FROM THE ARCHIVES: Suspects known, but still free; after decades, two cases remain open
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 25 1999.
Henry C. Schaad and Lillie Belle Allen happened to be in the wrong place at a time most people would rather just forget.
Schaad, a 22-year-old white rookie York City police officer, was killed by an armor-piercing bullet fired by a black gunman as Schaad rode in an armored car through a black neighborhood during the riots of July 1969.
Two nights later, Allen, a 27-year-old black woman and the daughter of a southern minister, was visiting from South Carolina when she was shot after she wandered into a white neighborhood.
After 30 years and hundreds of interviews, police have not brought the killers to justice. And though both cases remain open, police who oversaw the murder investigations wonder if they ever will be solved.
Too much time has passed, memories have become faint — and a wall of silence has hampered the investigation from the start in both the black and white communities.
Although there are strong suspects, there hasn't been enough evidence to file charges, largely because multiple shooters fired at both Allen and Schaad, leaving it difficult to pinpoint who actually fired the fatal shot, police say.
Homicide is the only charge that could still be filed because it is the only relevant offense that has no statue of limitations.
"Only God and the people who did the shooting know, and there were several," said William Hose, a patrolman during the riots who later became police chief before retiring in 1992. He is now York County's elected sheriff.
"They may get away with this now. But there is a final judge higher than us. They will get what's coming in that day of final judgement."
The shooting occurred during a tumultuous time that left 68 others injured in several nights of sniper fire, arson and random violence.
Silence and sides divided by race: York City had become a war zone, divided by race. What began as bottles and bricks in 1967 escalated into guns in 1968 and armor-piercing bullets by the summer of 1969.
People who had information on the fatal shootings refused to come forward, largely because they didn't want to be viewed as traitors to the black or white community or out of fear for their safety, said Thomas V. Chatman Jr., a former York City police chief who was lead detective on the murder investigations.
"It was tougher than pulling teeth. There were witnesses. But no one wanted to tell you anything. People took sides according to race and didn't want to cooperate," he said.
And others just didn't know.
From Willie L. Allen's porch, he can still see the intersection where the shots were fired at Schaad. He has lived on South Penn Street since August 1952 and believes decent citizens would have provided police with information on the shooting, if they knew anything.
But they were barricaded in their homes and under a city-imposed curfew.
"You minded your business and stayed inside. You didn't get close to an opening like a window or door," said Allen, 80, who retired from the York Corp. after 33 years.
Over time, accounts of the shootings have been colored by rumor and folklore. But police still managed to build cases and know the names of those involved, said Hose and Chatman.
A look at the cases: Based on the investigations, Chatman determined that four black shooters stood in the intersection of College Avenue and Penn Street — a predominantly black neighborhood — the night of July 19, 1969, and fired armor-piercing bullets from high-powered rifles at Schaad's armored car. The eastbound car, a visible symbol of police presence, slowed as it tried to make the hill on the College Avenue bridge.
A group of about a dozen people watched from a darkened street corner, just down from what would be dedicated as Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park the following May.
"We didn't bring charges because we couldn't prove who fired the fatal shot. I know the names of all four. All four shot at the same time and one hit. But all four didn't shoot him," Chatman said.
In Allen's case, her body and car she was riding in were riddled with slugs, called "pumpkin balls," fired from shotguns from up to 20 white shooters at Newberry Street and Gay Avenue on July 21, Chatman said. The gunfire came from the street, rooftops and windows, he said.
"I've never seen anything like it. The car was ventilated. I don't think they actually know who killed her," he said.
Investigations blocked by riots: Getting into the dangerous neighborhoods at the time of the shootings to conduct comprehensive interviews was almost impossible, Chatman and Hose said. Police were trying to regain control of the city, making it difficult to focus manpower on a murder investigation, they said.
Evidence was also lacking. The weapons were not recovered. The bullet fired at Schaad from what police believe was a 30.40 Craig rifle, an unusual rifle believed to be foreign military issue, disintegrated as it ripped through the car's metal plating and hit Schaad. Allen's body was riddled with pumpkin balls, or buckshot the size of a .38-caliber bullet, fired from "multiple" shotguns.
Barry Bloss, a York City police officer during the riots and now York County coroner, remembers both murders as if they were yesterday.
About the time of the Schaad shooting, Bloss remembers driving through the College Avenue and Penn Street intersection in a patrol car with his partner, Ron Nicholas, and seeing blacks who would point their fingers at them as if they were firing a gun.
