Retired Seattle Police Officers Association

By: Officer Mike Severance – Retired

 Around 10:00 a.m. on 7-20-1949, King County Superior Court Judge Howard M. Find refused a request by James Jackson, 55, to rescind his $50 per month support payments to his estranged wife. Jackson was upset about the judge’s decision. He found his wife waiting for a bus in front of the courthouse, and he attacked her. She escaped by running into traffic on 3rd Avenue. Jackson found his wife again around 10:45 p.m. She was sitting on the front porch of a house at 524 23 Avenue with Johnnie Taylor and Taylor’s wife. Jackson drove up in a car, and started shooting with a .45 pistol. Johnnie Taylor was hit three times. Jackson drove away.
Jackson’s car was located near 311 22 Avenue. Police ordered it impounded, but officers did not stand by until the tow truck arrived. Around midnight, Donald M. Reed, a tow truck driver, was preparing to impound Jackson’s car. Jackson came out of the house at 311 22 Avenue and shot Reed in the arm. Reed managed to run away. Officers responded to the house, and Jackson retreated to a basement bedroom.
Detective Harry W. Vosper, 42, had just gone off-duty, but he was still at the police station. When he heard about the incident, he responded to the call to assist fellow officers and detectives.
Around 12:30 a.m. on 7-21-1949, Officers W. G. Scott and Ted Yerabek entered the basement of the house and exchanged shots with Jackson. Officer Scott became pinned down in a coal bin, unable to get out of the basement. Detective Don Sprinkle threw a tear gas grenade into Jackson’s bedroom, and Officer Scott was able to get out of the basement. After Scott was out of the basement, Detective Sgt. I. A. O’Mera threw more tear gas grenades into Jackson’s room. Around 12:40 a.m., Jackson came charging out of the basement. Detective Harry Vosper stepped between Jackson and Detective Sprinkle. Jackson fired one shot which hit Vosper. Jackson was then shot and killed by Detective Vernath Thomas and Sgt. Murral C. Griffin. Detective Vosper was rushed to Harborview County Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Detective Harry W. Vosper was survived by his wife, Bernice, his parents and his sister, Agnes. His funeral was held on July 25, 1949 at Forkner’s Chapel. Harry Vosper was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in West Seattle.

Harry William Vosper was born on March 19, 1907 in Seattle. He grew up in West Seattle, and graduated from West Seattle High School, Class of 1926. He married Bernice Bearse in 1927. Harry’s occupation for many years was “driver”. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy before the start of WW II. He left the Navy in 1945, and was commissioned as a Seattle Police Officer on December 26, 1945. Bernice Vosper never remarried. She died in Seattle in 1993. Agnes Vosper, Harry’s sister, did marry, and had children. Her grandson lives in Arizona. Her granddaughter, Lyndi McDougal, lives in Issaquah.

In May 1998, Detective Harry W. Vosper was one of forty Seattle polcie officers, killed between 1881 and 1977, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. His medal had been in the custody of the Seattle Police Department since 1998. At a ceremony on January 30, 2014, twenty surviving families of our 1998 Medal of Honor recipients finally received the officers’ medals. Detective Harry Vosper’s Medal of Honor was presented to, Lyndi McDougal.