RIGDON, ROBERT M

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On this day in Baltimore Police History 5 Nov, 1858 we lost our brother Police Officer Robert M. Rigdon in an Assassination by Gunfire – From the Baltimore Sun paper - The Examination before the Mayor – Investigation and Verdict of the Coroner’s Jury – The Excitement and Incidents of the Tragedy. – the killing of Robert M. Rigdon, an officer of the Western district, who was assassinated in the bosom of his family, at 468 West Baltimore street, the night previous, out of revenge for his testimony delivered in the case of Gambrill, concluded in Criminal Court on the same afternoon for the murder of officer Benjamin Benton, a brother officer of the deceased… The assassination appears to have been one of deliberate premeditation. Officer Rigdon, after answering roll call at the station house on Green street, retired into the privacy of his home. During the evening, and while Mr. Rigdon was in the back-room of his dwelling, a man (since recognized as Peter Corrie) entered the store-room, which is in the front part of the house, and looked at some undershirts and other articles displayed. In the store he conducted himself like a drunken man, but that was evidently feigned. His actions becoming repulsive to Mrs. Rigdon and a female attendant, she called on her husband to eject him from the premises. Fearful that the thing was a ruse to draw him within the reach of his enemies, Rigdon hesitated, and said to his wife, who stood in the doorway leading to the storeroom, “I don’t attend the store – tell him to go out,” or words to that effect. At that moment, while resting with his elbow against the mantel of the fireplace, where he had laid his pistol belt, the weapon of the crouching assailant in his rear was fired through the little window, which opens into the yard from the sitting room. Rigdon, who, from the position of the mantel, must have been but three or four feet distant from the weapon, received five slugs in his back, near the left side. His only exclamation was, “My God! I’m shot!” and attempted to reach for the sofa, but sank on the floor and died after heaving an audible groan. Persons passing upon the street and the residents alarmed by the shot, hastened into the house, where they stood horrified and trembling at the deed of blood before them, for a moment transfixed and unable to act. His wife is said to have acted heroically, and neither shrieked nor fainted, but recited all with coolness and self-possession which was remarkable. Officer J. Cook being in the vicinity hastened in the direction of the shot, and fell upon Peter Corrie as he was running away from the alley of Rigdon’s house.

The officer gave chase, when another man (since recognized as Mal Cropps,) followed, and ran along on the other side of the street. Cook singled out Corrie, and came up with him on the run, calling on him to stop. Corrie did not heed but ran down Baltimore to Pine and to Penn streets, the pursued and pursuer occasionally exchanging shots. At Penn street, Cook was joined by officers Jamison and Huggins, one of whom sprang his rattle in advance of Corrie, which so alarmed him, that he slackened his pace and was easily captured. When he found himself in the hands of the officers, he begged for life, and said as “God lived” he was innocent of the murder. He then in his fear, confessed, and said “Mal Cropps did it.” He was locked up in a cell at the western district.  

Officer Rigdon's murder could have the unfortunate distinction of being the first instance of an American law enforcement officer being murdered while off-duty, for his official actions as a lawenforcement officer.

 

