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 Charles E. Johnson, Policeman

Charles E. Johnson

Tuesday, November 13, 1917

Johnson, Charles E.

Rank: Policeman

Serial Number:Unknown

Division: Unknown

Location: 314 W. 1st St (Old Central

Date Killed: Tuesday, November 13, 1917

Cause of Death: Fall in a Police Station


In November 1917, Europe was entrenched in the first world war.
Locally, Grand Central Market was in its first year of existence.
Frederick T. Woodman was in his second year as mayor of Los
Angeles. John L. Butler was Chief of Police for the Los Angeles
Police Department. The old Central Station, built in 1896, had been
around a mere twenty-one years. It was then located at 314 West
First Street, along the southeast corner of First and Broadway
streets, just west of today's Parker Center. Morning watch, which
ran from 2:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. was run by Lieutenant Charles E.

Johnson was born in Jackson, Michigan on January 3, 1877, to
Russell and Maria Johnson. The elder Johnson worked as a telegraph
operator during Charles' youth. On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S.
Maine exploded in Santiago, Cuba, sparking United States entrance
into the Spanish American War. At the age of twenty-one, Charles
volunteered and eventually served with the Signal Corps, Battery A,
3rd Artillery of the U.S. Army. Before the war was over, Charles
was decorated for conspicuous bravery on the battlefield.

By 1900, Charles and his wife Clara, lived in San Francisco where
Johnson was stationed with the U.S. Army. Later when young Charles
left the military, he worked briefly as an express messenger for
Wells Fargo. On January 30, 1904, soon after his twenty-seventh
birthday, Charles E. Johnson answered the call to public service
and became a Los Angeles Police officer.

Charles distinguished himself rising quickly through the ranks,
making sergeant within five years of joining the department. He
made lieutenant in July 1914. By then, Charles had been decorated
for bravery by Chief Butler. Johnson saved the lives of
approximately twenty people during a fire at the Occidental Hotel,
located at 428 South Hill Street. Johnson entered the hotel and
dragged out several occupants to safety. As the fire raged in the
building, Johnson and Sergeant Henry Toomey braved the heat and
pried off a security grating from one of the windows of the hotel,
allowing several waiters to flee and escape the lapping

The ebullient Johnson had even acted in several silent movies
playing a patrolman of all things. It was not uncommon for officers
then as now, to work out in the police station to stay in shape.
Charles apparently liked staying in shape and it was this activity
that led to his untimely death at the age of 40. As Johnson boxed
with a sergeant in the roll call room (assembly room) of Central
Station, a jail inmate was busy scrubbing the floors. Tragically,
Charles slipped on the wet floor, falling back and striking his
head. He suffered a severe skull fracture to the back of his head
and was rendered unconscious. He was immediately taken across the
street to Receiving Hospital, but efforts by the police surgeon to
save Johnson's life proved futile.

Charles E. Johnson died at 10:00 p.m. on the evening of November
13, 1917. Johnson was survived by his 39 year old wife Clara and
two children including a daughter Charlotte. According to
historical accounts, his widow received a $50 a month pension along
with a one-time $1000 stipend.

Lieutenant J. A. Macias, #27710

LAPD Fallen Officers Badge