Patrolman William Thomas Cribb

Patrolman William Thomas Cribb

Charleston County Police Department, South Carolina

End of Watch Friday, November 15, 1974

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William Thomas Cribb

Patrolman Willliam Cribb was shot and killed when he and another officer interrupted an armed robbery in a supermarket while off duty.

Patrolman Cribb and a colleague, both off duty, had gone to a local grocery store, Sam's Red and White, on James Island to get charcoal for a cook-out that evening at Patrolman Cribb's home.

After getting the charcoal and approaching the front of the store they saw a perpetrator with a gun forcing a store employee to open a safe in an office cubicle near the front of the store. Patrolman Cribb was armed, his colleague was not. Patrolman Cribb pulled his weapon and approached the perpetrator from the rear and ordered him to freeze. Unbeknownst to both officers, the perpetrator had two accomplices, one outside the store standing watch, and one in the store, standing a short distance from the office cubicle and behind Patrolman Cribb. That accomplice shot Patrolman Cribb from behind. After Patrolman Cribb fell to the floor, the perpetrator near the safe fired another bullet into Patrolman Cribb.

As the perpetrators were running from the store with the stolen money, Patrolman Cribb's colleague retrieved his gun and fired several shots at them, missing all of them.

Patrolman Cribb was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital.

The three suspects escaped with five thousand dollars and remain at large.

Patrolman Cribb was survived by his pregnant wife and young daughter.

Bio

  • Age 29
  • Tour 3 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Never identified

Most Recent Reflection

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After 45 years, S.C. police officer’s killing remains unsolved
Posted on Live 5 News November 24, 2019

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - It has been four-and-a-half decades since a Charleston County Police officer was gunned down during a grocery store robbery.

The shooting happened at the Sam's Red & White on James Island, which has long-since shut down.

To this day, investigators are still hoping his killers will be found and brought to justice.

It was Nov. 15, 1974, at Sam’s Red & White store on James Island. Two off-duty Charleston County Police officers had stopped by the store to shop.

Police said the scene turned from a casual shopping trip into a battle for life and death at approximately 6:30 p.m. when two men armed with guns walked into the store.

A scream alerted the officers to trouble.

“They confronted the individuals and they got into a fight there,” Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said during a 2010 interview.

During the fight, a third man who had apparently been acting as a lookout shot Cribb.

“He shot Bill Cribb in the neck and basically incapacitated him,” Cannon said. “He fell to his knees.”

One of the other robbers shot Cribb in the chest. The 29-year-old officer was pronounced dead at an area hospital a short time later.

According to the old case file, the killers ran out of the store with cash soaked in Cribb’s blood, never to be seen again.

The Officer Down Memorial Page states Cribb’s fellow officer, who was not armed at the time, grabbed Cribb’s gun and fired at the robbers but they escaped.

Investigators process the crime scene at Sam's Red & White on Nov. 15, 1974.

Composite drawings of the suspects failed to flush out any leads.

Cannon was a North Charleston Police officer at the time of Cribb’s killing. He worked with then-Charleston County Police officer Mickey Whatley on the case, but it eventually went cold.

In 2010, private investigator Howie Comen convinced Cannon to reopen the case in the hopes that new attention might uncover new leads.

They went back to the scene of the crime, the old store that had long been vacant, to examine the scene against witness statements.

Cannon said it was possible the killers may have fled from Charleston to New York City. In the 1970s, Cannon said many criminals in the Charleston area had connections to the Big Apple. It’s even possible the men were part of a gang that was moving through town, which means the men may not have been from the area or may never have returned since.

The late Winifred Cribb recalled the night her son, Charleston Police officer William Cribb, was killed.

In April 2010, months before her own death, Cribb’s 86-year-old mother, Winifred, recalled the night of her son’s murder, remembering it as if it had happened just days earlier.

“My son Jack called me and told me,” she said. “He said, ‘There’s been a policeman killed at the Red and White and they think it might be Bill.’ I said, ‘Oh, no,’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ I found out it was Bill and I’ll tell you, I have never forgotten that night. The most awful night of my life was when that child got killed. I’ll always remember him.”

She said he had just recently visited her home before his death.

“He talked and he said, ‘I’ll see you later,’ but I never got to see him later,” she said.

Cribb left behind a pregnant wife and a three-year-old daughter. Cribb's mother had to set aside her own grief to break the horrible news to Cribb's young child.

“She was standing right there on those steps and cried for Bill,” Cribb said of her granddaughter. “Oh, that broke my heart because I knew he was gone.”

She said she hoped for the opportunity to confront them to ask: “Why would you do it? Why did you have to kill my son? Why?”

Winifred Cribb died in June 2010, 36 years after her son’s death, without ever seeing his killers brought to justice and without ever getting to ask those persistent questions.

“This is a perfect example of a case where there was tremendous pressure outside and internal pressure to find the people that committed this murder,” Cannon recalled. “The more time goes by, the more difficult it becomes.”

Anyone who thinks they may recognize anyone in the sketches or who may know something about the killing should contact the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office at 843-743-7200 or Crime Stoppers of the Lowcountry at 843-554-1111.

Retired Police Officer
NYPD

November 24, 2019

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