A Gunfight at 3 a.m.: 1947

Night Officer Pat Thielen was making his rounds shortly after 3 a.m. in downtown Shakopee in 1947. As he was driving out of the alley next to the telephone company, he heard the tinkle of falling glass. He thought it might be in the rear of Metcalf’s, so he drove down Holmes Street and turned into the alley between the Pure Oil and the Standard Oil gas stations. As he passed the station, Pat saw a figure dart out between the pumps at the Standard Station, and a car parked across the street did a U-turn and picked up the person. Then the car raced east on First Avenue toward Savage.

When Thielen saw the car, he skidded on the ice, and broke a headlight against a telephone pole. Pat started the chase, with the two vehicles driving in excess of 80 miles per hour. They roared past the First Presbyterian Church, which was dedicated on Feb. 25, 1900, and was used until 1967. The church is now the Igelsia del Dios Vivo, Columna y Adoyo de la Verdad, La Luz Del Mundo on 502 First Avenue East. The three bandits, driving a 1941 Buick Road-master, opened fire at Pat, and Pat returned fire, emptying his pistol at the fleeing machine.

The bandits’ bullets struck the police car, one through the center of the right windshield, and one at the edge of the roof, also on the right side. The slugs were .41 caliber weapons. Thielen believed that the burglars were professionals, as the driver kept his machine on the left side to protect himself, while his companions fired, one from each rear window of the car.

When the firing started, the burglars slowed down, and when Thielen fired back, they sped away, rapidly outdistancing the police car. Pat, who was a veteran of the heavy combat in the South Pacific during World War II, noted that if he had a Browning automatic rifle, he could have stopped them. But without it, the bandits escaped.

Thielen was unhurt except for flying glass. He headed back to town and alerted the nearby law enforcement agencies.

A few years later, Don Miles from the State Crime Bureau called Pat and they met at the Carver County Jail. A prisoner was there, and he was being interrogated. The prisoner described how he and his friends had been hired for $500 to come to Shakopee in 1947 to scare a new police officer out of his job. They spent a day watching his routines, and the next night the burglars broke a window in the gas station to get his attention. The prisoner mentioned that Pat had come so fast that they had to get the hell out in a hurry. While firing on the officer’s car and making a bee line out of town, the prisoners and friends got four bullets in the back of their car.

When Don mentioned that Pat was there now, listening, the prisoner said, “Oh, my God, no!” and clammed up. Unfortunately, Pat realized that is was no use pursing it as the statute of limitations had already run out!

(Some information from Robert George Thielen: The Legend of “Pat” Thielen by the Shakopee Heritage Society, 2007, p. 11-13.)

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