The Ultimate Sacrifice: Honoring Those Who Died
Part 2 in a series of articles chronicling the history of Fort Collins Police Services
While Fort Collins has experienced its share of tumultuous situations over the years, it has fortunately not faced a large number of police officer deaths. There were, however, two men killed in the line of duty.
Joseph N. Allen died on July 4, 1907, at age 45. Allen, who was known as a stickler for the law, often patrolled some of the city's tougher areas such as one located just over the bridge on Linden Street. It was nicknamed "the jungles" because of the houses of prostitution, bars and dance halls operating just outside of the city limits and drawing citizens into the unseemly side of life.
Allen left the Larimer House on Jefferson Street about 7 p.m., telling the manager, "You may not see me again until after the 4th. I'm going to have a good time." At 9 p.m., he was seen by a local physician making a house call in the jungles. The doctor reported Allen having what appeared to be a friendly conversation with Scotty Hall and at 10:30 p.m., Roy Kelly heard groans from the alley near Hall's barns. He found Allen unconscious on the ground in a pool of blood. Allen was taken to the hospital but died at 1 a.m., never regaining consciousness.
Investigators found a bloody brick near where Allen's body was discovered. His gun and club had been stolen. The coroner's jury ruled Allen died from a crushed skull. Three men were arrested but released based on a lack of evidence. Three other men, including Thomas Harbor, were detained as witnesses only to be released later. In 1914, Harbor was arrested but released due to a lack of sufficient evidence. Allen's death remains Fort Collins' first cold case file.
The second officer killed was Charles Brockman, 36. Witnesses said Lauro Garcia stabbed Albert Kelly in the back on Dec. 11, 1911. Brockman heard someone yell "murder" and responded by chasing Garcia. Brockman was wearing a long coat that held his badge but, as he gave pursuit, he discarded his coat, threw it in the door of the marshal's office, and ran after Garcia. Garcia hid behind a building at Pine and Jefferson and, as Brockman approached, shot him in the head and neck. As Brockman fell, he shot Garcia, grazing his hip. The crowd took Brockman to the Armstrong Hotel on Pine Street where he died immediately. John Kaiser, a Union Pacific night watchman, witnessed the action, pulled his gun, fired and hit Garcia in the right arm. Garcia kept running and disappeared.
A posse formed by Sheriff Clarence Carlton and Marshal Reid Strahan searched surrounding towns and information was telegraphed across the state. The next day, the bus driver of an open motorcar headed to LaSalle reported a man on his bus was bleeding profusely. Sheriff's deputies arrested Garcia as he got off the bus. Sheriff Carlton picked him up and transported him to Fort Collins on Dec. 18 in an open car in freezing temperature. Garcia not only had gunshots wounds but also suffered from hypothermia.
Garcia went to trial April 1, 1912, was found guilty and sentenced to death. It was Larimer County's first death sentence. His attorney appealed saying his client was insane, and on Nov. 24, 1912, a stay of execution was granted. In 1915, the court ordered a new trial based on two things: evidence of insanity and, the claim that Garcia didn't know Brockman was a police officer, because he had discarded his coat and badge. The death penalty was dropped and Garcia was sentenced to life in prison, which was later changed to life in a mental institution in Pueblo.
Allen's murder was well-known, but Brockman was forgotten until 1988, when Brockman's great-grandson contacted Tom McLellan, then a Lieutenant with Fort Collins Police Department. After researching the events, McLellan and others in the department made efforts to ensure recognition for the two fallen officers. Joseph Allen and Charles Brockman were honored on May 7, 1999, during a memorial ceremony at the Colorado State Patrol Training Facility at Camp George West in Golden. Their names were inscribed on the memorial wall that stands outside the facility and were also placed on the national monument in Washington, D.C.