Armored car, bulletproof vest: Police decided to use armored cars — two old bank cars — to patrol the neighborhoods, said Bloss and Chatman. Schaad was shot soon afterward, and police who once wanted to ride in the supposedly protective armored cars became apprehensive, even after special armor plating was installed, they said.
When he was shot, Schaad was wearing a bulletproof vest as he sat in the rear of the armored car, traveling east towards William Penn Senior High School, from which he had graduated five years earlier.
The bullet had entered an unprotected area of his body at the armpit and struck his lungs and spine. He died at 4:45 a.m. Aug. 1, 1969, at York Hospital, where he had been in serious condition on a respirator since the shooting.
He became the only police officer ever killed in the line of duty in York City, and today, old and new officers alike know the story of the man who grew up in York City and followed the footsteps of his father into the police department.
Henry Schaad was appointed to the force on Sept. 17, 1968, the 20th anniversary of the day his father, Detective Sgt. Russell Schaad, became an officer. A painting of the brown-haired Schaad, who left behind a young daughter, still hangs in the police department.
"There was a lot of bitterness for the senseless shooting of Henry Schaad. The shooters weren't shooting at Henry Schaad. They were shooting at an authority figure. But they picked the wrong target. He didn't have a prejudice bone in his body. And I can't say that about everyone," Hose said.
After the Schaad shooting, rumors spread that the police were out for revenge, said Harold Fitzkee, a former attorney with the York County Public Defender's Office who rode along with police during the riots.
But from Fitzkee's perspective, the police, under pressure from working 12-hour days, became the targets of angry residents — white and black.
He remembers just getting out of a police car, near the former White Rose Cadillac on North George Street, when it was pelted with gunfire from a black shooter.
There were truckloads of armed "rednecks" coming into the city's "war zone" from the outlying areas, Fitzkee said. Police were frequently stopping carloads of armed people trying to get into the city.
Although rumors spread about police retaliating for the Schaad shooting, Fitzkee said he saw no instances of brutality.
"Everyone was literally scared to death. People were just trying to survive. When Schaad got shot, they (the police) became more protective of themselves. They realized how vulnerable they were," said Fitzkee, who became district attorney in York County from 1970-1974.
Wrong place, wrong time: Bloss was among four officers stationed at the railroad tracks at Gay Avenue and Newberry Street. The night before the Allen shooting, a carload of blacks entered the then-predominantly white neighborhood, popped the trunk, pulled out weapons and opened fired.
The car crashed into parked vehicles, and the black suspects ran into the darkness as gunfire was exchanged by both blacks and whites. Because the area was unsecured, police commanders ordered Newberry Street barricaded at Gay Avenue and that all officers leave the area.
Bloss and Chatman said they believe the events the night before precipitated the Allen shooting. After seeing police pulled from the neighborhood and replaced by barricades, some residents armed themselves and took the law into their hands after they thought more black militants had returned to spill blood.
Allen's sister, Hattie Dickinson, was driving her father's car when she saw a person with a gun and tried to turn around on Newberry Street, near Gay Avenue, at the barricades fronting the railroad tracks. Lillie Allen jumped out of the car to take over the driving from her sister, and was shot.
Police arrived shortly after the shooting started and whisked Allen to York Hospital. The oldest of eight children, she was a reserved, hard-working mother of two who was well-liked in her hometown, who never had a bad word about anyone.
Her father, the Rev. James Mosley, was slightly injured. The family was visiting York from Aiken, S.C., and was on the way to pick up groceries for the next day's trip when the shooting started.
"They were at the wrong place at the wrong time," Chatman said. "If you were black, you didn't want to be in that neighborhood."
Because no one was charged in either murder, Hose and Chatman say they don't know what good it would serve to name names as the investigation remains open and the records sealed. But they say they know that police know who they are and are still waiting for a break in the case.
Chatman said he knew the suspected shooters in the Schaad shooting as "juvenile delinquents." He said he believes two still live in the York area, one has moved to the Washington, D.C., area and one is in prison. Most of those involved in the Allen shooting still live in York County, he said.
"I don't see any closure to these cases. It's a shame we don't have closure. But I don't think we ever will," Chatman said.
Lt. William Vangreen, who used to head the city's detective unit, has re-examined both cases over the years. He still hopes people will talk or those responsible will have a guilty conscience. Because there is no statue of limitations on murder, the shooter can still be brought to justice, he said.
"There are still people alive who know who the shooters were. There is still hope," Vangreen said.