It was a warm Sunday summer night in 1924, when a group of “professional” men were engaged in a craps game at the rear of Pierson’s Drug Store at 12th Street and Hooper Avenue. One of those men was off-duty LAPD officer Elmer Roberson.
During the game, an argument ensued between Roberson and another gambler, later identified as the gunman, Luther Bryant. The argument escalated into a physical altercation between the two men. Roberson’s firearm fell from his jacket. Bryant recovered the weapon and fired six rounds in Roberson’s direction. Roberson was struck three times by the gunfire.
Hearing the gunfire from the street, Patrolman Frank Corley ran into the drugstore to investigate when he was shot. A doctor who happened upon the scene drove Patrolmen Corley and Roberson to a nearby hospital, although Patrolman Corley died enroute. Bryant, who had fled on foot from the location, later telephoned and surrendered to police. Two months later in a surprising turn of events, Bryant accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to manslaughter (citing self-defense) and was sentenced to only 10 years in San Quentin State Penitentiary.
Though Patrolman Corley would serve the City only three short years, he earned a reputation for professionalism, receiving numerous commendations for his exemplary service. The year before his untimely death, he was commended by Chief of Police R. Lee Heath for single-handedly capturing an armed bank robber at the Pacific Southwest Bank at 7th St. and Central Ave.