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Prohibition-era raid killed a Salt Lake City officer

Published March 10, 2014 4:38 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A liquor raid turned deadly for one Salt Lake City policeman, who was less than a year on the job.

The Salt Lake City Police Department memorialized the death of Patrolman Carl Carlson on Sunday, who died 85 years ago to the day. In 1929, when Prohibition still reigned, 38-year-old Carlson and his fellow officers raided a building at 23 S. West Temple (more or less where the City Creek condos are now) where they found 50-gallon barrels of mash — which can be used as an ingredient for beer or whiskey.

During the raid, one of the barrels fell on Carlson's foot, causing him to jump back and strike his head against the wall, according to the police department memorial.

He received treatment for his foot when he went to the hospital. Carlson went to a wrestling exhibition after he was released — but while he was there, he was losing consciousness and someone found him clinging to a lamppost.

He went back to the hospital and died the next morning, on March 9. It turned out that a basilar skull fracture, from hitting his head during the liquor raid, was the cause of his death, according to the memorial.

Carlson was buried three days later at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, about an hour's walk southeast from his home at 2020 S. Roberta Street. The Richmond-born man was survived by his wife Caroline Strand and six children.

He had lived in Salt Lake City for six years and had only been on the police force for eight months, according to his death certificate and a separate online memorial.

Four years after Carlson died, Utah helped repeal the national prohibition. The production and sale of alcohol had actually jumped dramatically in Utah, as well as the rest of the country, during the ban, according to a History Blazer article posted on the Utah state history website. Agents seized more than 322,000 gallons of mash from 1925 to 1932, but "huge profits from the manufacture and sale of liquor made it impossible to stop," the article adds.

— Michael McFall

Twitter: @mikeypanda