40 years ago – Shootout in Falls City

In this Bill Schock photo taken on Feb. 2, 1974, Kansas State Troopers crouch behind patrol cars during the shootout. Other police and patrol cars are strung out ahead. The overturned car in which the youths were fleeing is at the far upper right.

 

(Forty years ago last Saturday, on Feb. 2, l973, a shootout at the north edge of Falls City left a l9-year-old St. Joseph, MO, youth dead after 35 minutes of pure terror for the number of persons involved. The Journal staff felt the re-telling would be interesting to today’s readers.)

It was just about straight up noon when three cars came racing by the Journal office, shots coming from the car in front being fired at the two cars behind. Sirens were blaring. The chase through the city was on.

Chief of Police Ivan Bieck and Patrolman Lester “Perk” Sailors had been keeping track by police radio of the report that Kansas State troopers were chasing two youths who were headed north toward Falls City on Highway 73. Bieck and Sailors stationed their patrol car just north of viaduct and had been there only minutes when a green Buick came speeding across the viaduct at a high rate of speed, on the wrong side of the highway.  The police car gave chase with sirens blaring. At l3th Street State Trooper Robert Strickland, who had been summoned while at  home and now was southbound,  did a quick l80 and joined the pursuit, lights on and siren going full blast.

This reporter grabbed a Journal camera and headed out, a probable “scoop” in hand.

Up ahead Roy Kirkendall, a salesman for K. E. Morehead Auto Co., slowed to a stop on the highway, waiting for the oncoming traffic to get by him, before turning into the Zentner Phillips  66 station, approximately where Personal Care, Inc. now is located. A car swished around him on the shoulder on the east side of the road and then went into a spin and stopped as it came back on the highway. Kirkendall completed his turn into the station and out of the corner of his eye saw the male passenger in the stalled car on the highway opening the car door and shooting down the highway. Then both occupants were shooting down the highway, the male with a pistol and the female with a rifle.

Trooper Strickland had pulled up, had gotten out of his car when the youth with the pistol pinned him down. The red-headed girl ran into the service station. Bill Lee, who had just purchased the station, his son David, 9, and Herb Killingsworth, an employee, were standing inside. They had seen the Buick spin out of control.

The girl yelled at Lee, “You’re being covered, see if the keys are in that car (the Chevelle deserted by Kirkendall). I’m using you as a shield and I have a knife in your back—walk to the car and don’t pull nothing funny.” It was Bill Lee’s lucky day.

“I just knew that woman was going to put me into that car and take me with her,” he later said.

She jumped into the driver’s and headed north out of the station to pick up her companion, who had ran from his hideout. She didn’t reckon with the freezing mist which had put a glaze on the highway. As she turned north she “lost it,” the car skidding into a ditch on the east side of the road and turning over on its side.    

Just to the north Subby Lombardo had left his Fireside Inn and was headed south on the highway. He noticed the police cars with red lights flashing at the service station and thought there had been a wreck. Patrolman Gene Ramer frantically waved him into the station. As Subby got out of his car, a shot was fired. He crawled into the station then quickly called Fireside Inn where his father Sam Lombardo and his brother Jim and two cleaning ladies were inside to warm them of what was happening. Jim grabbed a gun and stood at the front door.

Shots were being traded back and forth by Trooper Strickland and the two youths, who were shielded by the overturned car. More patrol cars, both Nebraska and Kansas, had arrived on the scene. By this time a small crowd, drawn by the police scanner  and the screeching sirens had gathered back of a police barricade near were Lem’s is now located. At that distance they could see a little of what was going on.

Nebraska State Troopers Kent R. Rumpf and John L. Wisecarver, both of Nebraska City, were at the scene, having been advised by radio to approach from the south.

(This reporter and a Kansas State trooper were sharing the protection of his patrol car and following the action.)

As the shots continued, the two youths suddenly left the overturned car and took cover in some brush nearby.

Trooper Rumpf, armed with a .35l caliber magnum rifle, got on his patrol car’s public address system and called on the two to surrender. The boy emerged from the brush and ran across the highway, then back to the east side and started north in a narrow ditch. A shot came the trooper’s way.  He again warned the fleeing youth, armed with a pistol, to halt–he was headed for Fireside Inn and its four occupants. He had to be stopped.    

Rumpf fired two warning shots over the youth’s head. He kept  running, about l50 yards ahead. Rump’s third shot was for real. The youth went down. He was dead.

Trooper Rumpf then got back on his PA system and ordered the girl to come out.

“Your companion is down,” he said. “Come out with your hands above your head.” She stumbled out of her hiding place, hands up, and officers moved in to put her in custody.  She had sustained a leg injury in the melee and was taken to Community Hospital and then to jail. Her dead companion was taken to the Chaney-Hodgens-Clark Funeral Home.          

It was all over.

Later in the day County Attorney Henry F. Schepman called a coroner’s jury and an inquest was held at the Chaney-Hodgens-Clark Funeral Home.  There was a parade of first-and witnesses and after three hours Schepman ended the inquest.  The unanimous decision: the homicide was justified. (Roger Kiekhaefer was a member of the jury—the others are deceased.)

What triggered the chase and the shootout?

Earlier that morning, the St. Joe youths, William D. Kotsonis, l9. and Maxine L. Wood, l6, were arrested in a stolen car near Effingham, KS, by two Kansas State Patrolmen. While they were in custody, Kotsonis, pulled a knife on the patrolmen and handcuffed them, then the couple fled. Northwest of Atchison, KS, they burst into the rural home of a retired couple, Mr. and Mrs. William Glamann, and proceeded  to terrorize them while cutting the telephone wires. The boy, with a revolver in his hand, demanded any guns in the house. Mr. Glamann gave them his .22 rifle. They demanded the keys to his car, which were in the car, and then fled in the blue Buick, the girl driving. The farm couple immediately got into their pickup and notified the Kansas State Patrol. The pursuit began and the chase up Highway 73 became hot.

You have the rest of the story.

Maxine Wood was charged for her involvement in the shootout and within several weeks she was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in the Nebraska Women’s Reformatory at Geneva, where she was taken by Sheriff L. D. “Blackie” Camblin and Bob Ferguson.    

Perhaps a year or so after she had served her time at Geneva, she came into The Journal office with a boyfriend and asked to view the files with the stories of the shootout and her trial. She was permitted to do so. Journal employees just shook their heads.

    

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