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An 'Extras' Page: Los Angeles 1906;
"Chief Walter H. Auble"

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Chief Auble's commemorative street sign located on the east side of Grand Avenue, just south of 9th Street in downtown Los Angeles, the location of his death.
Chief Walter H. Auble
Official photograph of Walter Auble as
Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department

Walter H. Auble:  Heroic legacy with a tragic end.

Chief Walter B. Auble (November 26, 1862 - September 9, 1908) in 1906 is the most senior member of the Los Angeles Police Department with 21 years of service. Prior to becoming chief, he was a detective and Captain of Police. He is on a one-year appointment that began in November of 1905 and will expire three days after Woodward would be released from the Good Samaritan Hospital on November 6, 1906. Newspaper accounts and even his Wikipedia page alludes to his appointment as almost compulsory. A matter of recognition for years of service and seniority and not for much else. It would seem that not too many people took it very seriously. Even by the time of Woodward's accident, it was clear he would not be re-appointed for another term. This is not to say he did not have a distinguished career and was not highly regarded. We took it more to mean that he wasn't exactly fit for the role. Often this means one is not skilled or astute as the political side of the job. So at the time of the accident, Chief Auble was essentially a lame duck leader.

Westminister Hotel, 4th and Main St.
Westminister Hotel, 4th and Main St. just a couple
blocks from the Castle Craig Hotel apartments near
the financial district of Los Angeles. Though we do
not have a picture of the Castle Craig, this photo-
graph illustrates the sort of residence in the
proximity of LA's financial district that would
draw the chief's attention.

We suspect his personal investigation of the incident at the Castle Castle Hotel suggest where his true interest lies... in the field investigating and policing. Perhaps even Auble grew tired of the duties required of a police chief. Still, we cannot overlook the fact the Orion Woodward is a prominent and very well connected member of Los Angeles' financial district. As we suggested on our Accident page, we believe Orion is closely linked to one of Los Angeles' most influential citizens, Henry Edward Huntington. What we do not know is whether Chief Auble knew this prior to rushing to the scene to investigate personally. It is not unreasonable to think so but at the same time... if Orion got Dr. Walrath, this means someone else ran to the police headquarters. It could also be that an accident at the Castle Craig Hotel was suggestion enough this could be an important event consider the hotel apartments catered to people wishing to be in close proximity to LA's financial district.

Chief Auble is an equally tragic figure as Woodward on that fated day the two crossed paths. For one thing, Auble's tenure as Chief of Police must have been a grave disappointment. He had one platform during his appointment - the use of photography in investigative police work for which he was regularly denied. His requested fir funding shortly after his appointment in 1905. His appointment feels as if it was a stop-gap measure to appease the rank and file of the department and not taken seriously. In fact the man who replaced him as chief had no prior police experience whatsoever! The largest paper in the city, The Los Angeles Times rarely mentions his name, even with regard to the events leading up to his death we could not find a Times article covering it.

Los Angeles Express, September 9, 1908
Los Angeles Express, September 9, 1908

After his term as chief was up, he promptly retires from the force. Now here is how highly regarded he was among the rank and file of the department and suggest to us the position of chief simply did not suit the man... Auble was persuaded to return, accepting a position as Head of Detectives and returning to the rank of Captain. A demotion. It is unclear if this was another peacekeeping measure with the rank and file because so much of politics is out of the sight of the public. A chief needs to be the clear leader and a chief without previous policing experience runs the risk of being underminded by a subordinate. However, we can't imagine any other reason a current chief of police would want his predecessor working under him even if the need is a prevailing one. As Head of Dectectives, now Captain Auble, continues his advocacy for the department to purchase and make use of photography in the investigation of crimes. He would evenually prevail but in an ironic twist of fate also become criminal photography's "poster boy" in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1908
Los Angeles Times, Sept. 10, 1908
In the only article related to Auble's death
we could find, the Times published this photo-
graph in tribute to the Auble family. Auble
with is wife, son and two daugthers.

On September 5th of 1908, Capt. Auble and his colleague Capt. Paul Flammer were in the midst of investing a complaint of suspicious activity by a landlord regarding two of her tenants. The two ranking detectives discovered evidence the tenants may be suspects in a number of robberies and begins a search for the suspects. Four days later Auble and Flammer find their men and a pusuit begins. They catch up to the two suspects, Carl Sutherland and Fred Horning, in a vacent lot on 9th and Grand in downtown. Horning was easily taken into custody but Sutherland resisted. He pulled a gun and began firing striking Auble twice in the chest. Sutherland would then fled the scene. Mortally wounded Auble would died at the scene before an ambulance could arrive. Sutherland's escape would prompt a city-wide manhunt by police and a posse of "concerned citizens." He would be found approaching the home of a work associate (Sutherland's legitimate job was as a waiter). Held at gunpoint, Sutherland managed to somehow swallow the poison cyanide and died less than an hour later while in the custody of his captors.

Robbery Suspects Fred Horning and Carl Sutherland
Robbery Suspects Fred Horning
and Carl Sutherland

To this day, Auble is the highest ranking officer of the Los Angeles Police Force to be killed in the line of duty. In one of the oddest twist of fate we have ever come across, Auble's murder also holds the distinction of being the first crime documented by photography used by the Los Angeles Police Department. We just recently learned this information when we came acorss an artlcle published by Los Angeles Times reporting the photographs were used in the annual training conference of the California Homicide Investigators Assn. in Las Vegas (February 2010) . Auble never saw the fruits of his labor.

Walter H. Auble's funeral procession
Images of Captain/Chief Walter H. Auble's funeral procession and services... the newspapers reported as many as 5,000 citizens of Los Angeles joined the procession but the funeral was private and limited to just family, friends and his follow officers. There are 3,000 people waiting just outside the Scottish Rite Cathedral to follow in mourning to the burial. He is buried in the Inglewood Park Cemetery.
Walter H. Auble's headstone
Walter H. Auble's headstone
Inglewood Park Cemetery

Everything we learn about Chief Auble suggest to us he was a "feet-on-the-ground first responder" sort of man. He belonged in the field serving the public. A consumate and dedicated police officer devoted to professionalism and the advancement of investigative standards. And while the Los Angeles Herald article on Woodward's accident makes Auble seem less than qualified as an investigator we believe it is the fault of the Herald. Evidence suggest that by the afternoon's press briefing, the department had sorted out the story for the most part demonstrating professionalism, whereas the Herald moved on and did not stay with the story of Woodward's gun accident.

It is incredible for us to believe that Auble was not more highly regarded by the powers that be, but this is often the case when it comes to principled and unyielding men determined to carry out good for its own sake despite the cost. People with such intregrity often rankle others who seek to circumvent what is right for what is convenient and serves their own self-interest.

If Chief Auble's story is not the epitome of a tragic figure, then I do not know what is... It is also not lost on us, the interesting syncronicity of events regarding Woodward and Auble. Woodward's release from the hospital three days prior to the end of Chief Auble's term and then almost two years to the day of Woodward's accident, Auble is investing another case that would eventually lead to his dead. The connection that day of their paths crossing fasinates us. Please by all means read more about Chief Auble's story by clicking on any of the links below. All links will open in a new tab

BCM June 1, 2020.

Walter Auble sans uniform
Walter Auble sans uniform



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