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New Hero Search Frank Angelo Croff
- May. 22, 1921 -
(201)

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Miami Police Dept. Patch
Resided: Miami (Miami-Dade County)
FL, USA
Born: Feb. 27, 1893  
Fallen: May. 22, 1921
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 28 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Miami Police Dept. - FL
400 NW 2nd Avenue  
Miami, FL   33128   USA
(305)603-6640
County: Miami-Dade
Dept. Type: Municipal/Police
Hero's Rank: Patrolman
Sworn Date: 2/1921
FBI Class: Traffic - Drunk Driver
Weapon Class: Vehicle
Agency URL: Click Here
On The Job: 1 years
Bio: Frank Angelo Croff was born on Feb. 27, 1893, in Genoa, Italy. His father, Francis Croff, and his mother, Louise Tavela Croff, were both born in Italy and immigrated to the U.S. in 1900. The 1920 Dade census indicates that Frank became a naturalized citizen in 1914.

Little else is known of Croff's background other than that he served in the army during World War I (he was stationed in a training camp and did not go overseas). He worked as a chauffeur in NYC prior to his move to Miami around 1918 (the first year his name appears in the City Directory). He married Marie Antoinette and his children were born in NYC.

Cross first worked as a chauffeur in Miami (for "Miami Ice" in 1918 and for "East Coast Lumber & Supply" in 1919) and then by 1921 as a machinist before joining the Miami Police Department in 1920, a few months before he was killed. He was also a duty sergeant with Company B, First Regiment, of the Florida National guard. Croff seems to have had a reputation in Miami as an athlete. Croff was an all-around athlete, and was an old-time baseball player and an amateur boxer of great skill. He was a member of the Miami Advertisers' Club team of the Dade County Amateur League. (Miami Herald, 5/23/1921) Funeral services were held on Wednesday, May 25, at the chapel of the King Undertaking Company at 452 W. Flagler St. His daughter, Lucille, who was 6 at the time, told a national TV audience in 1986, that her father was "so mangled" that he could not be dressed in his police uniform but was laid in the coffin with an American flag draped over his body. The Rev. Father O'Sullivan officiated at the service. The funeral cortege consisted of a large number of policemen in uniform as well as the entire membership of Company B of the National Guard and proceeded down Flagler St. and then along N.E. Second Ave. to the Miami City Cemetery. At the graveside service a "combined police and military funeral" was held. A military salute was fired over the grave and a bugler from Company B played taps. Members of the police department raised money for a floral wreath of roses and ferns with the initials "M.P.D." which was laid on the casket.

Croff was killed during the tenure of Raymond F. Dillon, Miami's fourth police chief, who served from 1917-1921. Dillon had been a "native of Miami since its early days" and was elected Police Chief on Nov. 1, 1917. He was removed from office by the new City Manager after Miami moved to a City Commission/City Manager form of government with a charter revision that abolished the elected position of Police Chief in 1921. The Department had only 40 officers in mid-1921.

Croff's grave is in the Miami City Cemetery at 1800 N.E. 2nd Ave. He is buried beside Richard Roy Marler, the third Miami officer to be killed in the line of duty (on Nov. 28, 1921) in what appear to be twin graves. The two graves are marked by identical 3-foot stone markers and brick "fences" tracing the gravesite. Croff's marker reads:

Frank Croff Feb. 27, 1893, May 23, 1921 Gone But Not Forgotten

Frank Croff was survived by his wife, Marie; three children, Lucille, 6; Frank, 4, and Matilda, 2; and his mother, Louis Tavella Croff. Marie Croff Faxon Hall, 71, was killed in an automobile accident near Andytown, FL, on Aug. 27, 1966. She was buried at Flagler Memorial Cemetery next to her second husband, Jack Faxon. Her obituary in the Miami Herald reported: Mrs. Hall, a retired seamstress, formerly owned Marie and Ethel's Dress Shop in The Seybold Arcade. She also worked at Field's Dress Shop. She was a Miami resident for 48 years and the widow of F.A. Croff, the second Miami police officer to die in the line of duty. Croff was shot in 1921. She was a member of Corpus Christi Catholic Church and St. Anthony's Guild. Survivors include her husband, a son, Frank F. Croff; two daughters, Mrs. Lucille Croff Ling and Mrs. Matilda Webb; a brother, John Antoinette; eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren, all of Miami. (Miami Herald, 8/29/1966)

Lucille Croff Ling had two children, Ginger and John. Frank Croff, Jr., had two sons, William and Robert. Matilda Croff Webb had four children, Howard, Lucille, Kirk, and Mary Lou.

