Family, Friends & Fellow Officers Remember...

Officer Leslie William Coffelt

White House Police Force, U.S. Government

End of Watch Wednesday, November 1, 1950

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Reflections for Officer Leslie William Coffelt

The Secret Service detail responded to the call of duty and country. I hope other revoltionary groups adhere and to expect repercussions for their ideology and beliefs.

Eddy Rodriguez
New York State resident

March 15, 2022

Secret Service salutes officer who died protecting president 70 years ago

Posted on November 2, 2020
WTOP NEWS

With family members looking on, the U.S. Secret Service held a sunrise wreath ceremony Monday to honor Leslie Coffelt — the sole officer in the agency’s history to die protecting a president — who was killed 70 years ago, across the street from the White House.

On Nov. 1, 1950, a White House police officer was killed on Pennsylvania Avenue, outside Blair House, where President Harry Truman was taking a nap on the second floor. Truman was living in Blair House while the White House was being repaired and remodeled.

Coffelt, a former D.C. police officer, joined the Secret Service later in his career.

“He came to work on November 1, 1950, probably not expecting anything different,” said Chief Thomas Sullivan, of the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division, standing in front of Blair House on Monday.

Two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, attempted to storm Blair House to assassinate Truman.

“Shots were fired,” Sullivan said. “Officer Coffelt was hit three times, in the abdomen. He got out of the booth, mortally wounded, fired one round at a gentleman who was trying to go up the steps here at Blair House, and hit him in the back of the head. He stopped him from going in the front door, from 31 feet away, with his revolver.”

U. E. Baughman, chief of the Secret Service, displayed the wallet and letter found on the body of Griselio Torresola, who was killed by Officer Coffelt. The letter was from Pedro Albizu Campos, leader of the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Party.

Collazo was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to the death penalty. Later, Truman commuted the sentence to life in prison. In 1979 Collazo was released and sent back to Puerto Rico.

Monday morning, as the sun rose, a wreath ceremony was held on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Blair House. Every year, on the anniversary of Coffelt’s death, the agency honors his heroism.

Coffelt’s family looked on as Taps was played by a bugler standing on the closed-to-traffic avenue between the Old Executive Office Building and the White House.

The solemn wreath ceremony took place as the sun rose in Washington, D.C.

Two other guards, Donald Birdzell and Joseph Downs, were shot in the attempted assassination, but recovered.

President Truman dedicated the memorial plaque on the fence of Blair House on May 21, 1952, calling Coffelt “one of the the most pleasant officers on the force, and one of the ablest.”

“It brought home to me the fact that it is not the president who is in danger on occasions of this kind, but it is the men who guard him,” Truman said.

Retired Police Officer
NYPD

November 2, 2020

Rest in peace always and know that your service and sacrifice will never be forgotten by your law enforcement brethren.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

November 1, 2020

Rest in peace Officer Coffelt. A humble hero serving his country!

Rabbi Lewis S. Davis

November 1, 2019

IN HONORE CASORUM
Our promise to him; Always honored, never forgotten, forever grateful for his service to his community and to our nation.

Sgt. T Jake Jones
Greater Cleveland Peace Officer Memorial Society, Ohio

November 1, 2016

We continue to thank you for your service on the anniversary of your death protecting the President. May your Rest in Piece.

Michael Pitts
Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers

October 31, 2016

Thinking of you today. Thank you for serving in our military and protecting our president. Your courage and sacrifice will always be remembered. RIP

John Haseltine - Civilian

April 9, 2016

Your bravery & memory will be honored tomorrow as a class of Uniformed Officers for the USSS graduates.

