AMAZING STORIES: A Police Lieutenant Slain Going to Work - JuniperCivic.com
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Originally published in the March 2012 Juniper Berry Magazine

AMAZING STORIES: A Police Lieutenant Slain Going to Work

Hero Det. Henry O. Schmiemann was slain in Middle Village

June 21, 1974 ‒ The New York Times

A police lieutenant in civilian clothes was killed yesterday by a man who tried to rob him as he walked to work along a quiet residential street in Queens. Though shot twice in the head, the policeman managed to draw his revolver and fire at his assailant.

Less than two hours later, the suspect, wounded in the chest, was traced by the police to Wyckoff Heights Hospital. He was believed to be the man who allegedly carried out another holdup an hour before a short distance from where the lieutenant was killed.

The suspect, who was transferred to Kings County Hospital to be treated for a bullet wound in the lower chest, was identified as John Smith, 26 years old, of 288 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn. The dead lieutenant was Henry O. Schmiemann, 45, of 63-44 82nd Place, Middle Village.

Mr. Smith, who has a record of 18 arrests and who was released only yesterday on $1,000 bail on a charge of reckless endangerment with a weapon, is a tall black man with several lower teeth missing and fits the description given by witnesses at both crimes, the police said.

The victim in the first robbery, George Ross, 50, of Jackson Heights, Queens, said also that the man who stopped him on a sidewalk and demanded his money was wearing a brown corduroy hat with a leatherette peak.

Such a hat was found lying beside Lieutenant Schmiemman's body this morning on 74th Street just south of Penelope Avenue, where he was cut down.

This had been a big week for the lieutenant. Last Saturday he and his wife, Marilyn, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Last Tuesday their twin sons, Tom and Peter, graduated from Resurrection Ascension grammar school. The next day was Mrs. Schmiemann's birthday.

Yesterday morning, the police said, Mrs. Schmiemman, heard on the radio that an officer in civilian clothes had been shot along what she knew was her husband's usual route to work.

Hears News On Radio

She called his office at Police Headquarters to see if he had arrived safely and his colleagues said they would have him telephone when he arrived. But they already knew of the shooting and asked the police Chaplain to go to the Schmiemman's two-story brick home. We think the person who did the Ross robbery is the same one who did the shooting, said Assistant Chief Edwin T. Dreher, who is in charge of detectives in Queens. That's conjecture. But that's what we think.

The police said that in an initial interview Mr. Smith said he had been shot at a different site, but they remained unshaken in their reconstruction of the events. A major piece of evidence will be the bullet, which is to be extracted from Mr. Smith.

Although Mr. Ross and witnesses to the shooting said they saw a black man flee in a dark greed car, possibly a 1968 Chevrolet, Mr. Smith told the police he was taken to the hospital in a taxi.

The police said late yesterday that Mr. Ross was unable to identify Mr. Smith positively from photographs and so he would not now be charged in the holdup. They said it was not unusual for victims to identify assailants later in a police line-up.

By early evening, however, Mr. Smith had been charged in another robbery after having been identified from photographs by a woman who said she had been his victim last week in Richmond Hill.

Shot on Way to Subway

Early yesterday afternoon, as the police continued to focus on Mr. Smith as their prime suspect, Lieut. Vincent A. Cooke, president of the Lieutenants Association, said his group was offering a $10,000 reward for apprehension and arrest of the perpetrator of this heinous crime.

Lieutenant Schmiemann, a father of five who had been on the force for 21 years, was on his way to the subway, which he usually rode to work at Police Headquarters in lower Manhattan, when the robber confronted him.

The police had only a sketchy account of the encounter from witnesses, but when other officers arrive shortly after 8:10 and found the lieutenant sprawled in the street, he held his revolver in one hand and his identification in the other, suggesting to some officers that he had tried to make an arrest.

A Placid Neighborhood

Capt. Patrick Lehane, who was the lieutenant's commander in the inspectional services bureau, which reviews the performance of the department's units, said the dead policeman had been a well rounded officer, a very intelligent man, who was quiet and unassuming.

Middle Village is a placid pocket of Queens, thick with middle-class families with Irish and Italian names who take pride in the well-kept appearance of their modest frame homes. Moving vans are seldom seen on the streets and, while there have been some burglaries over the years, violent crime has been rare.

For the last several days youngsters along tree shaded Penelope Avenue had been playing with firecrackers, and many residents thought they were at it again yesterday morning when the reports from the revolvers echoed through the neighborhood.

Joseph Perri, a 46 year old retired Sanitation Department employee, recalled sitting in his back yard reading a newspaper yesterday morning. All of a sudden I heard three or four pops and I took it for granted it was firecrackers, he said. The next thing I know some kid comes running down the street and says someone was shot. That was it.

A police spokesman said a funeral mass for Mr. Schmiemann had been scheduled for 10:15 Monday morning at the Resurrection Ascension Roman Catholic church at Woodhaven Boulevard and Eliot Avenue. The body will be at the Leo F. Kearns Funeral Home at 60-40 Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.