Lucille Croff Ling, 78, died in 1994 in Denver where she had lived for several years with her daughter, Ginger Jones. Her son, John Ling, lived in Montgomery AL. The only surviving daughter of Frank Croff, Matilda Croff Webb, 74, lived in Crossville, TN, in 1995 as did her son, Kirk Webb. Howard Webb lived in Arizona and Lucille Webb Perkins in Rising Sun, MD.

The memory of Frank Croff is kept alive by 8 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and 5 great, great grandchildren. Three of the grandchildren (William Croff, 44, and Robert Croff, 40, of Hobe Sound, and Mary Lou Webb Jacobson of Key Largo) still resided in FL in 1995.

One of Frank Croff's granddaughters in 1995 was Ginger Ling Jones, 48, who followed in her grandfather's footsteps as a Miami police officer. Ginger Broussard (her married name while a Miami officer) served the MPD for 18 years (from 1970 to 1988) and rose to Sgt. of the robbery division. She achieved national publicity for her work through a 10 minute segment on a 1986 national TV show ("Fast Copy") and a personal story in Good HouseKeeping. The Fast Copy segment mentioned the 1921 line of duty death of her grandfather, Frank Croff. In 1995, Ginger Jones worked as an investigator with the Medical Examiner's Office in Denver, CO.

Melville A. Tibbitts, the officer who was injured in the accident that killed Officer Croff, remained with the Miami Police Department motorcycle squad for at least 20 more years. In Sept.-Oct. of 1995 the South Florida Historical Museum hosted an Exhibit on Police and Criminal Justice in Miami that displayed two photographs of Miami motorcycle squads that included Melville Tibbitts. The 8-man 1924 squad was commanded by Sgt. Laurie Wever, who was killed in the line of duty in 1921. The 22-man 1940 motorcycle squad was commanded by Capt. Melville Tibbits and included Officer Wesley Thompson who was killed in the line of duty in 1941. Capt. Tibbitts' brother was a member of the Enola Gay flight crew that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan in 1945.

Frank Angelo Croff's name is inscribed (East Wall, Panel 29, Line 10) on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., and his name is read each May at the Police Memorial Service in Tropical Park in Miami. Croff is also memorialized by a plaque bearing his name in the lobby of the Miami Police Department.

Survived by:
Marie Antoinette Croff - Wife

Children -

Lucille - 6, Frank - 4, and Matilda, 2;

and his mother, Louis Tavella Croff

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: William P. McCarthy
  
Location:   Miami, FL   USA   Sun. May. 22, 1921
Summary: Rookie Miami motorcycle officer Frank Croff, 28, became the second City of Miami officer to be killed in the line of duty when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver shortly after midnight on Sunday, May 22, 1921. Croff was pinned with his motorcycle under a Cadillac for two blocks before the speeding car hit another vehicle, injuring three others, and stopped. The driver was charged with second degree murder. Motorcycle officers Melville A. Tibbitts and Frank Croff had been to Buena Vista and were riding their police motorcycles south toward downtown Miami on N.E. 2nd Ave. (Biscayne Drive) at a slow speed because it was dark and the pavement was slick from a recent rain. Tibbitts was riding near the right curb with Croff riding close to him on his left as the two approached N.E. 2nd Ave. and 22nd St. (Biscayne Drive and Colorado). Suddenly a large Cadillac came speeding up to them from behind without warning (i.e., honking) and both motorcycles moved slightly more to the right to allow it to pass. Witnesses later estimated that the Cadillac was traveling at a rate of at least 50 miles per hour---a very unusual speed in 1921---on a wet and dark downtown street.

Several people saw the big Cadillac speeding south on Biscayne Drive before it struck the motorcycle and then the car. Police Commissioner J.K. Fink was traveling north on the same street and first saw and waved at Officer Croff on his motorcycle. He then saw the Cadillac speeding past him and thought to himself that the speeder would be caught by Croff and would be in court tomorrow to pay a $29.85 fine.

The Cadillac hit Croff's motorcycle and the motorcycle "disappeared" under the front of the Cadillac. The crash caused Tibbitts to hit the right curb and crash into a telephone pole, throwing him from his motorcycle. Tibbitts got up expecting to walk toward the Cadillac but saw that it had not stopped but, if anything, had picked up speed as it continued down the street dragging Croff and his motorcycle under the car.

