This tragic story affected more than just the families of the victims. The police department suffered a blow to its reputation due to some technical mistakes made during the investigation of this high-profile case. Unfortunately, the last article is not included in the scrapbook, so we may never know what the Commission’s final decision was …
Charge of Withheld Information is Sifted by Officials
RECORDS ARE GOOD
In a private hearing before the members of the Police Commission and Mayor Emil Berger, the latter acting in the capacity of chairman of the Commission, Sergeant Charles Erickson and Patrolman William Heilman of the Ridgefield Police Department were questioned regarding statements made by Michael Kelly of Edgewater avenue, Ridgefield, to the effect that these two men had withheld information in the recent accident case, in which one girl, Dorothy Balmain, was killed and two others Evelyn Kelly and Gertrude Pugh were injured. The driver of the car which on the night of August 25, struck the girls continued on his way after the accident but was picked up by Patrolman Charles Sequine after a chase. He was examined by Dr. J. V. Lynn who stated that although the man had been drinking, he was not unfit to drive a car. He is Harvey Lyons, of Edgewater, this week indicted by the Bergen County Grand Jury on charges of manslaughter on testimony of two young women passengers in his car.
Erickson was on desk duty that night and he was charged with withholding information. Supervisor Darrow stated that this was technical and forced because of the circumstances. Erickson stated that he was alone at the desk and was busy until late in the night making entries, answering phone calls, etc. He gave a plausible explanation of his lack of detail entry.
Heilmann was interviewed immediately following Erickson who had been charged with failing to make an entry in his memorandum book. It appears that while the police were searching the vicinity of the accident for clues, a man alighted from a car and said, “take my name and license number, officer, as I don’t want to be charged later as a hit and run driver.” Heilmann admitted that he had not made an entry in his book, but stated that he had told Erickson of the incident.
Supervisor Darrow advised the press that he had filed the charges and the commission had reserved decision in the case.
Mayor Emil Berger stated that he had absolute faith in the Police Department and that the commission’s decision would shortly be announced. Erickson stated that he thought he would be vindicated and that he had been glad of the opportunity to clear himself of any doubts in the matter.
He was appointed to the Departmen [sic] in 1925 and in 1929 was made a sergeant. He served as acting chief after the dismissal of Chief Edwin Bunce and later was replaced by Supervisor George F. Darrow, who was selected for the position because of his many years experience in the New York Police Department from which he is a retired captain.
Heilman was named to the department in 1926 and has served in the capacity of Patrolman since that time. Several years ago he was severely injured while chasing a fugitive on the police motorcycle.
Several times the Ridgefield Police Department has received high praise from bystanders and from surrounding towns and cities for their efficiency. For a department of its size it is equipped with a finger printing department in charge of Sergeant Walter Gallagher and each of the men are outstanding marksmen, having become experts under the supervision of George F. Darrow. [T]here has always been harmony among the members of the Police Commission since the advent of Supervisor Darrow. Alan B. Conor, Henry F. Forman and Clarence Kile, are the members of the commission.
Hearings from local residents that “politics” should not be permitted to interfere with apprehension and punishment of the hit and run driver was in no way intended as an [sic] reflection on local officers or officials. The investigation of the details of the night happenings appear to have been in the nature of a check up on rumors rather than on any suspicions that the local officers had not done their duty.
Gertrude Pugh, of 508 Prospect avenue, and Evelyn Kelly, of 1116 Edgewater avenue, have returned home, Gertrude from Holy Name Hospital and Evelyn from Englewood Hospital, where they were removed following their partial recovery. Gertrude Pugh is suffering from a broken leg and the limb is in a cast. It will be several weeks before she will be able to walk. Evelyn Kelly is recovering from concussion of the brain.