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Officer Peter Muller Jr.
(May 20, 1901 – April 13, 1930)

At about 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, April 13, 1930, just after roll call, Officer Peter Muller Jr., 28, walked out of the LAPD's Georgia Street police station. Mueller, who joined the department less than a year earlier, worked the morning watch, and was assigned to patrol the area from Ninth Street to Pico Boulevard, and Hope Street to Figueroa Street (an area directly east of the current location of the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles).

Like all LAPD officers on foot patrol, Muller was expected to call in to the station, every hour on the hour, from one of the police callboxes located throughout the city. Muller called in for the first time at about 3:15 a.m. – 15 minutes late – from the callbox at Ninth and Hope streets. He told the operator, Mildred Tucker, that he was late calling in because he was watching the car of a suspected bootlegger.

About five minutes after the call, Muller and two motor officers stopped and questioned seven men at Ninth and Hope. There were no arrests, but Muller recorded all of their names in his notebook.

At 4:03 a.m., Muller checked in from the callbox at Ninth and Figueroa streets, and again said he was watching the same car of the suspected bootlegger.

About 15 minutes later and two blocks away, in front of an apartment building at 1116 S. Flower St., the landlady and two tenants said they heard what sounded like a gunshot, a man's voice shout, "Let’s get to hell away from here," and a car speeding off.

"It sounded just like the gears clashing when a car is started suddenly in second gear," said one of the tenants, Mrs. William Cook. "The sound of the shot woke us up and, when we rushed to the window of our apartment, we saw a black roadster driving swiftly south on Flower Street." Mrs. Cook saw what appeared to be a body on the street and called police.

Shortly before the sound of the gunshot, J.J. Stevens, the driver of a street sprinkler, passed in front of the apartment building and didn't see anything unusual. When he passed the same location 15 minutes later, at 4:35 a.m., he saw the body of a man in the middle of the street, sprawled face-down between the streetcar tracks. It was Officer Muller, with his right arm under his body and his left arm stretched out over his head, his flashlight still in his hand.

When his fellow officers arrived at the scene, Muller was still breathing, but unconscious, and his .45-caliber revolver was missing. He had been shot once in the chest, with the bullet fired from a .38-caliber revolver. Muller was rushed to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where he died without regaining consciousness.

Police investigators theorized that Muller stopped the car he had been watching, and approached with his flashlight in his left hand, and his revolver in his right. He may have climbed onto the running board of the car, and ordered the driver to head to the police station – which was not an unusual practice at that time, since the only other option would be for Muller to run to the nearest callbox and request a police vehicle while the suspects drove away.

Police also assumed that there were at least two men in the car, since Mrs. Cook heard someone shout what could have been directions to the driver. It seemed likely that one of the men grabbed Muller's gun while the other shot the officer, who fell or was pushed from the running board into the middle of the street as the car sped off.

Investigators immediately began searching the area, looking for the black roadster, or anyone with any additional information. Muller's notebook showed the names of 13 men he had stopped and questioned from the time he went on duty until he was killed. All were questioned and cleared.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Lacking descriptions of suspects, or any information whatever of how the shooting took place, police pinned their only hope on apprehending the murderer by taking into custody and questioning every suspicious character found on the streets or in places of business open at that hour of the morning."

Dozens of suspects were questioned, from fellow patrons where Muller ate his breakfast that morning, to anyone who might have been in the neighborhood at the time of the shooting.

Nearly a week after the slaying, three men were arrested in Fillmore, Utah, driving a car stolen in Santa Barbara that was similar to the description of the car seen speeding away from South Flower Street on the morning of the shooting, and one of the men was carrying a .38-caliber revolver.

The three men were brought to Salt Lake City, where two LAPD detectives were sent to question them, but they were not charged in Muller’s slaying.

Pawn shops and rooming houses were searched in the hopes of finding Muller's missing revolver, or the gun used to kill him.

Residents reported overheard coffee shop conversations to police, taxi drivers reported suspicious customers, and suspects were brought in and questioned. Months after Muller's slaying, police were no closer to catching the killer.

Muller was born on May 20, 1901 in Paterson, N.J., the second of four children born to Russian immigrants Peta "Peter" and Catherine "Kate" Muller, who came to the United States in 1900. Muller's older sister was born in Russia in 1897, and his two younger sisters were born in New Jersey in 1904 and 1908.

The Muller family settled in New Jersey, where Peter Sr. worked in the burgeoning motion picture industry. (Shortly after the turn of the last century, before Hollywood became the center of the movie business, northeastern New Jersey was the motion picture capital of the world.)

In April 1917, a month before his 16th birthday, Muller used a fake name to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War I. He served in France from June 1917 until February 1919. He was wounded in battle, awarded the Croix de Guerre, returned to the United States, and was discharged in March 1919. After the war, 19-year-old Muller returned to his parents' house in Newark, N.J., and he attended a school for wounded soldiers.

Muller moved to Los Angeles and worked for the Los Angeles City Railway Company before joining the LAPD on June 16, 1929. At the time of the shooting, he lived at the Dorothy Apartments, at 911 Winfield St. (near the current location of 11th Street and the 110 Freeway), with his wife of five years, Clara. The couple had no children.

Muller's funeral services were held at the Brown Brothers Mortuary, 935 W. Washington St., with burial at Whitter Heights Memorial Park, now Rose Hills Memorial Park. Less than three weeks earlier, the mortuary was the scene of the funeral services for LAPD Officer James Costello, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop less than a mile north of the scene of Muller's slaying. Costello's killer was arrested the following day.

Muller's services included both military and police honors. His coffin was escorted from the funeral home by a 24-member LAPD color guard and a company of American Legionnaires to the intersection of Washington and Figueroa streets, while LAPD Officer Bert Brewer, who was also a pilot, circled overhead dropping flowers on the procession.

Gradually, over the following months and years, the tips stopped coming in, and no one was ever charged in Muller's death. The murder weapon and the officer's gun were never found. Muller's slaying is one of five unsolved LAPD officer deaths, including Officer David Brooks in 1910, Officer James Carter in 1928, Officer Fred Early in 1973, and Officer Michael Edwards in 1974.

Officer Muller's sign is located on the east side of Flower Street, south of 11th Street.

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