Baltimore Sun Article Dated 11/08/1858
The Assassination of Robert M. Rigdon – The Examination before the Mayor – Investigation and Verdict of the Coroner’s Jury – The Excitement and Incidents of the Tragedy. – The Sun of Saturday contained the startling announcement of the killing of Robert M. Rigdon, an officer of the Western district, who was assassinated in the bosom of his family, No. 468 West Baltimore street, the night previous, out of revenge for his testimony delivered in the case of Gambrill, concluded in Criminal Court on the same afternoon for the murder of officer Benjamin Benton, a brother officer of the deceased… The assassination appears to have been one of deliberate premeditation. Officer Rigdon, after answering roll call at the station house on Green street, retired into the privacy of his home. During the evening, and while Mr. Rigdon was in the back-room of his dwelling, a man (since recognized as Peter Corrie) entered the store-room, which is in the front part of the house, and looked at some undershirts and other articles displayed. In the store he conducted himself like a drunken man, but that was evidently feigned.   His actions becoming repulsive to Mrs. Rigdon and a female attendant, she called on her husband to eject him from the premises. Fearful that the thing was a ruse to draw him within the reach of his enemies, Rigdon hesitated, and said to his wife, who stood in the doorway leading to the storeroom, “I don’t attend the store – tell him to go out,” or words to that effect.   At that moment, while resting with his elbow against the mantel of the fireplace, where he had laid his pistol belt, the weapon of the crouching assailant in his rear was fired through the little window, which opens into the yard from the sitting room. Rigdon, who, from the position of the mantel, must have been but three or four feet distant from the weapon, received five slugs in his back, near the left side. His only exclamation was, “My God! I’m shot!” and attempted to reach for the sofa, but sank on the floor and died after heaving an audible groan. Persons passing upon the street and the residents alarmed by the shot, hastened into the house, where they stood horrified and trembling at the deed of blood before them, for a moment transfixed and unable to act. His wife is said to have acted heroically, and neither shrieked nor fainted, but recited all with coolness and self-possession which was remarkable.   Officer J. Cook being in the vicinity hastened in the direction of the shot, and fell upon Peter Corrie as he was running away from the alley of Rigdon’s house.


The officer gave chase, when another man (since recognized as Mal Cropps, followed, and ran along on the other side of the street. Cook singled out Corrie, and came up with him on the run, calling on him to stop. Corrie did not heed but ran down Baltimore to Pine and to Penn streets, the pursued and pursuer exchanging shots occasionally. At Penn street, Cook was joined by officers Jamison and Huggins, one of whom sprang his rattle in advance of Corrie, which so alarmed him, that he slackened his pace and was easily captured. When he found himself in the hands of the officers, he begged for life, and said as “God lived” he was innocent of the murder. He then in his fear, confessed, and said “Mal Cropps did it.”   He was locked up in a cell at the western district. 


Baltimore Sun Article Dated January 27, 1859

At about 10 ½ o’clock it was announced that the jury, who had been out all night in the case of Corrie, had agreed upon a verdict, and they soon after entered the court. Their names having been called, and the prisoner directed to hold up his right hand, the court said the verdict must be received in silence, and without demonstration whatever on the part of the spectators. The clerk then, amid breathless silence, asked – “What say you, is the prisoner at the bar guilty or not guilty?” The foreman replied, “guilty of murder in the first degree.”


Baltimore Sun Article Dated April 9, 1859
Yesterday was the day fixed upon by the Governor of the State of Maryland for the execution of the four condemned murders, Henry C. Gambrill (Note; this is the person who murdered Officer Benton), Marion Cropps, Peter Corrie and John Stephens… Many persons had arrived in the city during Thursday to witness the scene – all parts of the State, the District of Columbia, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and even New York city and Buffalo being represented on this occasion. Early in the morning throngs of persons began to pour in from Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford and adjacent counties, and the houses of the city appeared empty themselves of their inhabitants – all wending their way to the streets and hills to the west and north of the jail, which commanded full view of the gallows erected within the jail yard. The housetops, windows, trees and all other places from whence a more enlarged view could be obtained were crowded with human beings. A sea of faces met the eye far and near – men, women and children – old age and infancy – white and black – swelled up the vast multitude, drawn to witness the horrible spectacle…

 

The execution throughout was conducted with the greatest precision and humanity, the orders and arrangements of Sheriff Creamer being carried out with the most scrupulous fidelity. To the sheriff and those deputies who assisted him every credit is due for the faithful discharge of their duties – No execution that ever occurred in Baltimore was performed with more strict regard to mercy and humanity, and not a single circumstance occurred which could cause regret, the performance of the stern demands of the law.   


As his brothers and sisters of the Baltimore Police Department we will not let him be forgotten, His service Honored the City of Baltimore, and the Baltimore Police Department may he rest in peace, and may God bless him.

More details

Name Description
End of Watch 5 November, 1858
City, St. 468 West Baltimore street
Panel Number 24-E: 21
Cause of Death Gunfire
District Worked Western

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