1954: Coronado’s Fallen Officer

Frank Greene had spent much of his life around a football field or in law enforcement when he was shot and killed at age 43 on Oct. 12, 1954.

Greene set the standing California high school record of 80 points in one game when he scored 11 touchdowns and 14 points after in a 108-0 Coronado victory over Sweetwater in 1929.

Coronado police Lt. Frank Greene.

Coronado police Lt. Frank Greene.

Greene, whose  death came 25 years and two days after his  feat, was a lieutenant on the Coronado police force, working the graveyard shift with Richard Lutsey, a Navy shore patrolman.

Newspaper reports said Greene had received a tip that a robbery was planned to take place at the Mexican Village Restaurant on Orange Avenue.

It was 1:25 a.m. when Greene and his partner noticed with suspicion a 1947  Ford sedan and signaled for the vehicle to pull over as it drove slowly down Coronado’s main thoroughfare.

…”THEN THE SHOT”

Three men were in the vehicle.  Greene approached the driver’s side and asked, ‘Where are you going?'” and motioned the occupants to step from the car.

“The fellow sitting next to the driver got out right away,” said Greene’s partner, shore patrolman  Lutsey.  “The passenger was facing me when the lieutenant made some remark, like he was insisting on identification papers from the driver.”

A moment or two passed.  “Then it happened,” said Lutsey.  “”I heard a slight scuffle and then the shot.”

Greene fell backward.  He probably was dead when he hit the pavement, from a bullet that entered below Greene’s right cheek and lodged in his neck.

The shooter, Roberto Rodriquez, 27, and Rafael Gruber, 22, a passenger in the backseat, fled.  Benjamin Brozowski, 39, who sat next to Rodriguez, was held at the scene by Lutsey.

KITCHEN EMPLOYEES

All three worked in the Hotel del Coronado kitchen as dishwashers, although Brozowski also was described as a “salad man.”

A manhunt involving peace officers from Coronado, San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, the Naval Air Station, and National Guard resulted in arrests of all three within 31 hours.

Officers went house to house, helicopters were deployed along beaches and the Coronado ferry slips were guarded. The community of 12,500 residents was sealed off.

Captured suspect Rodriguez is taken to Coronado police station.

Captured suspect Rodriguez is taken to Coronado police station.

Rodriguez was found days later huddled in the attic of the Hotel del Coronado annex.

Gruber had escaped to Tijuana by traveling on foot 10 miles down the beach on the ocean side of the Silver Strand, Coronado’s only outbound (and blocked) road.

Gruber turned himself in at San  Ysidro after reading in a Tijuana newspaper that he was accused of being the shooter.

Rodriguez was tried and sentenced to life in prison for first degree murder and given consecutive sentences for conspiracy to commit robbery and for possession of a gun by a felon.  Rodriguez had been in and out of prison since his teenage years.

Brozowski was given a life sentence for murder and five years to life for conspiracy to commit robbery. Gruber received five to life for robbery conspiracy.

MOCKS JUDGE’S ADMONITION

Rodriguez smiled and waved when the sentence was pronounced by Superior Court Judge John Hewicker, who criticized the jury’s decision, believing Rodriguez should have gotten the gas chamber.  A juror said the jury vote was 11-1 for death.

Gruber, who had testified against the other two defendants, attempted to hang himself while in the San Diego City Jail.  He said he feared prison and “friends” who would seek revenge on Rodriguez’ behalf.

Greene was dangerous runner for Coronado's once-beaten Islanders in 1929.

Greene was dangerous runner for Coronado’s once-beaten Islanders in 1929.

Greene is the only Coronado policeman killed in the line of duty.  He was active in the community as a founder of Coronado’s Little Theater and as a coach of the semipro Coronado Colts football team.

Greene had been screen tested by the RKO Radio Pictures studio.

PLAYED AND COACHED

Greene handed off to teammate in 1934 Chicago Cardinals publicity photo.

Greene handed off to teammate in 1934 Chicago Cardinals publicity photo.

Greene received all-America honorable mention as a kicker and single wing blocking quarterback under the legendary “Gloomy” Gus Henderson at Tulsa University.

Greene played  for the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL in 1934-35 and was a player-coach with the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the American Football League in 1936.

Greene scored 164 points for the 8-1 Coronado Islanders, whose only 1929 loss was to Southern California champion Long Beach Poly, 20-7.  He held the school season scoring record for 74 years, until J.R. Roggin bettered the mark in 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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