LIMA — Lima police officers Philip Goebel and Mike Sullivan were on patrol that night in early June 1900 when, in the words of the Lima Times-Democrat, “three desperadoes of the worst type attempted to rob Dr. J.E. Mell, a south side druggist while the latter was on the way to his home on East Vine Street.”
Although injured in the initial attack, the druggist, who was packing a pistol instead of pills, squeezed off several rounds at the bandits, who wisely fled into the night. Around 1 a.m. June 7, 1900, Goebel and Sullivan encountered the trio in the C.H. & D. (Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton) railroad yards. The burly Goebel grabbed the man nearest him “whereupon the robber drew a revolver and before the officer could protect himself, placed the muzzle of the weapon against Goebel’s back and pulled the trigger,” the Times-Democrat wrote.
Goebel fell “but was on his feet again in an instant” and he and Sullivan “began to return the fire which was then being directed” at them by all three of the robbers, the newspaper wrote, adding that one of the men, later identified as the man who’d shot Goebel, was found dead beside the tracks. His accomplices were later captured and convicted.
Goebel, the youngest child in a German immigrant family that had arrived in Lima in the middle of the 19th century, survived, thanks in large part to his sister, Dr. Anna M. Goebel, who was, the Times-Democrat declared, “his faithful and constant attendant.” However, the newspaper noted, he never regained “his former robust health” and, on Dec. 30, 1902, two and a half years after the shootout in the train yard, the 42-year-old Goebel died of complications related to the shooting.
The son of John G. and Mary Borst Goebel, Philip Goebel was the second of the family’s five sons to be involved in local law enforcement. He followed older brother Lewis Francis Goebel, who served briefly as a constable. Philip Goebel, in turn, was followed at the Lima Police Department by his nephew John Bay Goebel, a son of Lewis Francis Goebel. John Bay Goebel would have a relatively brief but turbulent tenure with the Lima Police Department.
Philip Goebel was born in January 1861. “The deceased was by trade a painter and decorator,” the Times-Democrat noted in his obituary, “but many years of his interesting and useful life were spent in the faithful service of the city.
That “useful” part of his service began as a member of the city’s original volunteer fire department and, “after a regularly organized and paid department formed, he became one of the crew of those who were then known as the ‘minute men,’” according to the Times-Democrat. He stayed with the fire department until about 1894, when he resigned to follow his trade as a painter and to work as a merchant policeman patrolling the downtown area.
In 1896, he was appointed a “regular policeman” on the Lima department. For the next half dozen years, Goebel’s name was often in the newspaper, collaring thieves, drunkards and other ne’er-do-wells. This “interesting” part of Goebel’s service to the city took a decidedly dangerous turn when he and Sullivan encountered the three “desperadoes” from Dayton in the rail yard.
“The battle was one of the most desperate that was ever fought in Lima …,” the Times-Democrat proclaimed the following day. “The robbers were beaten back and forced to retreat leaving one of their number dead upon the battleground.” Goebel was taken to the family home at 726 W. North St. for treatment and “was as nervy as ever and stated that he would like to have another go with the desperadoes,” the newspaper reported.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident it was felt that, as the Times-Democrat wrote, “Goebel’s wound is not a very dangerous one and unless unlooked for complications result from the injury he will be on duty again within a short time looking for more desperadoes of the kind he met last night.”
Indeed, Goebel was soon back at work. In October 1901, he was promoted to lieutenant and, in June 1902, took another big step. “Phil could withstand the bullets of murderous highwaymen but finally had to succumb to the unerring darts of the wily cupid and is now a happy bridegroom,” the Times-Democrat wrote June 18, 1902. “His bride was formerly Miss Anna Hootinger, an estimable young lady of Beaver Dam, who for some time has made her home in this city with the Lieutenant’s sister, Dr. Anna Goebel, of West North Street.”
Goebel, however, never fully recovered from the shooting and “passed quietly and peacefully into the silent sleep of death” in the early morning hours of Dec. 30, 1902, attended by, among other physicians, his sister.
In April 1914, Philip Goebel’s nephew joined the Lima Police Department. John Bay Goebel, the Lima Daily News noted on April 14, 1914, “started upon his duties this morning, being assigned to one of the regular beats.” His tenure with the Lima Police Department would be anything but regular.
John Bay Goebel was born April 18, 1883, in Lima. In May 1908, he married Bertha B. Ware and the couple had two children, Lewis Ogan and Phyllis Caroline. Around 1912, the family moved from Columbus Grove to Lima where Goebel worked as a motorman on the Western Ohio railway, an interurban line.
Shortly after joining the police department in 1914, Goebel was involved in breaking up a ring that smuggled Chinese people into the United States, with the Lima Daily News declaring on September 18, 1915, that the city had been “a distributing point for the Celestials (Chinese) brought into the United States.”
For unknown reasons, Goebel abruptly resigned from the department in February 1916 but was reinstated in July of that year, only to be suspended again a year and a half later for assaulting a newspaper editor in front of the chief of police and safety director. “Goebel took exceptions to a newspaper article attacking him in yesterday morning’s Gazette (Lima Republican Gazette), it is alleged, and asked (city editor J. Earle) Miller for a retraction,” the Daily News wrote Dec. 31, 1917. “When Miller refused, it is alleged, Goebel grabbed the editor by the throat and gave him a gentle tap on the chin to let him know what he thought of him.”
In September 1920, Goebel was charged with manslaughter after shooting and killing an alleged bootlegger named Mel Flannigan after a short chase near the Lima State Hospital. Goebel was squirrel hunting at the time he spotted Flannigan, who was wanted in connection with a still his brother was operating the 900 block of South Elizabeth Street. A jury subsequently acquitted Goebel of all charges.
In May 1921, Goebel played a key part in the capture of members of the McGann-Townsend gang of safecrackers who were operating out of Lima at the time. A member of the gang was killed in a gun battle with police. Goebel, the Times-Democrat declared, “was instrumental in tracking the bandit gang to its hideout” in south Lima.
The ink had barely dried on that story then Goebel was again suspended. This time, he and another officer were accused of being drunk and starting a brawl at a downtown store. In June 1921, he was again cleared. Eventually returned to duty, Goebel worked as a plainclothes officer and, in October 1926, helped break up a car theft ring.
But, in May 1927, he was dismissed from the department for refusing to obey orders of a superior. The oft-suspended Goebel, the News noted May 7, 1927, had “seen five years’ service during the past eight years.”
Goebel soon moved to California where he died at the age of 82 in June 1965.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.