Murder, robbery, and suicide in the back alleys, liquor stores, and bedrooms of Los Angeles. Warning: graphic images and NSFW
“Great police photographs offer up explicitness in perfect proportion,” writes James Ellroy in his introduction to LAPD ‘53.
“Great police photographs grant the viewer narrative wiggle room and urge them to provide their own subtext. Consider this photo,” he says.
A detective points at a bullet hole in the wall of a dive hotel, put there by a detective in pursuit of one of the residents who was stashing heroin in his room. The bullet that killed him went through his body and hit the wall.
Emmett Perkins and Jack Santo were the kind of bad guys even bad guys didn’t like. They went on a killing spree near Sacramento, slaughtering a local family for $6,000 in grocery store receipts: dad, mum, three kids, all dumped in the boot of the dad’s car. Then they murdered an old lady called Mabel Monohan who was rumoured to keep $100,000 in her house for when she needed bail out her gambler son-in-law. They invaded her home wearing masks (modelled above by a cop), failed to find $100,000, murdered her anyway. When the manhunt went public, informants were numerous: everyone wanted to grass up Emmett Perkins and Jack Santo.
This man picked up a sailor and brought him back to his apartment, where the sailor beat him unconscious with an ashtray, lamp base, his fists, and feet. He survived a broken nose, fractured jaw and chronic subdural hematoma but died of barbiturate poisoning from the phenobarbital prescribed for the constant pain from his injuries. He died while on the phone, still clutching the receiver. The sailor was acquitted of assault charges. Says James Ellroy: “An inventory of visible items distills his loneliness.”
Police officers in a hallway in Hollywood after a shooting, recording where the bullets hit.
Richard Hilda beat his wife Ruth to death with a croquet mallet, cut off her hands and buried them in the backyard. He put her handless body in the boot of his car and drove her south to Mexico, dumping her in a valley. These are the detectives in their shirtsleeves, digging up her hands in her own backyard.
The hands of a killer after a spur-of-the-moment drunken beef between two friends. Clarence E. Vickery (pictured) killed his friend of five years Paul M. Kenney (below) at a gas station on Foothill Boulevard. Vickery said Kenney came at him with his fists and hit him in the mouth “[So] I knocked him down and his head hit the pavement. I picked him up and hit him again, and then I kicked him several times in the face and head.”
This image is graphic
Paul M. Kenney was pronounced DOA at the hospital. Vickery sobered up in jail.
The car involved in an assault with a deadly weapon.
The guy pointing at the chalk is Sergeant Harry Hansen, lead detective on the Elizabeth Short/Black Dahlia case of 1947 (still unsolved). The body on the floor belonged to the proprietor of the robbed liquor store, Joseph James Reposo, aged 73. The suspect got away with $25.51 in cash register money, $61.00 from wallet cash, and a pocket watch he pawned two weeks later under a pseudonym. The case is open and unsolved.
William Heirens, AKA The Lipstick Killer, confessed to three murders in 1946 but was too young to go to the chair. He died in prison, having served 65 years for his crimes where his calling card was to leave a note scrawled in lipstick on the bathroom mirror: “Stop me before I kill more.” He inspired this copycat who broke in and wrote this. He didn’t steal, molest, or kill; he did this note and left. There’s no file on him, he was never found. He should have left a number.
All photographs are from LAPD ‘53 by James Ellroy and Glynn Martin of the Los Angeles Police Museum, published by Abrams Image.