Marshfield Police Officer
World Class Wrestling Champion
Killed in the line of duty August 5, 1933
Fred Beell was born January 17, 1876 in West Prussia, Germany. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Wilhelm Beell. He became a Marshfield resident at the age of three. He traveled with his parents as German immigrants. As a boy he attended Immanuel Lutheran School. At the age of 14 he went to work in the old Upham mill. On August 6, 1902, he married the former Anna Scheren. Beell was a member of Company A, Second Wisconsin Regiment and honorably served in the Spanish-American War. He held championships in both the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions and was victor over most heavyweights. He won national attention by winning a championship match against Frank Gotch, the world’s heavyweight champion. Fred continued wrestling until 1919. On November 12, 1941, the Marshfield Board of Education named the new football stadium in his honor. Also in 1972, Beell was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame at the Milwaukee Arena.
Following his outstanding wrestling career, he served the citizens of Marshfield as a relief Police Officer. On August 5th, 1933, at approximately three A.M., he and fellow Marshfield Officer George Fyksen responded to a burglary call at the Marshfield Brewery. According to the Marshfield News-Herald Saturday August 5th, 1933 edition, the two officers went to the brewery in Beell’s car. They parked at the door of the office. Beell remained in the car and Fyksen walked to the side of the building. Rounding a corner of the building, Fyksen encountered a man on guard. Fyksen immediately shot twice, apparently hitting the man both times. Two other robbers, also standing guard outside the building, returned a volley of shots fired from sawed-off shotguns. Fyksen dropped into a depression in the ground and escaped injury although he said shots poured over his body like a “hailstorm”. Hearing the shots Beell, out in front, stepped from the automobile just as the men rushed to the front of the office, shooting as they came. Four bullets struck Beell in the head killing him instantly. Later when his body was picked up, his hand still clutched a revolver, which had not been fired.
In slight contrast to the news paper account of the incident, an article in the True Detective Mysteries magazine dated 1933, by Former Wood County District Attorney Charles M. Pors and J. Parr Godfrey, titled Murder of the World’s Heavyweight Champion, gave this account; After having been notified of the crime and responding to the location, Beell and Fyksen drew their guns as they approached the building and peered through windows. A man was working quietly at the safe. Fyksen went to another window for a better view, and then to another. A glimpse around the corner convinced him the coast was clear. Beell must have gone in the other direction. From a side window he studied the intruder’s face, which was clearly outlined by a night-light over a desk. Cautiously Fyksen made his way toward the rear of the building. Suddenly, without warning, her heard a shot roar out of the stillness. Then another and another. “Fred’s in trouble,” was Fyksen’s thought as he advanced toward the sound. At the corner, he came face to face with a stranger. “Stick ‘em up,” Fyksen shouted, and fired twice point-blank. As his gun barked, he caught a glimpse of another man behind the first. Again a gun roared in the darkness, and the charge thudded into the ground at Fyksen’s feet.
Despite the difference in the account of the story, the outcome was the same; thus Officer Fred Beell murdered while responding to the burglary complaint.
Both accounts continued….
The bandits must have felt they had killed both Officers and fled from the scene. They stole Beell’s car and later abandoned it a mile away. Inside they found blood, which had been left by one of the thugs. Obviously, one of Fyksen’s gunshots had struck and wounded one of them. The thieves stole $1,550 in Federal beer revenue stamps.
Fyksen checked on Beell. He found him lying motionless in a pool of blood. He had been struck in the face by five pellets from a shotgun fired a dozen feet away and died instantly. His fully loaded revolver was still clutched in his hand.
Chief William Paape was notified. He immediately mustered his force of eight officers, dispatched motorcycle officers to pursue and notified Wood County Sheriff Martin Bey. The next day, a shallow grave was discovered alongside a road in Minnesota. Edward “Speed” Gabriel was identified as the deceased and was linked to the brewery burglary.
After an intense investigation, Joe “Sleepy Joe” Hogan (Joseph Webster AKA Bucktooth Hogan) and Elmer Dingman were brought to trial. Hogan received 25 years for his part and Dingman received a life sentence for the murder of Beell. Two other gang members were suspected of having a part in the crime, but were never brought to trial.
Fred Beell was a “Relief Officer” with the Marshfield Police Department. He served on a part-time basis from 1921 to 1933. He was 57 years old at the time of his death. During his wrestling career, he was 5’6” tall and weighed 165 lbs. Prior to his death he received $10.00 a month in compensation. Officer George Fyksen received $115.00 monthly compensation and Chief William Paape received $140.00.
A $1,000 reward was offered to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of person or persons responsible for the death of Mr. Beell. In 1934, the city did purchase a One Twenty Eight AC Thompson with three XX magazines and one-L drum magazine for $255.
Fred Beell was buried in Hillside Cemetery, in Marshfield. A memorial has been placed at his gravesite and is the scene for an annual memorial service held by departmental personnel during National Police Week and held on National Police Memorial Day.
In 1997, Beell’s name was placed on the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial in Madison, Wisconsin. The memorial’s purpose is to remember and honor Wisconsin law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Office Fred Beell is the only Marshfield Police Officer to die in the line of duty.