Three shots rang out, and a Salt Lake City policeman died.
Last Wednesday marked the 101st-anniversary of the death of Officer Thomas Griffiths, 47, whose convicted killer ultimately escaped.
Griffiths was called to a bar near 250 W. 200 South by the victim of an attack. The suspect — identified as Giovanni Anselmo, 23, in Robert Kirby’s book, "End of Watch" — had refused to pay for a round of drinks and attacked the victim with a razor.
Griffiths was surprised. He knew Anselmo, a tailor who lived with his father and not a known troublemaker, according to End of Watch. Griffiths arrested the man, but he broke away from the officer and fled.
Griffiths gave chase and pursued the suspect behind a business — where Anselmo shot Griffiths three times, killing him, according to End of Watch.
Anselmo kept running, and was not found until the next day, when a citizen reported where he was hiding.
The suspect was shot and wounded when police arrested him. He was later convicted of murder, but in 1919, he escaped from a Spanish Fork Canyon work camp and was never recaptured, according to End of Watch. Police believe he made his way to Italy.
Griffiths, a father of six, is buried at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. He was born in South Wales, moved to Chicago as a young man and later to Utah, where he served the police department for six years.
In 2011, the Salt Lake City Police Department placed a bronze memorial plaque at the at the location where Griffiths was shot — now the Historic Sweet Candy Company building at 224 S. 200 West.
The plaque is one of 24 such plaques that are planned for placement at locations where officers were killed while on duty.
— Michael McFall
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