"Bad Boys, Dead Boys"

It was Thursday, April 26th 1934 and it was just another routine day of patrol for the San Rafael Police Department.  But by the time this day ended, it turned out to be anything but routine. SRPD officers Phil Le Cornec and A. W. Dewey doubled upin a patrol car with Dewey driving and they started their patrol of the city on day shift.  While slowly patrolling by the railroad yards (south of Second Street at the bottom of Lincoln Avenue) at about 2:30 PM in the afternoon, two men suddenly jumped out from behind some bushes and they ran up to the police car.  Both men had guns and they pointed their weapons at the officers.  Le Cornec reached for his rifle that he carried on the front floorboard and Dewey went for his shoulder holster to get his revolver, but alas, it was too late as the two men disarmed the officers. 


Le Cornec and Dewey must have wondered who these men were as they had received no information about any dangerous men in town.  As it turned out the two were Wanda Stewart and Walter Wyeth, both males who were serving time in San Quentin State Prison.  Earlier in the day they had been on a work detail outside the prison walls when they overpowered their guard and took off.  They were also able to obtain two handguns that someone had hidden for them.  Their plan was to take over the next car that drove by the railroad yard and as luck would have it, it was a San Rafael Police Car.  They ordered Dewey to drive to Lake Tahoe but as they neared their destination they changed course and drove south through the Mojave Desert to San Bernardino.  Meanwhile word of the escape finally got out at about the same time that it was discovered that the officers were missing.  Was there link between the two?  A massive search was conducted for the officers, but they had disappeared into thin air.


Finally, after arriving on the outskirts of San Bernardino, Stewart and Wyeth released the officers and proceeded to rob a nearby pharmacy.  Their take was $35 in cash, some soap and a razor.  As they drove off, a Victorville Deputy Sheriff spotted the car as the officers had now been missing for 30 hours and word had been put out all over the state. The Deputy went after them, but Stewart and Wyeth had no intention of giving up.  A major gun battle ensued which resulted in the Deputy shooting and killing both of the desperados. In addition, the San Rafael Police car was all shot up.  After repairing the car, (which included cleaning the inside) Le Cornec and Dewey returned to San Rafael on the following Monday, safe and sound. SRPD Chief Sabin Kane interviewed both officers and after he completed his investigation, he promptly fired both of them for failing to overpower the suspects and to allow themselves to be kidnapped in the first place.  This created an uproar in the city and it was discussed at several City Council meetings.  After all, both officers were safe and both convicts were dead.  Finally after many weeks both officers were reinstated and put back on the force.  Dewey worked into the mid 1940's and left the department.  Phil Le Cornec stayed with the department but suffered an unexpected heart attack on April 20, 1953 and died while still employed by the department.


Attached are two photos.  One is of SRPD Chief Sabin Cain interviewing Officer A. W. Dewey about his kidnap ordeal and the other is a mugshot of convicts Wanda Stewart (convicted of robbery) and Walter Wyeth (convicted of forgery) which were taken when they first entered San Quentin Prison.

Posted on January 7, 2015 .