While no murders are explainable, the murder of two young University of Michigan students left questions unanswered to this day. On April 18, 1981, at 6:15 a.m., a firebomb was thrown in a sixth floor hallway at Bursley Hall, which is a dormitory for the university on north campus.
As the fire alarm sounded, students sleepily entered the hallway. They were unaware that another student had thrown the firebomb in the hallway and was waiting for them to come out of their rooms, as he lay hidden in his room with a shotgun. As the students began walking down the hallway, five shotguns blasts rang out mortally wounding two university students. These students, Edward Siwik and Douglas McGreaham, had been shot by fellow university student, Leo Kelly Jr. Panic ensued as at first most students thought the sounds were those of fireworks. Ann Arbor Officers Elbert “Bump” Barbour and Jim Stimac were near the U of M Hospital when the call went out. They responded to Bursley Hall and were informed of the location that the shooter was believed to be in. Officer Barbour stated they simply went to Kelly's door, knocked on it and arrested Kelly when he answered it.
Kelly was a junior majoring in psychology and had been a honors student at his Detroit high school. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and had no previous criminal record. Those who knew him said he was a loner, but there was nothing in his past which could have predicted this act.
Kelly was reported to have thrown a homemade Molotov Cocktail at a student that was walking down a sixth floor hallway. The clothing this student was wearing was showered with flaming liquid, but he was not seriously injured. The fire alarm sounded and McGreaham, a resident advisor on the fifth floor, ran up the stairs to assist in the evacuation of the students.
Siwick was the fire marshal for his floor and ran into the hall to wake fellow students. As both of them were assisting in the evacuation, Kelly was in a crouch against the wall. He jumped out and began firing a sawed-off shotgun down the hall. Both Siwick and McGreaham were mortally wounded.
To add to the confusing scene was the fact that the previous day was the last day of classes for most students due to the Easter break. There were many parties that night and many thought the shotgun blasts were firecrackers.
After the shootings, students fled out of the dormitory in shock, tears streaming down their faces. All could not understand what drove Kelly to the shootings. U of M President Harold Shapiro later stated, “I and all others in the university community are appalled that two students were shot and killed in Bursley Hall. I express my heartfelt condolences to their families. Words cannot convey my feelings of shock and loss. It is a horrible tragedy for the university community.”
There was no motive whatsoever for the crime. Siwick and McGreaham had no previous disagreements with Kelly and they appeared to be random victims. The students that knew Kelly stated he was loner and felt that he just “freaked out”. McGreaham was an art major and was scheduled to graduate the next month. Siwick was a pre-med student.
The Last Beat Cop
Most of todays officers only know police work from the inside of a patrol car. Most do not realize how important the foot patrol officer is to the history of the profession. Walking the beat is probably the best training ground for any new officer, as it offers them the chance to interact with people one-on-one. Sadly, most departments do not have foot patrol officers as the need for quick response to calls is deemed more important than the personal interaction that a foot patrol officer offers.
Luckily our department has a rich tradition of foot patrol officers, which continues today after several year absence in the 1980's. The tradition ended with the retirement of Officer Charlie Fleming, who retired from the department in January of 1981. Officer Fleming was the last officer that walked a beat and in all likelihood ended an over 100 year tradition, of having a foot patrol officer downtown.
When Officer Fleming retired he was recognized by the downtown merchants with a going away party. Charlie was given a plaque signed by many of them. Many of the merchants bemoaned the loss of Charlie, “their officer.”
Upon his retirement Officer Fleming gave good advice to new officers stating, “I couldn't offer any young police officer any better advice than to say that if you treat people right, you'll get it back two-fold. I've always tried to treat people decent.”
Luckily Officer Fleming was wrong when he stated, “I don't think there's going to be any more beat officers like I've been because the entire philosophy has changed somehow.”
It's apparent that he knew what a positive influence the foot patrol officer could have on people. Administrators within the department also realized this after a few years and the downtown beat officer was once again assigned to walk where officers had for over 100 years. Today the department has many foot patrol officers downtown.
China Garden Shooting
On January 24, 1981, Officers Bob Lane and William Wise responded to a call of a robbery in progress at the China Garden Restaurant, located at 3035 Washtenaw. At 10:00 p.m. two men entered the restaurant and pulled out shotguns, which they had been concealing as they entered. The two suspects then began robbing the patrons of their valuables.
An employee of the restaurant was able to dial 911, but could not speak. He laid the phone down as the communications operator attempted to trace the call as she had no idea where it was coming from. Officers were advised that there was a robbery somewhere in the city, but the location was unknown. Luckily one of the restaurant customers was able to sneak out and went to the Arby's Restaurant to phone police.
Officers Lane and Wise were nearby and pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant just as the suspect's Pontiac Trans Am was leaving. As the officers pulled into the lot they nearly collided with the Trans Am. One of the suspects fired a shot at the officers as they tried to leave the lot. The officers then rammed their patrol vehicle into the suspect's, which forced the suspects to go out on foot. The officers gave chase, yelling for the suspects to stop, but they continued running. Both officers fired at the suspect's and one of them was hit. The other surrendered after his accomplice was shot. The suspect was transported to the hospital for his wounds but eventually recovered. All of the items stolen, ranging from jewelry, purses and wallets were recovered. In all over 20 customers were robbed during the incident.