Tibbitts drew his police automatic and fired seven shots at the "flying machine." Tibbitts then jumped into a car driven by a passing motorist and continued pursuit of the Cadillac which was swerving from side to side as it sped down the street. A witness who saw the Cadillac pass him said "sparks were spitting from the Cadillac and the machine was swerving from one side of the street to the other."

The Cadillac continued for about 500 feet (two blocks) with Croff and the motorcycle pinned underneath. Witnesses said they saw Croff "trying to shove his machine away from the car" as it sped down the street.

The Cadillac crashed head-on into a northbound car, a Nash, on N.E. 2nd Ave. between 22nd St. and 21st St. (about 500 feet from where the motorcycle had been hit at 20th St.). The driver of the Nash had seen the speeding car coming from two blocks away and pulled to the right curb and stopped to avoid being hit by the speeding and swerving Cadillac. The occupants tried to get out of the Nash before the crash and two had succeeded. The other three were thrown from the car onto the lawn of the residence of Joe Byrd (a Miami policeman) by the impact as the Cadillac hit the Nash head-on. The Nash was knocked a distance of 50 feet.

When Officer Tibbitts arrived on the scene he found William P. McCarthy, 40, appearing dazed, sitting in his Cadillac. Croff and his motorcycle were found "tightly wedged under the car." A crowd quickly gathered at the sound of the crash and several men helped officers Tibbitts and Byrd lift the Cadillac and support it in the raised position by means of two "heavy timbers" 16 feet in length while the "mangled" body of Croff was removed from underneath the car. Croff groaned and said, "Oh, my God," when they started to take him from under the front axle of the car. Tibbitts said that he thought Croff died before they succeeded in getting him from under the machine. The policeman's body was pointing in the direction the car was headed and his body from the waist up was clear of the motorcycle and the car. (Miami Herald, 52421) Croff died "about a minute" after he was removed from under the Cadillac. His body was laid on the porch of Officer Byrd's home while Constable Charles Strothman "impaneled a coroner's jury on the spot." Dr. E.K. Jaudon, who examined Croff's body at the scene at the request of the coroner's jury, testified that Croff "died as a result of a broken neck and internal injuries."

The members of the coroner's jury inspected the wreck and followed the tracks of the motorcycle to the point of impact 500 feet away. On May 23, after its final session in the office of Judge George Okell, the jury returned a verdict of second degree murder against McCarthy declaring that he "feloniously and maliciously" caused the death of Croff. Judge Okell bound the case over to the grand jury.

McCarthy continued to sit in the car, appearing "to be stunned," as the crowd of men lifted the car off Croff's body. After Croff's body was removed from under the car and laid on Byrd's porch, Tibbitts returned to the Cadillac and took McCarthy into custody. The officer later testified that he could not smell liquor on McCarthy's breath and could not testify that he had been drinking but also said that McCarthy had "acted very strangely, as if he were dazed." Other witnesses at the scene said that McCarthy appeared to be drunk and witnesses at the jail said that he was drunk when booked into the jail.

Tibbitts brought McCarthy to the police station and on the way McCarthy asked the officer if Croff were dead. "When Tibbitts said yes, the prisoner said that he was sorry." McCarthy was booked at the police station on a charge of murder and then was taken to the county jail.

A second man, Foster Sloan, "talked his way" into being arrested at the scene as he was heard by someone to say that he had been riding with McCarthy in the Cadillac but had jumped out after the Cadillac hit the motorcycle and before it hit the Nash. No witness was found to confirm this "confession" but Sloan was taken into custody pending an inquest and grand jury investigation.

Sloan was a former Miami policeman and was known to be a friend of McCarthy's. He and McCarthy had often been seen riding together in the Cadillac. Also, on occasion, Sloan had been seen riding with Mrs. McCarthy looking for her husband, who was known to have a "drinking problem." Sloan had walked up to a police officer at the scene and volunteered his help. At the scene he told one official that he had been in the Cadillac with McCarthy.

Disposition: In 1995 no record of the outcome of the second degree murder charge against McCarthy could be found. The FL Dept. of Corrections has no record of McCarthy being sent to prison but he may have been convicted and given probation or a county jail sentence.

Source: Book       Excerpted from Dr. Wilbanks book-

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN DADE COUNTY, FL, 1895-1995

by William Wilbanks

Louisville: Turner Publications

1996

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