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Fallen Hudson Police officer remembered

The headline in the Star-Observer on June 18, 1953, was as big as it was devastating in then small town Hudson.

"Hudson policeman, tavern bandit slain in gun battle early Sunday morning."

Editor Doug Stohlberg recalled the events of that fateful day in a column he wrote in 2004 from the Star-Observer's coverage along with the front page news from the St. Paul Pioneer Press the day after the June 14 shooting.

@t:The front page of the Pioneer Press from June 15, 1953, tells the tale of the fatal shooting of Hudson police officer Clarence Erickson, 26. He was killed in a gunfight with a bandit named Wilferd Goneau. After killing Erickson, Goneau was also killed as he continued to battle with other local police officers.

The bizarre story began in Polk County where Goneau robbed Duren's Tavern on Hwy. 8 and escaped with $410. The car was spotted near Somerset when St. Croix County officers Harry Dieltz and Lee Murphy pulled Goneau over after a short chase. Instead of surrendering, however, Goneau shot Murphy through the right shoulder and sped away. The two officers emptied their guns into the rear of the car, breaking the rear window. After attending to Murphy briefly, the men resumed the chase.

Erickson and fellow policeman Rangvald Hansen spotted Goneau's vehicle coming across the North Hudson bridge. They forced the car into the rock walls on Second Street just north of the railroad overpass. Goneau jumped from his car and ran up the steps toward the west. Erickson chased him and caught him about half way up the steps. The men wrestled and Goneau shot Erickson in the leg. The bandit grabbed Erickson's gun and continued a fire-fight with Hansen.

According to newspaper reports, Goneau came back down the steps and worked his way down the Second Street sidewalk toward the North Hudson bridge, shooting his gun at Hanson; Hanson continued to fire, working his way down the east side of Second Street.

Unknown to Hansen, Erickson managed to limp along the steep grassy embankment and came up behind Goneau. At about the same time the two county officers arrived to assist in the battle, Erickson jumped Geneau from behind. The two men again wrestled, but this time Goneau shot Erickson in the chest, killing him. In a hail of bullets, Goneau was shot in the leg and chest, but still continued to move and managed to get into a Hudson police car. Hansen approached the left side of the vehicle and fired the fatal shot that killed Goneau.

Ironically, Erickson's father, Clarence Sr. was a radio dispatcher for St. Croix County and had sent the message to area police to be on the lookout for the bandit. Young Erickson had just been married within the year and his wife was pregnant when Erickson was shot.

The Hudson Police Department will award the department's Medal of Valor posthumously to Erickson in a ceremony Saturday. Erickson's daughter, Carol Erickson Weber of Stillwater, will accept on behalf of the family. Other family members are expected to attend. See accompanying story for details.

Meg Heaton is a reporter for the Hudson Star-Observer.