Crime Fighting, Philadelphia Style

Louis Hass had had quite enough. In November of 1919, his jewelry store, located at 1436 North Tenth Street in Philadelphia, had been robbed of $500.00, and two weeks later, right around the Thanksgiving holiday, vandals had broken his front window. The boards covering the window weren’t even gone yet, and here, in mid-December, was George Donnelly, pointing a revolver at Hass’ stomach and ordering him to raise his hands.

Hass did nothing of the kind. He vaulted over the counter and tackled Donnelly. For three or four minutes the two wrestled, “and did more damage to the store that the proverbial bull in a china shop” reported the Philadelphia Public Ledger of December 19, 1919. Hass bit into Donnelly’s left hand, and attempted to maneuver the would-be robber over to Hass’ safe, where he had a gun. When this failed, he managed to roll the thief over towards a bucket of ice water. Freeing one hand, Hass brought the bucket, filled with frigid water down square upon Donnelly’s head.

Meanwhile, a group of neighbors rushed in. Julia Young, who lived above the store, had heard the commotion downstairs and ran to the corner saloon to get help. With Prohibition less than a month away, the bar was packed with patrons for whom “Old time was still-a flying” and they rushed to Hass’ defense. Julia Young had a gun in her hand, a gift from Hass after she’d told him the first robbery had scared her. She gave it to one of the bar patrons, and all went storming into Hass’ back door.

As they came in the back, Donnelly managed to extricate himself from the bucket, and ran out of Hass’ store. The man with Young’s gun shot at him, missing wildly and taking out the glass transom above Hass’ entryway. Running as fast as he could, down Tenth Street towards Jefferson, drenched and bleeding profusely from the hand, he aroused the suspicion of Albert Sarbrey, superintendent of the public baths at Eleventh Street and Girard. Sarbrey decided to stop the fleeing man, and as Donnelly came towards him, threw a large metal trashcan at him. He hit Donnelly in the head, but the panicked robber kept on running.

A block or two later, chased by firearm wielding citizens, a superintendent of the public baths, and one very angry jewelry store owner, drenched to the skin with ice water in mid-December, bleeding from the hand, and dazed from a trash can to the skull, Donnelly ran smack-dab into Officers O’Donnell and Crooks (Ed. Note: Best Policeman’s Name Ever), of the Eighth and Master streets station, and was taken into custody.

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