Friday, May 22, 1970: St. Paul cop slain in ambush

Posted on March 1st, 2006 – 7:17 PM
By Ben Welter

The first newspaper account of the fatal shooting of St. Paul police officer James Sackett in 1970 appeared on Page 1A of the Minneapolis Star. Two years later, the woman who admitted placing the false call that lured Sackett to the scene was acquitted of murder charges. On March 1, 2006, a 55-year-old pipefitter from Chicago was found guilty of first-degree murder in Sackett’s death and was given a life sentence.

St. Paul policeman shot, killed on false call

Minneapolis Star Staff Writer

A young St. Paul policeman answering a false call to assist an expectant mother was shot and killed in an apparent ambush in the Summit-University district shortly after midnight today.

James Sackett
James Sackett

Police officials called the death of James Sackett, 27, father of four small children, including a son born three weeks ago, “deliberate, cold blooded murder.”

The police dispatcher received a call at 12:04 a.m. from a woman described as “having a young voice” asking for a squad to take a pregnant woman to a hospital.

“My sister is having a baby,” the woman said. “She’s in labor now and the pains are two minutes apart. Get a squad car here right away.”

The caller first gave the dispatcher only the intersection, Victoria St. and Hague Av., but when asked the address said it was 869 Hague Av.

The only car free to take the call was car 327 with Sackett and his partner, Glen Kothe, assigned to traffic duty.

At 12:14, the dispatcher received a frantic call for help from Kothe, reporting his partner had been shot. Squad cars were rushed from all parts of the city to surround the area, but a two-hour search failed to turn up a suspect.

Kothe reported that he and Sackett went to the front door of the darkened address on Hague Av. And when they failed to get an answer to their knocks he left Sackett at the front door while he went to the rear.

He had just reached the back of the house, Kothe said, when he saw a flash, and heard the report of a gun and then a scream from his partner. He ran to the front of the house and found Sackett unconscious on the sidewalk in front of the steps.

Kothe said he thought he saw a movement on the porch and shot twice with his service pistol. The bullets lodged in a door jamb.

As other officers arrived and Sackett was rushed to St. Paul-Ramsey Hospital, police entered the house and found that while a pregnant woman lived there, she was not expecting her child for some months. The occupants denied calling the police.

Later police found a slug from a high-powered rifle, “maybe a .30 caliber or less,” inside a hollow porch post. Police believe the assassin fired the fatal shot from across the street on the southwest corner of the intersection. The house where the officer were answering the fake call is located on the northwest corner.

The bullet struck the victim in the left chest and passed out through the right shoulder.

Sackett had been on the force a little less than two years.

Sackett is survived by his widow, Jeanette; four children, James, Jr., 6; Jennifer, 4; Julie, 15 months, and Jerel, three weeks; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Sackett; a brother, David, and a sister, Mrs. Corrine Nowicki, all of St. Paul.

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