Constable George E. Peeso

Constable George E. Peeso

Sterling Police Department, Massachusetts

End of Watch Friday, September 19, 1919

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George E. Peeso

Constable George Peeso was shot and killed by a man he was trying to arrest for causing a disturbance at the Sterling Inn at 240 Worcester Road.

Three men had come to the inn and created a disturbance, prompting the proprietor to kick them out. When the man returned the proprietor called Constable Peeso.

When Constable Peeso arrived all three men ran from the scene. He caught one of the men and arrested him. He saw a second man standing nearby on Main Street and attempted to arrest him as well. As he placed handcuffs on one of the man's wrists the man pulled out a revolver and shot him in the chest three times, killing him.

The son of another constable witnessed the shooting and shot at the man as he fled. The was arrested several days later and charged with manslaughter. The man was acquitted after claiming that he believed that Constable Peeso was attempting to rob him.

Constable Peeso was survived by his wife and four children.

Bio

  • Age 37
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Acquitted

arrest, disorderly

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Posted on Telegram.com Sep 19, 2019

Sterling honors Constable George E. Peeso, slain 100 years ago.

STERLING - Constable George E. Peeso lived, worked and died within a quarter-mile of a memorial honoring the sacrifice he made in serving the citizens of Sterling.

Constable Peeso, 39, died 100 years ago, on Sept. 19, 1919, shot to death by a Worcester man he was trying to arrest after a brawl at the Sterling Inn.

The memorial is in a park behind the Sterling Fire Station, across the street from the house where Constable Peeso lived (which his granddaughter Patricia Peeso still owns) and within sight of the cider mill where he worked when he was not performing police or Fire Department duties.

On Thursday, a service was held marking the 100th anniversary of Constable Peeso’s death. At the ceremony were family members, including Ms. Peeso and the constable’s grandson Everett Pierce. All members of the Sterling Police Department were there, except one officer who is deployed with the military in Afghanistan. Members of the Fire Department and Massachusetts State Police also attended.

“He was a grandfather we never got to see, nor did his children spend much time with him,” Everett Pierce said. “We are extremely grateful to the town of Sterling and to the Police Department in particular for what they have done to never forget about what happened to him on Sept. 19, 1919.”

Mr. Pierce said it was ironic that the site of the memorial is such a short distance from the home where his grandfather lived, and is not far from the former Sterling Inn, and the intersection where Constable Peeso died.

“That fateful evening, the gunshots were heard by my grandmother sitting in her home,” he said.

The tragic events started simply about 8 p.m., with a call to quell a disturbance at the Sterling Inn. Three men had beaten proprietor David J. Mahoney when he refused to serve them liquor. When Constable Peeso, Police Chief McDonald Lynch and the chief’s son, Officer Charles Lynch, arrived, they quickly placed one man under arrest.

Constable Peeso then tried to arrest one of the three accused troublemakers, Ernest Nordenstedt of 48 Belmont St., Worcester. The suspect fled down Route 12 to the intersection with Route 62 known as Pike’s Corner, with Constable Peeso and Officer Lynch in pursuit.

When the officers caught up to him, things got out of control. Constable Peeso was able to place a handcuff on one of Mr. Nordenstedt’s wrists, but the Worcester man pulled a revolver from his hip pocket and shot the constable in the chest.

Current Police Chief Gary M. Chamberland said it is unclear how many shots Mr. Nordenstedt fired, but the constable died from his wounds. After a brief shootout in which Officer Lynch emptied his revolver at the suspect, wounding him twice, Mr. Nordenstedt fled into the woods.

A manhunt immediately ensued. Roads were shut down as authorities searched for the suspect. The handcuffs and a blood-stained revolver were found about a quarter mile from the inn, west of what is now Route 12.

Meanwhile, Maude Spencer of the Rowley Hill area of Sterling found Mr. Nordenstedt lurking outside her parents’ home when she went to feed their chickens. She brought him inside to dress his wounds but did not believe his claim that he was injured in an accident. She called Constable Warren Rugg, who came over and arrested him.

Anger was running high in the town over the death of the well-liked constable. Constable Rugg avoided taking the killer to the Sterling jail in Town Hall, where a mob was gathering. He took him first to a selectman’s home and then to the Clinton police station. Later he was taken to Clinton Hospital, where his wounds were tended.

The trial in November ended in acquittal. Although Mr. Nordenstedt had been brawling at the inn before police arrived, he still claimed self-defense, telling police he thought he was being robbed. His lawyer also claimed he had been beaten so severely with a club that if he shot the constable, he did it without knowing what he was doing.

George Peeso left behind five children, including one who was born after he died. A sixth child had passed away in infancy. Chief Chamberland said the residents of Sterling came forward in support of the children and the widow, Annie, raising $700, the equivalent of about $10,000 today. A line item was also included in the town’s budget each year for “widow’s wood,” which helped provide wood for the Peeso family to heat their home. Mrs. Peeso took various jobs to support her family, and the children went to work as soon as they were able.

Along with Mr. Nordenstedt, police arrested two others, Aygo Pentilla and Matti Maki of Worcester, who took part in the brawl at the inn, and John J. Lee. Mr. Lee had run a saloon on Summer Street in Worcester before Prohibition went into effect in January of that year. He illegally sold the three men whiskey before they headed off to Sterling.

State Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr., D-Clinton, told those attending the memorial service that policing has changed dramatically over the years.

“But it hasn’t changed where the basic job of those who stand around us is to go out every day not knowing if they are going to come home that night, to put their lives on the line to protect those around us, to protect our lives and our families and to make us feel secure,” he said.

Constable Peeso remains the only Sterling police officer to be killed in the line of duty. The department lost Cpl. Michael J. Courtemanche on Jan. 19, 2001, to complications of leukemia.

Besides being inscribed on the plaque in Memorial Park, Constable Peeso’s name also appears on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial in Boston.

Retired Police Officer
NYPD

September 22, 2019

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