MPD Remembers Officer Killed by Suspects in Stolen Vehicle

Patrolman Ward Lee Canfield
End of Watch : March 2, 2000

Minneapolis Police Department

Minneapolis PD
Died March 2, 2000

On Saturday, August 17th, at 8:40 p.m., Officers Robert Fossum and Ward Canfield, 35, were chasing a stolen vehicle in south Minneapolis on Lake Street, exchanging shots with the suspects. As they went over 36th Street to Blaisdell Avenue, and down Blaisdell to 39th Street, the suspect vehicle skidded and hit a parked car, locking bumpers and spinning into the middle of the street. As the squad came around the corner, it hit a curb and also spun around. Officers and suspects both got out of their vehicles and began firing at each other at point blank range, the suspects firing high-powered rifles, .38 and .45 caliber pistols and using armor-piercing bullets. Fossum was hit first, then Canfield was wounded in the right pelvis as both officers emptied their guns.

The suspects then got back into their car and started to drive away. As they did so, they drove into Canfield’s body, catching him on the bumper and dragging him 20 feet until he came loose. They then drove over him as they sped away. The suspect vehicle, still stuck to the other car, sped down 39th Street where the two cars became unhooked and went out of control at 850 Van Nest Street. The vehicle the suspects had been driving had blood in it, indicating at least one suspect was wounded. The suspects then fled on foot to 39th Street and Nicollet where they took a vehicle driven by a female, pushing her out into the street. After driving south on Nicollet, at 38th Street and First Avenue South, they took another vehicle occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Anderson, pushing Mr. Anderson out of the vehicle and blindfolding Mrs. Anderson as they drove away. They later threw her out in an alley behind 3325 Columbus Avenue and abandoned the car at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue South.

Canfield’s injuries included a shot in the lower abdomen, a crushed chest, a broken collarbone, fractured pelvis, dislocated hip and a broken right knee. Fossum was hit in the head with an armor-piercing bullet.

A month later, on September 14th, Sergeant James Sampson and Deputy Vern Gottwald were driving by Crooked Lake School when they saw a man walking along side of the road carrying a gas can. They offered him a ride and he accepted. But when the man acted nervous, they searched him and handcuffed him. The officers thought maybe he had stolen a car or had hidden something stolen in it, so they obtained the location of the car from him. The suspect directed the officers to stop by a car on the road on Constance Boulevard, just off Crooked Lake Boulevard. They ran a check on the vehicle, which did not come back to the suspect. Seeing another car parked farther up the road, the officers went and checked that one. They exited their car with their guns drawn and used their car doors as cover, but as they did so, a male exited the car and started firing at the officers. Another male then started firing from the back seat of the car and the gun battle was on. Sampson was grazed by a bullet, but was able to continue. When his shotgun jammed, he took the car keys and took cover behind some trees near the road. The officers’ gunfire kept the suspects pinned down in a ditch and when Gottwald ran out of ammunition, he ran to a neighboring house to call for help. The suspects then tried to take a shotgun from the squad and start the car; they were unable to steal either one.

Sampson, who had been shot in the ankle with an armor-piercing bullet that shattered the bone, reloaded behind the tree as they suspects ran through a field and toward the Eugene Lindgren residence. With the suspects out of sight, Sampson was then able to crawl to the car to use the squad radio to call for help. Gottwald, who had been unable to contact dispatch by phone, grabbed a shotgun at the house and returned to Sampson.

Lindgren, 30, who had heard the gunshots, went to the garage to get his rifle. As he got to the garage, the suspects arrived at the back of it, took his Cadillac and kidnapped him. Gottwald and Sampson got back in the squad and tried to catch up to the suspects. Since they had radioed for help, Gottwald then decided to take Sampson to Anoka Hospital for treatment. He was later transferred to St. Mary’s Hospital.

More than 300 officers converged on the area to search for the suspects. Officers from Anoka, Hennepin, Washington and Wright Counties-Anoka, Minneapolis, New Brighton, Fridley, Champlin, Columbia Heights, and Circle Pines Police Departments, state patrol, and agencies from Wisconsin arrived on the scene. The state patrol airplane arrived and spotted the suspects, they directed officers to a swamp in the Carlos Avery wildlife game farm. Although State Patrolman James Crawford was approximately 25 feet from the suspects, he did not fire because he was afraid he would hit the hostage.

Lindgren stated, “Don’t shoot or they will kill me.” Just then, one of the suspects put his gun to Lindgren’s head and killed him. Crawford ordered them to surrender, but when they didn’t, he fired at them with a sawed-off shotgun. One bullet hit one of the suspects in the body, went through him and hit the second one in the head, killing them both. They were identified as Ronald, 24, and Roger 26, O’Kasick. Their brother, James, 20, admitted shooting Canfield and said that Roger had shot Fossum. He stated that running over Canfield was an accident. He was later convicted of murder and sent to the St. Cloud Reformatory on September 15th, 1958, where he committed suicide later that year.

Officer Fossum was 31 years old. He had worked for the Minneapolis Police Department since May 16th, 1951. Three children, John, 8, Joan, 6, Janean, 17 months, and his wife, Dorothy, who was expecting their fourth child in two months, survived him. His funeral was held at Gleason Mortuary and he was buried in Resurrection Cemetery.

Officer Canfield eventually had more than 100 operations due to his injuries. He died on March 2nd, 2000, at the age of 78.