Merchant Policeman
John L. Watterson
Indianapolis Police Department
Saturday, December 23, 1893

Age: 35
Badge #:
Panel 54E, Line 30 (2018)
Panel L21, Line 14 (2018)

Incident Details

Cause of Death:
Date/Time of Incident:
Saturday, December 23, 1893
11:00 pm
Incident to Death Duration:
Same day
Incident Location:
874 North Tennessee Street, Indianapolis
Incident County:
Incident Township:
Weapon Used:
Edged weapon
Suspect Disposition:
Never apprehended
Burial Place:
Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis
(unmarked grave)

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   Merchant Policeman John Watterson was killed after interrupting a burglary in progress at 901 North Mississippi Street.

   As three burglars exited the rear door of the meat market, he confronted them. After a brief foot pursuit, he was stabbed multiple times with a knife and beaten causing a fractured skull. He was able to return fire and wounded one of the suspects.

   Merchant Policeman Watterson collapsed in a vacant lot across the street from 875 North Tennessee Street and died as responding officers found him.

   Three men were arrested seven months later but were released after five days and the case has never been solved.

   Merchant Policeman Watterson had served with the Indianapolis Police Department for several years. He was survived by his wife and stepson.

   During their existence, the Indianapolis Board of Safety appointed the city's merchant policemen but their salaries were paid by business owners in the downtown district.

   City ordinances did not grant any full or limited arrest powers to its merchant policemen, nor were they eligible for the pension fund offered to its sworn policemen.

Historical Note

• Merchant Policeman Watterson is the first known African-American law enforcement line of duty death in Indiana.

The responsibilities of the Indianapolis Police Department (1854–2006) are now under the jurisdiction of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

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