James Thomas Sackett Sr.
Appointed September 3, 1968
Shortly after midnight on Friday morning, May 22, 1970, Patrolman James Thomas Sackett Sr.1, Badge No. 450, was shot and killed by two suspects after he and his partner, Patrolman Glen David Kothe2, working Squad 327 (an unmarked traffic car) responded to a fake emergency “OB” (maternity) call to 856 Hague Avenue (northeast corner of Hague Avenue and Victoria Street) in the City of Saint Paul. The time of the call was 0007 hours (12:07 a.m.). When no one responded to their knock on the front door, Kothe went to the rear door, but when he heard a gunshot, he returned to the front where he found Sackett lying on the sidewalk with a bullet wound to the chest. Patrolman Sackett had been fatally injured by a sniper with a high-powered rifle and died enroute to Saint Paul Ramsey Hospital (now Regions Hospital).
Squad 337, Patrolmen John Cameron LaBossiere3 and Edward James Steenberg4, were taking a written report at Grand Avenue and Oxford Street, about six blocks away, when they heard Patrolman Kothe’s call for assistance. Heading to the shooting scene, they arrived within minutes, but the sniper(s) had already faded into darkness. Assisting officer Kothe in bandaging the injured Sackett, LaBossiere later accompanied Sackett to Saint Paul Ramsey Hospital (now Regions Hospital), administering oxygen on the way.
Two recent Central High School classmates associated with the “Black Panther” movement, Ronald Lindsey Reed and Larry Larue Clark, both 19, were questioned, but no charges were filed at that time due to a lack of hard evidence. They remained “persons of interest” for the next thirty-five years.
In 1972, an eighteen year old black female, Constance Louise Trimble, Ronald Reed’s girlfriend, was tried for making the telephone call. Although forensic spectrograms proved that it was Trimble that made the fatal call, she was acquitted of first-degree murder. Found guilty of “Contempt of Court”, she served thirty days for refusing to identify, in court, the man who told her to make the call.
The same two black male suspects, Reed and Clark, were finally arrested and charged with Patrolman Sackett’s murder in January 2005, thirty-five years after the murder; people were now willing to talk about the events leading up to, and the shooting. Both suspects were ultimately found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 2006. In 2008 one of the suspects, Larry Clark, had his conviction overturned and was awarded a new trial. He pleaded guilty (Alford plea) to “Conspiracy to Commit Premeditated Murder”. The deal stipulated five years of prison time, then a year on supervised release. The second suspect, Ronald Reed, having lost all his appeals, remains in Minnesota’s Oak Park Heights Maximum Security Prison to this day.
Born on September 29, 1942, and raised in Ramsey County, twenty-eight year old James Thomas Sackett Sr. had been with the Bureau of Police since September 3, 1968 (eighteen months), and had previously served with the United States Air Force. He was survived by his wife, Jeanette, and four children: James Jr., Jennifer, Julie and Jerel, a new-born infant. Patrolman Sackett’s funeral took place on Monday, May 25, 1970, at the Wolff Crestwood Park Chapel, and he was buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1 James Thomas Sackett, Sr. was appointed Patrolman September 3, 1968; and was fatally injured by gunfire from a sniper while responding to a fake emergency “OB” call Friday, May 22, 1970. He was a U.S. Air Force Veteran.
2 Glenn David Kothe was appointed Patrolman November 13, 1967; was promoted to Sergeant November 14, 1982; and retired June 30, 1997.
3 John Cameron LaBossiere was appointed Patrolman January 16, 1967; was promoted to Sergeant October 14, 1972; and retired September 8, 2000.
4 Edward James Steenberg was appointed Patrolman November 2, 1964; was later assigned the ancillary task of Ordnance Disposal; was promoted to Sergeant July 19, 1971; was appointed Lieutenant (emergency) January 11, 1975; was promoted to Lieutenant (permanent) November 19, 1976; was appointed Deputy Chief of Police August 16 1992; received title change to Senior Commander April 29, 1995, and retired July 2, 1999. For the next ten years Steenberg wrote a weekly column for the FBI’s Virtual Private Network (VPN), Law Enforcement Online (LEO).