Mike Pitts, Law Enforcement Specialist
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center

March 28, 2016

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9

Marshal Chris Di Gerolamo
Federal Air Marshal Service

March 22, 2016

In 1962 I purchased a Colt .38 caliber Detective Special serial no. 465989 as an off duty weapon. It has the inscription "US CAPITOL POLICE" on the back-strap and I was told by the officer who sold it to me that it was the weapon of the officer killed when the Puerto Rican Nationals shot up the US Capitol in the early 1950's.
I pretty much forgot the story after finding out no Capitol Police Officer had been killed in that attack.
As an interesting aside, I learned recently that the Truman Library has all the weapons involved in the attempted assassination of President Truman except Coffelt's and the Secret Service advised me the whereabouts of Coffelt's weapon is not known, but it was listed as a Colt Official Police serial no. 698907.
I'm continuing to research the unlikely possibility that there may be a connection based on the confusion about the weapon he was carrying that day and the possibility this weapon might have been borrowed for his plain clothes detail at Blair House..

Cpt Richard Shaner (retired)
Prince George's County, Md Police

February 4, 2016

Your service during WWII, to the City of Washington PD and to the White House is appreciated and not forgotten.`

Chris, Austin Texas

October 13, 2015

Rest in peace brother. Your final courageous act is the definition of Valor. We have the Watch

Policeman Brother in Blue #8755
Phoenix Police

September 5, 2015

Thank You for serving your country

Trent Carpenter
Great Great Grandson

March 16, 2015

You are a true hero, sir. You fought through the pain, knowing you were fading from a fatal wound, yet still protected the President and your fellow officers with your last act. Your actions allowed others to live. It is sad you had to give your life. Thank you for your servace to both your country and community. And may God bless you and your family.

Andrew Tarnowicz

December 13, 2014

Officer Coffelt made the ultimate sacrifice and did what we were all trained to do if the situation presents itself.
We accepted this responsibility the very first day of the job.
I hope others learn by his example to do the job even though you may be outnumbered. You will not be forgotten.
I remembered you and respect the sacrifice so that I can be ready to do the same some day.God bless....

Officer Retired
U.S. Secret Service UD FMD/WHD

October 20, 2014

You continued your fight when death was already there to claim you. Your valor shall not be forgotten.

Retired Captain Joseph McBride
United States Secret Service Uniformed Division

July 29, 2014

Yesterday was the 63rd anniversary of your death, Officer Coffelt. In 1950, the uniformed officers of the White House Police Force functioned under the control of the USSS, but lacked its prestige. Today, in large measure as a result of your death, incurred in the line of duty and in protection of the President, your agency's modern day successor is proudly claimed by the USSS as its Uniformed Division. Well done, good and faithful servant! Rest in Peace, Sir!

Neil Foley
Deputy Chief, OLAC PD

November 2, 2013

A hero who stayed in the fight even after being mortally wounded. Never forgotten.

Deputy Ryan Tatum (ret.)

August 9, 2013

IN HONORE CASORUM
Gone, but not forgotten

Sgt. T. J. Jones
Greater Cleveland Transit Police Department

September 10, 2012

Rest in Peace brother, we have the Watch

Policeman
Brother in Blue, Phoenix PD

November 30, 2011

RIP Officer Coffelt, having served 20 years with the UD I often thought of your sacrifice so many years ago. You are remembered by all members of the Secret Service.

Wayne J Tiso
US Secret Service UD (Retired)

November 1, 2011

As a former Lieutenant with the UD I can tell you that his story lives on and every memeber who proudly serves has Coffelt on their mind that the Ultimate Sacrifice is possible while performing their duties. I salute you!!

Lieutenant Robert Caraballo
USSS UD

August 13, 2011

HERO !!!!!! That is what comes to my mind. HERO !!!!!!

Traffic Unit
Georgia Cop

January 8, 2011

Your story is an inspiration, for evry Policeman worldwide.
You will not be forgotten. R.I.P Officer Coffelt.

Sgt Jean Paul Rochat
Swiss Army, MP-Service, Traffic Unit

June 23, 2010

As a retired member of the Secret Service (1974-2003) I will always remember your sacrifice on November 1, 1950. You didn't give up and gave your life protecting the leader of our Great Country. I am still working in law enforcement for another agency and I recently walked by the Blair House where you gave your life. You valor on that day has inspired me to stay in law enforcement for over 35 years. Your actions will never fade with time.

Special Agent DM
DHS

November 1, 2009

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