|End of Watch: July 15, 1922|
|Tour of Duty: 30 years|
|Assignment: Niagara Street Station|
|Shield Number 48|
During the summer of 1922 Buffalo and Western New York were in the midst of a strike by rail road workers. The labor unrest, at times turned violent. In early July the situation had turned extremely dangerous. Striking workers were accused of not only disrupting ongoing rail traffic but also attempting to inflict bodily harm on the citizens of the city.
Apparently, the strikers would position themselves on the roof tops of various buildings throughout downtown. The strikers were seen throwing various objects from those rooftops. Not only did they attempt to interrupt the street cars but they were also seen throwing bricks and other items at passing vehicles as well as pedestrians.
The situation had become rather dangerous and it was necessary for the police to provide protection to the intended targets. Officers were stationed on the rooftops of the Statler Hotel and the Ford Hotel (located at Delaware and Chippewa). These officers were armed with high powered rifles and given strict orders..."shoot to kill". If an officer saw a striker ready to throw an object from a nearby rooftop tehy were to shoot that individual.
With strikers attempting to disrupt traffic throughout the city, it was necessary to post police officers at various rail overpasses. On Saturday, July 15, 1922 Ptl. Emil Woelffel was assigned to guard the New York Central Railroad Overpass at Niagara and Tonawanda Streets. At approximately 3:30 that afternoon a light switch engine was traveling on the same tracks that Ptl. Woelffel was guarding. According to witnesses the car was traveling backwards on the tracks. The engine crew "neither had blown the whistle nor had rung the bell." Ptl. Woelfel never knew of the trains approach.
The engine struck the officer and dragged Ptl. Woellfel at least 20 feet along the track. After being dragged the twenty or so feet the officer was then pushed over an embankment towards the Erie Canal. Ptl. Emil Woelffel, a 30 year veteran of the Buffalo Police Department was pronounced dead at the scene from a fractured skull, a fractured spine and other injuries.
SOURCE: Buffalo Courier: July 16, 1922 - front page Death Certificate: Emil Woelffel