Patrol Inspector Earl A. Roberts

Patrol Inspector Earl A. Roberts

United States Department of Labor - Immigration Service - United States Border Patrol, U.S. Government

End of Watch Sunday, March 24, 1929

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Earl A. Roberts

Patrol Inspector Earl Roberts was shot and killed while he and another inspector attempted to apprehend two suspected liquor smugglers near the area of Roberts Landing on the St. Clair River in Algonac, Michigan. The two had observed a motorboat towing a rowboat approaching from Canada and the officers proceeded along the shore following the course of the boat in an attempt to intercept it when it reached the shore. The officers split up to converge on a landing point on the shore.

When the boat arrived Inspector Roberts stepped aboard the stern and identified himself as a federal officer and his partner, who was still on the shore, shined a light on the suspects. One of the suspects stood in the center of the boat aiming a gun at Inspector Roberts, and then he opened fire. Inspector Roberts was fatally wounded succumbed to his wounds the following day. The suspect then turned to fire at the other inspector who returned fire but neither party was hit.

The men who shot Inspector Roberts placed him in their boat and took him across the river to Port Lambton, placed him on a dock, and called out for help before fleeing again. Several bystanders located Inspector Roberts and he was tended to by a Canadian doctor before being taken back across the river to Roberts Landing to be treated in the United States.

The shooter fled but was apprehended two months later in Sombra, Ontario, Canada. The second suspect jumped into the rowboat to flee but was also apprehended and later testified against the shooter. He was sentenced to two years in prison for liquor violations. The 29-year-old shooter was tried in Michigan state court instead of federal court, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison. In the late 1940s he won a new trial, was convicted of second-degree murder, and sentenced to 25 to 50 years. He was released a few months later.

Inspector Roberts had served with the United States Border Patrol for only two months. He was survived by his wife and two sons.


  • Age 34
  • Tour 2 months
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Michigan
  • Incident Date Saturday, March 23, 1929
  • Weapon Handgun; .45 caliber
  • Offender Sentenced to life

alcohol violation, smuggling

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You gave your life serving our country so many years ago, but here I am, 95 years later, thanking you for your service and sacrifice. Rest in peace.

Special Agent

March 24, 2024

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