John B. Gearty


Appointed July 5,1927
Died July 10, 1939 

On July 10, 1939, a special force of 120 Minneapolis policemen were on strike duty to maintain law and order at a Work Progress Administration (WPA) members strike.

This special detail included 76 day men at their regular posts, 40 night men, 60 traffic officers including motorcycle patrolmen, and 20 detectives.

A disturbance occurred at the sewing project headquarters at Second Avenue and Second Street North.

Officer John B. GEARTY was accompanying two other patrolmen while they were escorting a non-striker, who had been knocked down in a struggle, to police headquarters for safety.

When a picket struck one of the patrolmen, officer GEARTY pursued the picket between two automobiles, where the picket turned upon him.

Officer GEARTY suffered a blow on the temple on the scuffle. There were reports that five or six men aimed punches at GEARTY, but these could not be verified.

Officer GEARTY managed walk on to police headquarters, where other patrolmen persuaded him to go to the hospital. One policeman drove him to General Hospital over his protests.

Officer GEARTY didn’t say much; his face was flushed and he was weak. He was assisted into the hospital where he told a nurse:

“I was hurt by one of those WPA strikers.” She understood him to say either he was kicked or hit in the head.

“I was out for a few minutes,” she quoted him as saying.

Officer GEARTY told a physician he had an “awful headache”. He asked for some pills. He was taken into a ward, protesting he would rest for a little while and then go home. But shortly afterward, attendants found him unconscious. He died an hour after he had entered the hospital.

Inquiry by members of the WPA division of investigation into the cause of death of Officer GEARTY was asked immediately by the State WPA administrator of the assistant WPA commissioner in Washington, D.C.

The official report of the deputy Hennepin County coroner said:

“The autopsy revealed that death was due to coronary disease. There is a history of his having been beaten over the head. In fact, the deceased made such a statement before he died, but the autopsy did not reveal any injury which could have caused death or that they were sufficient to be contributary. On the other hand, there was a definite and severe heart condition.

The grief stricken widow said at her home at 3451 Bryant Avenue North that GEARTY had never complained of a heart ailment or any other internal disease, and that he had taken no sick leaves in recent years.

Chief of Police Frank Forestall said of Officer GEARTY’S death:

“Regardless of how he died, he died in the line of duty. If he died as they say he did of a heart attack, that attack was induced by the exertion imposed on Officer GEARTY as a result of strike activities. He was a good officer.

Officer GEARTY was 46 years old. He had been a member of the police department for 12 years. He was known to hundreds
as the traffic officer at Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue.

He had served with a squad car out of the Bryant Avenue station before being transferred to traffic duty. Officer GEARTY was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Funeral services were being held on July 13, 1939 at the family home and St. Bridget’s Church, Dowling and Emerson Avenue’s North, with burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery.