George W. Wilson
Council Bluffs Police Department
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive Avoiding Arrest
Murder Scene and Date
Council Bluffs, Iowa
End of Watch: Monday, July 29, 1907
By Nancy Bowers
Written October 2013
Every time a peace officer puts on a uniform and pins on the badge, they are preparing to walk into a danger zone where at any second they can encounter an armed criminal, a belligerent and aggressive drunk, or a disturbed or downright psychopathic person who poses a threat to the public.
It is the officer’s duty — accepted with pride and without fear — to stand between those offenders and the rest of the citizenry, even if it means risking their own physical well-being or losing their life.
On the night of Sunday, July 28, 1907, two Council Bluffs, Iowa, officers answered the call of duty, risking all to perform their jobs. One gave all.
☛ First Shots Fired ☚
Officer W.H. Richardson, a four-year U.S. Army veteran of the Philippines, was patrolling the city. At 10:00 p.m., he answered a call to the North First Street Bridge.
Reports of the incident vary as to why Richardson was dispatched. Two newspaper articles stated it was to arrest for vagrancy an odd man who was shouting insults at passersby and begging for quarters.
Another report said Richardson was sent when a burglar was cornered by residents. Still another stated that a suspect with an outstanding warrant was recognized in the neighborhood.
When Patrolman Richardson arrived to arrest the man, he did not even have a chance to search him. The suspect drew a revolver from his pants pocket and fired directly into Richardson’s chest and then fled, running north of Harrison Street.
Officer Richardson returned fired as he chased the shooter about a quarter of block before collapsing on the sidewalk. Passersby carried him into the John Linder home at the corner of Washington Avenue and First Street. Then an ambulance drove him to Edmondson Memorial Hospital.
With an officer down, the Council Bluffs Police summoned all on-duty officers to the scene, as well as those off-duty at home.
Because he lived on Harrison Street, off-duty Police Detective George W. Wilson — a 10-year-veteran of the force — was already close to the scene and so rushed to join in the hunt for the gunman who shot a fellow officer.
He traveled north and east in his search.
About 10:30 p.m., at the head of Elliott Street — only two blocks from his own home — Detective Wilson saw a suspicious man lurking in a ditch and ordered him to halt. Suddenly, both officer and suspect opened fire.
A bullet struck Wilson full in the stomach, wounding him seriously; but he was able to tell responding officers that he believed he shot the suspect in the foot, because he was limping badly as he fled the scene.
Neighborhood residents carried Wilson back to his own home on Harrison Street and from there he was taken to Edmondson Memorial Hospital, where his fellow officer Richardson was already being treated for his gunshot wound.
Both wounded officers described their assailant in a similar way, so there was no question that it was the same man.
At midnight, hospital staff announced that the prospects for both officers were dim.
George Wilson was cared for by Dr. Macra, who rushed him into surgery to remove the bullet. Immediately after the operation, Wilson died; it was then the early morning hours of July 29.
The same morning, although still in critical condition, Richardson was felt to have a decent chance at recovery after what the Atlantic Daily Telegraph termed “a remarkable showing of strength.”
A few days later, the bullet which entered his body was found in the skin of his back but Richardson was too weak to undergo surgery to remove it.
☛ Search For a Cop Killer ☚
Immediately after the shootings, all law enforcement in the city and county were focused on finding the fugitive.
The shooter, it was assumed, was someone who either desperately wanted to avoid arrest because of past crimes or was simply, as the Malvern Leader wrote, “Coldblooded, as the criminal has evidently done nothing of a serious nature.” The word “desperado” was the most common descriptive term for him.
The countryside north and east of Council Bluffs was combed, as it was thought the suspect fled that way.
The next afternoon, a telegram brought word that a suspect was discovered at the Crescent train depot 9 miles northeast of Council Bluffs; authorities warned residents to avoid the area.
A posse of 200 men flushed the suspect from the train station into a cornfield. From there, the man fled into nearby hills.
A pack of bloodhounds owned by Dr. J.B. Fulton of Beatrice, Nebraska, was set on his trail but the dogs lost the scent in heavy rain.
The suspect was then believed to be hiding in the thick underbrush along the Missouri River.
An agitated group of between 200 to 300 men gathered around the police station waiting for a suspect to be captured and brought in.
Fearing mob violence and a possible lynching, Council Bluffs authorities secretly planned to confine any captured suspect in a jail outside that jurisdiction.
Rumors sped through Council Bluffs that the suspect was captured in Honey Creek and transported in an automobile to a jail in either Fort Dodge, Avoca, or Logan. Other rumors had the man in Loveland. Sworn to secrecy, police officers refused to verify or deny these stories.
☛ Sightings and Suspicions Continue ☚
Then came word of a sighting 45 miles south of Council Bluffs in Mills County. Constable John Farrell reported to Mills County Sheriff L.G. Linville that he saw a man matching the description of the shooter in the rail yard at Pacific Junction. Farrell followed the man east to Mills Station but lost him in the heavy underbrush.
Dave Fisher, a Burlington Railroad Conductor on the Number 4 train, had a man and his companion taken off and arrested at Ottumwa. The man matched the description of the Council Bluffs shooter and was limping from a leg injury.
The suspect claimed his leg had a running sore that had been treated by Dr. Craig at Henderson. A call to the physician confirmed the wound was not from a bullet.
On August 8 came the news that authorities believed the man who shot the police officers was Rosanao Emillio, an escapee from Lincoln, New Mexico, who was sentenced to death there for killing his Mexican common-law wife.
The story attached to this report was that Emillio’s photo had been posted in the Council Bluffs Police Department rogues gallery. Citizen George E. Aspinwall, having seen the photo and believing he spotted the fugitive, alerted Patrolman Richardson. Richardson followed Emillio and a male companion; when he saw them enter a house, he believed they were going to burglarize it and confronted them.
What unfolded then was Patrolman Richardson’s wounding and the murder of Detective Wilson.
Pottawattamie deputies continued to comb the countryside around Council Bluffs, but citizens felt certain and came to accept that the suspect escaped the dragnet and would never be captured.
☛ George Wilson’s Life ☚
George W. Wilson was born in December of 1857 in Missouri. He married Edith Moore. Although a newspaper story at the time of his death reported the couple had four children, census research cannot confirm that.
At the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, Edith and George Wilson lived at 226 N. Sixth Street in Council Bluffs with Edith’s 12-year-old brother Melvin H. Moore and George’s niece, Edna M. Wilson, who was 7.
Rev. James O’May conducted Wilson’s funeral in the Broadway Methodist Church at 10:00 a.m. on July 31.
The sanctuary was filled with friends, law enforcement, and family members. Council Bluffs Police Officers served as pallbearers as Detective Wilson was laid to rest in Walnut Hill Cemetery.
☛ In the Line of Duty ☚
George W. Wilson is one of 184 Iowa peace officers — as of October 2013 — to die in the line of duty and one of 104 killed by gunfire.
Click here to view the article “Iowa Department of Public Safety Peace Officer Memorial Page Remembers Office George W. Wilson” or click here to view the page in Wilson’s memory on the website Officer Down Memorial Page.
Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “Burglar Shoots Detectives,” Nashua Reporter, August 8, 1907.
- ☛ “Council Bluffs Officers Shot,” Glenwood Opinion, August 1, 1907.
- ☛ “Desperado At Bay Near Council Bluffs,” Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, July 29, 1907.
- ☛ “Desperado Kills Council Bluffs Police Officer,” Mills County Tribune, August 2, 1907.
- ☛ “Identify The Desperado,” Pella Chronicle, August 8, 1907.
- ☛ “Identify The Desperado,” Pocahontas County Sun, August 8, 1907.
- ☛ “In A Mood For Lynching,” Renwick Times, August 8, 1907.
- ☛ “Man Hunt Is On At Council Bluffs,” Waterloo Daily Courier, July 29, 1907.
- ☛ “Man Shoots Two Policemen,” Atlantic Daily Democrat, July 29, 1907.
- ☛ “Murderers Still at Large,” Atlantic Daily Telegraph, July 31, 1907.
- ☛ “One Of Officers Is Dead,” Malvern Leader, August 1, 1907.
- ☛ “One Of Officers Is Dead,” Rolfe Reveille, August 1, 1907.
- ☛ U.S. Census.
- ☛ “Wounded Officer Dies,” Beatrice (Nebraska) Daily Sun, July 31, 1907.