OFFICER WALTER G. COTTLE, EOW: 9-27-30
By: Officer Mike Severance #2866
Around 9:45 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, 1930, Seattle Police Officer Walter G. Cottle, 41, was walking his beat. At 12th Ave. and E. Alder St., he observed a well-dressed white male wearing glasses. He matched the description of the man who shot and fatally wounded Officer Gene Perry on September 12th. Cottle approached the man, and asked him what he was doing. As Cottle started to search the subject, there was a struggle. The suspect pulled a .38 pistol from his pocket and shot the officer twice at close range. One bullet struck the officer in the jaw and entered his neck. A second bullet struck the officer in the hip. The officer fell to the ground with his flashlight in his hand, and his pistol still in its holster. The suspect fled on foot. Two witnesses, James Ross and Maurice Rudisell, ran to the service station at 12th Ave. and E. Fir St., and called the police. Officer Cottle was unconscious when he was rushed to Virginia Mason Hospital. He did regain consciousness long enough to give fellow officers a description of the suspect and an account of the incident. Officer Cottle underwent surgery to remove a bullet from his neck. He died around 10:00 p.m. on September 29, 1930.
Officer Walter Cottle had just recently been divorced. He was survived by his two daughters, Harriett, age 9, and Jean, age 3. The funeral was held on October 3, 1930 at the Butterworth Chapel. Officer Cottle’s remains were cremated.
Several people were arrested in connection with Officer Cottle’s murder. All of them were released. From the beginning of the investigation, police believed they were looking for the “kid-gloved bandit”, the man who had shot Officer Gene Perry. Nobody was ever charged with Officer Cottle’s murder, but it was believed by many that his killer had met a fitting end. Frank Ellis Smith had been shot and killed by officers in Oakland, CA on November 30, 1930. Smith was wanted for a mail train robbery. In 1932, Smith was officially identified as the killer of Officer Gene Perry.
Walter Gordon Cottle was born on March 22, 1889 in North Tisbury, Massachusetts. It appears that he, his mother, and step-father moved to Seattle around 1906. In 1910, at age 21, Walter was living in Cordova, Alaska and working as a surveyor. He served in the United States Navy during WW I. On March 10, 1920, he married Mabel E. Wyatt, and he was commissioned as a Seattle Police Officer on January 5, 1921. Before his divorce, Officer Cottle and his family lived at 2901 28 Ave. W. At the time of his death, Officer Cottle was living at the Sunset Hotel, 5004 ½ 22 Ave. NW. Mabel Cottle eventually re-married. Jean Evans, one of Officer Cottle’s daughters, lives in Salt Lake City. His other daughter, Harriette Young, lives in the San Diego area.
In May 1998, Officer Walter G. Cottle was one of forty Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1977, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. A sworn member of SPD had been tasked with locating surviving families of our Fallen, and he had from 1995 to 1998 to do it. He managed to locate four surviving families who attended the 1998 presentation ceremony. After 1998, the Department made no effort to locate surviving families of the other thirty-six officers. Officer Cottle’s medal gathered dust at the Seattle Police Department for more than 15 years. At a ceremony on January 30, 2014, twenty surviving families of our 1998 Medal of Honor recipients finally received the officers’ medals. Both of Officer Cottle’s daughters had said they would be unable to attend that ceremony.
Chief of Police Jim Pugel gave me permission to travel to Salt Lake City to present Officer Cottle’s Medal of Honor. The Salt Lake City Chief of Police graciously offered the use of their new Public Safety Building for the ceremony. On December 16, 2013, 83 years after Officer Cottle’s murder, I flew to Salt Lake City, and had the honor of presenting Officer Cottle’s Medal of Honor to his 86 year-old daughter, Jean Evans. The Medal of Honor Committee authorized a duplicate medal for Officer Cottle’s other daughter, Harriette Young. That medal was mailed to her. Harriette Young unexpectedly showed up at the January 2014 Medal of Honor Ceremony. The duplicate Medal of Honor was presented to her by Chief of Police Harry Bailey.