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Black White Blue

The Assassination of Patrolman James Sackett

by William Swanson

Publication Year: 2012

On May 22, 1970, responding to a bogus emergency call to help a pregnant woman, St. Paul patrolman James Sackett was killed by a sniper’s bullet fired from a high-powered rifle. The white officer’s assassination was the most shocking event in an era of shocking, racially charged events, punctuated by bombings at Dayton’s Department Store and elsewhere, police harassment and shootings of young black men, an alleged hijacking plot, and random acts of urban violence. a once peaceful, close-knit community, St. Paul’s summit-university neighborhood had reached a boiling point, heated by racism and rage. Award-winning journalist William Swanson masterfully walks the razor-edge between the grief and anger of a police force that lost one of its own and the deep-seated resentment and subsequent silence of a community that had many reasons not to trust the cops. Based on extensive interviews and archival research, Black White Blue recounts the details of one of the most extraordinary cold-case sagas in U.S. annals—a story featuring dozens of memorable characters, including a relentless “super cop,” an aggregation of conflicted informants, and a haunted woman who grew old with a terrible secret. The case culminates with the controversial trials, decades later, of Ronald Reed and Larry Clark. Black White Blue, is a powerful, true account of crime and punishment, time and memory, race, community, and personal relationships.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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p. v-v

Dedication Page

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p. vi-vi

Epigraph

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p. vii-vii

Table of Contents

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p. x-x

Part One: Young Men and Murder

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p. 3-3

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Chapter 1

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pp. 5-22

The young woman’s voice was soft and unhurried, with a trace of a languid drawl. She did not ask for, much less demand, a squad car—she wondered if a car could be dispatched. She might have been ordering a pizza or, if it wasn’t already a few ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 23-32

It had been a generation—twenty-one years—since a St. Paul police officer had been murdered in the line of duty, and the city, waking to the news, was stunned. Because of its ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 44-54

For a week after James Sackett’s murder, the department blanketed the Hill with rolling patrols—often four officers armed with shotguns to a car and sometimes a patrol car shadowed by an unmarked squad as backup. “Think about a bee hive that got ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 55-66

The torrent of calls, letters, and tips on the street during the first few weeks following Sackett’s murder thinned during the summer of 1970. In the wake of even spectacular crimes such as this one, both the quantity and quality of information ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 67-81

A few days before Christmas, Ronald Reed and Larry Clark appeared in front of a police line-up in St. Paul and were identified by William Tate, the wounded Omaha police officer, as two of the three men who attempted to rob the Ames Plaza Bank in ...

Part Two: A Very Cold Case

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p. 83-83

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Chapter 1

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pp. 85-101

This time there was no middle-of-the-night call for assistance, no counterfeit concern expressed about a sick child or a pregnant woman, no apparent need to hurry. Not at first. Rookie St. Paul officer Ronald Ryan Jr. was responding to a call ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 102-114

Jeanette Sackett knew little about the start-and-stop investigation. As time passed, she had less and less contact with the department and with individual officers, including Jim’s old partners and friends, many of whom were beginning to retire and live ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 115-133

After several years as an investigator (sex crimes, homicide, special investigations, and the joint task force), Jane Mead was familiar enough with large boxes full of paper but not so sure about the Dictabelt. When she checked with the department’s ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 134-146

By the beginning of 2004, the task force investigation had developed a momentum that justified Jeanette Sackett’s confidence. Despite confronting many more dead ends than open doors, Dunaski, Mead, and Duff were slowly making friends and ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 147-162

In June 2004, St. Paul’s police department inaugurated a new chief. John Harrington succeeded William Finney, who was retiring after a dozen years in the top job. Harrington was a burly, physically ...

Photo Section

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pp. photo 1-photo 8

Part Three: The Burden of Proof

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p. 163-163

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Chapter 1

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pp. 165-177

As if the city needed a reminder of the crime that it would soon be reliving in court, another St. Paul police officer was murdered in the spring of 2005. Early on the morning of May 6, Sergeant Gerald Vick, a ...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 178-203

Courtroom 840, on the eighth floor of the Ramsey County Courthouse in downtown St. Paul, was not Judge Johnson’s first choice for the trial of Ronald Reed. Despite the fact that 840 had been part of an extensive 1990s renovation of the ...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 204-222

Who was Larry Clark? After more than thirty-five years of on-and-off public conversation, three separate police investigations, three grand jury hearings, dozens of media references, and a high- intensity trial in which his ...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 223-232

"The passage of time is both an enemy and an ally,” Jeff Paulsen said for neither the first nor the final time, speaking to reporters outside Courtroom 840 following the Clark verdict. “It’s true that people die and memories fade, but it’s also true that ...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 233-240

Actually, it wasn’t over for everybody. While Larry Clark bided his time until his January 2010 release, Ronald Reed, from his seven-by-eleven-foot, single-occupancy cell at Oak Park Heights—the state’s modern, maximum-security correctional ...

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Afterword

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pp. 241-247

Reviewing the thousands of pages of investigative files and courtroom transcripts that pave the long trail of the James Sackett murder case, I found it distressing but not difficult to reach the conclusion shared by successive Ramsey County juries ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 249-251

I want to thank the dozens of individuals who spoke to me—in many cases on several occasions and at considerable length— about the subject matter of this book. Most of you are mentioned by name in the text. Please know that without your help this book ...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780873518710
E-ISBN-10: 0873518713
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873518703
Print-ISBN-10: 0873518705

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 11 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1