ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — After more than 100 years, a St. Paul police officer who died after a suspect assaulted him is now officially recognized as having died in the line of duty.
The new designation means Richard Cronin, who was 52 when he died in 1905, is included in annual memorial services and his name etched on a national memorial.
“It’s kind of sad that it took so long to recognize this, because the people who really knew him or really knew of him are gone,” said Steve Mattain, one of Cronin’s great-grandsons. “We just know it by history.”
A police account showed that Cronin died after he was kicked in the abdomen during an arrest in 1905. An autopsy at the time showed that he died of a heart attack and his death was ruled natural. The suspect was fined $50 at his trial for disorderly conduct.
The summary in the St. Paul police history book is brief: “On the 3rd of January 1905, Richard Cronin, night jailer at the Margaret Street substation, died in the patrol wagon, while struggling to keep Charles Wilson, unruly prisoner, in the wagon.”
It was the brevity of that note that piqued the interest of St. Paul officer Layne Lodmell. Wanting to know more, he began researching Cronin’s background and talking to the medical examiner’s office.
The police department said the Ramsey County medical examiner conducted a more recent review and concluded that Cronin’s death was directly related to the assault.
As a result, Cronin’s death was re-classified to reflect that he died in the line of duty. As part of the change, his name was read for the first time at the annual St. Paul Police Memorial Day Service on Wednesday. His name was also engraved this year on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Three of Cronin’s great-grandsons, one great-granddaughter and one great-great-granddaughter attended the Minnesota ceremony, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press report (http://bit.ly/lYZlUQ ).
“It was really emotional for me, I was really surprised,” great-grandson Greg Mergens said. “I was born in St. Paul, raised in St. Paul, I still live in St. Paul and the fact that he died protecting the city means quite a bit.”
That’s what makes the posthumous recognition so significant, police Chief Thomas Smith said.
“As Officer Cronin’s case shows, we never forget the men and women of the St. Paul Police Department who have worn this uniform before us, those who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” he said.
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