, forward passes had to be thrown from at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage. But with no score in the fourth quarter, Nagurski took the handoff and, just before crossing the line of scrimmage, fired a pass to Red Grange in the end zone. The Portsmouth Spartans protested, but the TD stood and the Bears went on to win 9-0 in the first major football game played indoors (Chicago Stadium on a field just 80 yards long). As a result of the game's popularity, the league changed several rules: goal posts were moved from the end line to the goal line (reversed in 1974), all plays started between the hash marks -- and passing was permitted anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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