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100-year-old Halloween murder of Denver Police officer remains unsolved

Officer Rose was shot 13 times next to his police call box in north Denver on Oct. 31, 1922.

DENVER — A busy neighborhood in north Denver was the scene of a real-life Halloween horror story exactly one hundred years ago.

A Halloween horror story with bootleggers and gangsters rather than ghosts and goblins. A true-crime story now a century old.  A tale told by Jeff Rose, an Arvada man who never met his great-grandfather but has long admired him.

"He was a man of conviction, believed in America, believed in doing what was right," Jeff Rose said. "I've been hearing this story since I was a little boy."

Rose said the day began like any other for his great-grandfather. It was Oct. 31, 1922. After having breakfast with his sister at his house on Kalamath Street in north Denver, Officer Rose checked his police call box about a block away.

"He turns around, and he notices this car coming up the street at him real slow, and he doesn't recognize anybody in the car, and that scares him, that alerts him, now he's running back to his call box to call for backup," Jeff Rose said. "Two men get out of that car, and another comes running around the corner, and they ambush him, and they open up fire from all sides."

Rose said his great-grandfather was shot 13 times. He died at the hospital about an hour later, but not before managing to say three final words to his sister and brother-in-law.

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"He's trying to tell them what happened, but he can't get out a sentence, and he tries like three times, and the only word that would come out was the first word, Mafia, so he said, 'Mafia, Mafia, Mafia,' and that was it," Rose said.

Credit: Byron Reed
The gravestone of Denver Officer Richie Rose

Denver Police said Officer Rose had helped shut down several illegal bootlegging operations in north Denver since the start of prohibition two years earlier. According to his great-grandson, he made it clear to the Mafia that he was not for sale.

"Organized crime had really ramped up, and one of their business practices was to try to buy off as many police officers as they could," Rose said. "So he just said no, 'I don't want that anywhere around me' and in doing so, he made a giant enemy out of the mob and put a target on his back."

Despite a prediction by the Denver Police chief that Officer Rose's killers would be found within 24 hours, the case was never solved.

Credit: Byron Reed
Jeff Rose

One hundred years later, Rose said his great-grandfather remains an important figure in his family, for all that he did and all that he refused to do.

"His story is a timeless story of a little guy standing up to a big organization for what he believes in and for what is right, and he had the integrity to follow through right to the bitter end," Rose said.

"He was quoted as saying, 'I'd rather die doing what I believe in then live out my life as a lie,'" he said.

At the time of his death, Officer Rose had just begun his second year with Denver Police. He was survived by his wife and four children, and his wife was pregnant with their fifth child.

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