“Minneapolis police patrolman Robert H. Fossum, 31, married and the father of three, lay dead in the middle of 39th Street from a bullet wound to the head. His partner, Ward Canfield, writhed in pain next to him, critically injured from a bullet that hit his pelvis. He’d been dragged and then run over by the getaway car driven by his assailants, three South Minneapolis brothers in their early 20s.”
The end of that story was chases, hostages and a shootout that left 2 of the 3 O’Kasick brothers and a hostage dead. The 3rd brother shot himself after his brothers were killed in the shootout. He lived, was imprisoned and managed to commit suicide in prison.
In 2004 I read the story of the O’Kasick brothers in a badly titled book called Greed, Rage and Love Gone Wrong; Murder in Minnesota. There were somewhere around 10 stories in the book, not all of them interesting and personally, I hate it when someone tells me a true story but the ending or the culprit is still a mystery. There were a few of those. The only story that stuck with me was the story of the O’Kasick brothers. The youngest O’Kasick, James, was only 2o years old when he killed himself. He wasn’t the leader of the pack, he was just a follower sticking to his brothers, when they were dead he was alone and had to atone for everything the others had done. The eerie thing about him killing himself is that he stabbed himself 3 times in the stomach. Who could do that? How unhappy does a person have to be to actually stab them self in the stomach to begin with, but to do that 3 times? That is simply unimaginable to me. That’s what entirely creeped me out about that story, why it stayed on my mind.
I remember having lunch with Leon shortly after reading that story because I asked him if he remembered anything about the crime spree the O’Kasick brothers went on that led up to the night the police officer was murdered and everything following. I know the media followed them and Leon is the oldest person I know. Leon remembered the brothers and filled me in on what he remembered. That conversation satiated me and my interests went on to something new.
My mom’s biological father died when my mom was 4 or 5, her mother remarried and mom’s step-dad was, in my mom’s eyes, her dad. He was the only dad my mom remembers having and she adored him. His name was Claude Brewer and he was a Minneapolis police officer. Claude Brewer died in November, 1959 of pancreatic cancer. I was born in March of 1960 so I never met him. I have, however, heard many wonderful stories about him and am sorry that I missed ever meeting him. He was sick for a few years before he died. His fellow officers used to help cover for him during his illness. Some nights while he was on duty he’d be laying in agony in the back of the squad car while his partner drove around. After all, if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid and he had a family to support. Buddies are a very good thing to have.
Four years after I’d read and left behind the story of the O’Kasick brothers I got a call from my mom one evening. She recently had joined a rather large bookclub, as far as bookclubs go and their club had just read and discussed the book The Pact written by Walter J. Roers and she’d called me after getting home from the meeting. She sounded a little off kilter. I told her that’d I’d read that book years before and I’d met the author and that I had an autographed copy inscribed to “Goddess Jacque”. Yep, in my 1st few years working at B&N that was my fun thing to do. I have around a dozen or so autographed copies of various books, some I haven’t even read, addressed to me in the same manner. My only defense is that I must have needed ego boosting at that point in my life. Anyway the story in The Pact is a story about a couple boys that grew up in south Minneapolis and that’s where my mom grew up. As she was telling me that she liked and appreciated the book because of her memories in those very same places the author had told about and the conversation that the women had had about the book she sounded on edge. I just shut up and listened as she spoke. She said that another woman, that she wasn’t familiar with had spoken up and said that she’d also grown up in south Minneapolis.
After relating that part of her bookclub meeting to me my mom told me the story of the O’Kasick brothers. It had been 4 or so years since I’d read the story and had picked Leon’s brain about it so was not at the forefront of my memory. As my mom spoke it came all came back and I let her know that I was familiar with the story. As she spoke her voice seemed to quicken and I wasn’t sure what the stories had in relation to each other or why she has switched gears so I just shut up and listened.
My mom then went back to the bookclub meeting and the woman who also grew up in south Minneapolis. They spoke after the meeting and it turned out that both of their dads were policemen in Minneapolis during the time of the story of Roer’s book. One of them asked which prescient and it turned out that their dads both worked for the same prescient. My mom asked the woman what her dad’s name was and then went through a wave of emotions once the woman told her. The woman’s dad was Robert Fossum. It was this woman’s father who was murdered, actually in what I’ve read the real term is “executed” by Michael O’Kasick.
That’s where this all ties together and where it gets bizarre. The night of September 14th, 1957 my mom’s dad was scheduled to work. He was far too sick to do so and called the prescient to let them know that he just could not make it in that evening. Robert Fossum, this woman’s dad, replaced my mom’s dad for that particular shift and was executed. If I were my mom that night my heart would have dropped into my stomach. Well kind of, for a little bit that night, my heart did drop into my stomach.
According to my mom, her dad never forgave himself for not working that night. He shouldn’t have been so hard on himself and he died only 2 years and 2 months later and he suffered plenty. Let’s talk variables, Claude Brewer was not Robert Fossum. Had Claude worked that night the chances of the squad car being in some other location than it was in when it got the call to chase the O’Kasicks would, most likely have made it not the closest squad car, therefore the not the 1st to arrive. Maybe it still would have been but history is history and none of us has the ability to change it. I just think my mom shouldn’t have to go through the rest of her life feeling guilty about something she had no control over. My heart goes out to the family of Robert Fossum and from what I’ve heard they’ve never blamed my mom’s dad. I just thought it was an odd story so I thought I’d share it.