Sacrificing his life so that his speeding motorcycle, chasing a traffic violator, would not strike and probably kill two happy children as they were darting across Foothill Blvd. for a theater matinee performance, Motorcycle Officer Scott Vernon Smith, 28, one of Monrovia’s most popular police officers, was fatally injured Sat., Dec. 16, 1939, when his vehicle leaped the curb at Ivy and Foothill, skidded across the sidewalk and crashed into the east end of the Lyric theater lobby.
Less than five minutes before the tragic accident, the sidewalk had been lined with more than a score of children awaiting the opening of the theater box office. Because the day was warm and children were standing in the hot sun, John Nylen, theater manager, opened the box office earlier than usual. Otherwise, the crash might have been even more tragic.
From statements of many witnesses interviewed by investigating officers, it has been definitely ascertained that Smith died as a sacrifice to keep from striking the two children.
Reconstructing the fatal ride of the motorcycle officer, police reported that he started the chase of a light cream-colored sedan, driver of which has not been learned, near Acacia Ave.
As Smith was nearing the corner of Ivy and Foothill, an automobile entered the intersection. Hearing the approaching siren, the driver stopped immediately. As Smith turned his motorcycle nearer the center of the intersection to pass by the vehicle, two children darted across the street from beyond the car.
Realizing that he could not avoid striking the children, Smith did not hesitate a second. He swerved his motorcycle sharply to the left and headed toward the sidewalk.
Another obstacle loomed in his way, an automobile parked in front of the malt shop. Attempting to steer his speeding motorcycle from the vehicle, he crashed head-long into the east corner of the theater, a distance of 11 feet, cracking off stucco and striking his head on a steel re-enforcement rod. Dr. Robert Crusan, who was at the scene of the accident with his children, examined Smith at once and went to the hospital with the fatally injured officer.
Smith, 28, had been a member of the Monrovia Police Department since July 1, 1935. One of two department motorcycle officers, he had been constantly studying police methods and several months ago had completed a course in fingerprinting and was doing fingerprint work in addition to his motor duties.
Since joining the police department, Smith had been deeply interested in public safety for children, and spent much of his spare time with school children and Boy Scouts in effecting highway safety methods for children driving bicycles.
An active member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the young officer had headed the organization’s campaign for properly lighted bicycles the past two years and only last week sent letters to some 500 parents, urging them to buy bicycle lights for the children’s bicycles as a safety measure. Smith’s death was the first police fatality in the line of duty since “Tiny” Morris was killed more than 10 years ago. His death was also the first fatality of a city employee killed while on city duty since the city council established its own emergency fund and started to carry compensation insurance. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. Stanley Bond, at the First Christian Church. He was assisted by Rev. Quick of the Free Methodist Church. Interment was at the Live Oak Cemetery where services were conducted by the Monrovia Lodge No. 308, F.&A.M.
Smith was survived by his wife, Georgia; daughter, Barbara; step-mother, Amanda; three brothers, Leslie, Joseph and Harvey; four sisters, Mildred Thomas, Elizabeth Lotz, Hazel Lee, and Ruth Greenup; half brother, Stanley; and half sister, Beulah Lanham.