Badge from fallen Minnesota police officer discovered after nearly 130 years
Hastings police officer Albert Jacobson was shot to death while pursuing a burglary in 1894.
ST. PAUL -- Nearly 130 years ago, Hastings police officer Albert Jacobson was shot to death while pursuing a burglary suspect who had been spotted in a railroad yard.
As time passed, Hastings police didn’t have much about the killing, other than old newspaper articles of the July 10, 1894, shooting. Around 2013, the police department made several public appeals in city newsletters asking for relatives of Jacobson to contact them in the hope they would have photos or other mementos of the fallen officer, who was 33 years old.
The pleas wouldn’t pan out until 2017, when Jacobson’s great-granddaughter Gloria Hagestuen called Police Chief Bryan Schafer and said her cousin had recently given her a brittle photo of the officer. On the anniversary of his death that year, she met up with Schafer and handed him the only known photo of Jacobson.
But Hagestuen, believing there could be more relics to discover, kept pursuing.
It paid off this past August, when that same cousin, Michelle Groeneveld, called to say she had discovered something else in an attic hope chest: Jacobson’s police badge. Earlier this month, Hagestuen returned the badge back to the department.
“I think it’s still really hard to wrap your head around it,” Hagestuen, 70, of North St. Paul, said.
Schafer agrees, saying that the badge is now the oldest they have from the department, which was founded in 1858.
“It’s the real deal,” Schafer said of the silver-colored, six-pointed star badge.
Jacobson was the first of what has been seven Dakota County law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty — and the lone Hastings’ police officer.
A tragic night
The burglary suspect, John Ivan, shot Jacobson in the abdomen from about 12 feet away, according to an article in the Hastings Democrat, a local newspaper at the time. Jacobson was rushed to his home and “lingered between life and death until shortly after midnight, when he died,” the newspaper reported on July 12, 1894.
The tragic night began after officers spotted two “suspicious characters” in a railroad yard, according to the newspaper. The city’s police chief managed to arrest one of the men, while Jacobson and his partner pursued Ivan, who ran toward Lake Isabel. When they “commanded him to stop,” he turned and fired the fatal shot, the article read.
The other officer fired several shots at the “assassin,” but Ivan escaped by swimming across the river, according to the report. Ivan was later captured while trying to cross a slough and getting stuck in the mud.
“When the two men were examined at City Hall before being placed in their cells a number of chisels, nippers, masks, revolvers, etc., were found in their possession, proving that they were not ordinary tramps but first-class burglars,” the article read.
As word spread around town, a large number of men showed up at City Hall and threatened to lynch Ivan, that is until the county sheriff and his deputies dispersed the angry mob, according to the newspaper.
Ivan was indicted on a murder charge and given a death sentence, which was later commuted by the governor after a petition was signed by jury members and 180 city residents, the Hastings Gazette newspaper reported on March 30, 1895. “Although still quite sick the prisoner was greatly rejoiced to learn the news,” the report read.
Meanwhile, the other suspect, John Peranis, was charged with burglary after it was learned he earlier had broken into a store and post office in neighboring Newport, the newspaper reported.
Jacobson left behind a wife and four children, including 5-year-old Albert H. “Ollie” Jacobsen (the last name was later changed). The boy grew up to become a Hastings police officer in 1928 and the city’s police chief in 1941.
A fitting memorial
Growing up, Hagestuen had heard little about her great-grandfather being killed in the line of duty. But in the mid-1990s, she and her mother made a trip to the Minnesota History Center and spent an afternoon reading old newspaper articles. Hagestuen said her mother only knew when her grandfather had died because she had seen his gravesite at Lakeside Cemetery in Hastings.
After printing off the articles, Hagestuen contacted the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers’ Association, which had no record of the killing. That led to Jacobson being added to the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1997.
In May 2018, following the family’s donation of the photo, the department recognized Jacobson at a ceremony outside City Hall as part of National Police Week. Hagestuen, three of her daughters and her sister were there, and Schafer presented Hagestuen with an “End of Watch” cross that was made by former Hastings officer Richard Brown.
“It was just a nice ceremony,” she said.
Then this past August, she and her daughter Faith drove up to Two Harbors, Minn., to visit with Groeneveld.
“On the way up there she texted me and said, ‘Wait until you see what I’ve got,’ ” Hagestuen said. “And when we got there is when she showed me that she had the badge and also a clip from one of his guns.”
In addition to the badge, the department also now has the gun clip, which Schafer said is being analyzed for authenticity. “Without the gun, it’s hard to tell,” he said.
As far as Jacobson’s gun, Hagestuen said that conversations with relatives leads her to believe it is in Iowa or Rochester.
She said her cousin was willing to part with the relics after knowing that they were going back to the city.
“She’s excited to know that it went there,” Hagestuen said.
Schafer said the plan is to carve out a spot at the police department — maybe a room — and display the relics along with other things the department has collected, such as thumbcuffs, billy clubs, patches and other badges.
“That was our promise to this family, that we would erect some type of a memorial in the form of a small museum within the police department,” he said. “We’ve just been storing this stuff in the basement all along.”