William C. Keating
Ninety years ago, the building across the street was home to the McCarthy-Sherman Motor Company. From its showroom windows, a person inside could have looked across the street and seen a police call box. On August 31, 1931, the two thieves who had just broken into the building to bust open the safe did just that. Standing at the call box was a police officer, Patrolman William Keating, badge number 40. He was walking his beat and more than halfway through his shift. It was 4:30 a.m., time to stop and check in with the Central Station at 14th and Larimer.
He was not yet aware of the burglary happening across the street. Seeing Keating talking on the phone, the two crooks assumed they had been found out, and that the officer was calling in for immediate reinforcements to surround the building and take them into custody. In their haste to leave, they broke a window and fled out the backdoor.
Keating heard the glass break and saw the two beat feet down the alley. But instead of telling the Central Station what was going on, he chose to go over and take look for himself.
In the alley he found a key one of suspects had dropped. It went to the Ford Model A, tan in color, bearing Indiana plate 692-529, parked in the alley behind the business. The engine was still warm.
Keating went inside the building to search for others. Finding none, he decided to stay and wait for the two suspects to come back and arrest them.
After hiding out for most of an hour, Oscar Carlson, 20, and William Piskoty, 23, thought they had waited long enough for the officer to leave. They went back to look for the car key.
When they reentered the building, Keating was waiting and told them to stop and throw up their hands. They complied. Holding them at gunpoint, he quickly patted them down, then then walked them outside to the alley and started to take them to the call box across the street.
As the two suspects crossed the street with their hands in the air, Keating asked Piskoty if he had a driver’s license on him. He did not respond, but Carlson said he did and moved his hand down towards his waist as if it to take it out. Instead, he came up with a gun, spun around and shot Keating once in the abdomen. Before collapsing, Keating managed to get off three shots at the fleeing suspects. He fell on the sidewalk 20 feet east of the alley. The time was 5:20 a.m.
A passerby, Tom Bennella, saw the shooting and ran after one the suspects, down Santa Fe to Seventh Avenue, where he lost sight of him. A second witness, T.H. Casey, gave chase to the other suspect but lost him too.
Three additional witnesses saw what had happened. They were Della Babb, Florence Syms and Frank Schwartz.
Officer Keating was transported to nearby Denver General Hospital by Dr. Culver, a police surgeon. Before lapsing into unconsciousness, he was able to provide descriptions of the two suspects. He described Carlson — the one who shot him — as dark-complected, about 25 years old, 5-7 and 150 with a stocky build. He had on a blue sweater, blue pants and a cap. He said the other one, Piskoty, was about 22 years old, white, 5-9 and 135 with a slender build and dark-colored hair. He was wearing a light-colored sweater and light-colored pants.
One of the responding officers, Patrolman Pray, found a spent casing on the sidewalk. Carlson had shot Keating with a .38-caliber, semi-automatic pistol.
Detectives were able to link the Model A to a career criminal named Pete Peterson who was staying at 14th and Marion. Peterson was arrested there on outstanding warrants for safe burglaries in California and Oregon. Carlson and Piskoty, who worked for him in Denver, were arrested later that morning by Detectives Carter and O’Donnell in the lobby of the downtown YMCA at 25 E. 16th Ave.
In statements to Captain Armstrong at the Central Station, both Carlson — who went by the alias of Donald Ray — and Piskoty admitted to the motor company break in, as well as committing some 15 other safe jobs for Peterson. Carlson admitted to shooting Officer Keating. Peterson was not charged in connection with the murder.
Despite the best efforts of Dr. Culver and others at Denver General, Officer Keating died at 11 p.m. that night.
William Charles Keating was 45 years old. He was born and raised in Denver. He was one of 11 children of Michael and Mary Keating. He married Minnie Penna in 1922. He was step-father to her five children, Annette, 25, Frank, 22, Arthur, 20, Viola, 18 and John, 16. The family lived at 1515 W. Nevada Pl.
Services were held on September 4 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Denver.
Keating worked as a steamfitter prior to his appointment to the Denver Police Department on August 19, 1920.
Carlson and Piskoty were brought to trial. On September 24, after only three days of proceedings, the jury found both guilty of first-degree murder. They deliberated for only two hours. The jurors further determined that imposition of the death penalty on both was appropriate.
Carlson and Piskoty avoided the hangman, however. The Colorado Supreme Court granted Carlson a stay of execution in January, 1932, and ordered a new trial for him to begin in November. In it, Carlson pled guilty to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 65 years to life. Meanwhile, Piskoty who had appealed his sentence too, was given a new trial. He was convicted of second-degree murder and given a reduced sentence of life. In 1935, the governor commuted his sentence to 35 years to life.
Carlson was released from prison on parole in 1953; Piskoty in 1943.
Officer Keating was laid to rest at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, where other family members were buried. At his grave site are two markers. One was from his wife, Minnie. Inscribed on it were her heartfelt words of loss, “To Billy from his devoted wife Minnie.” The other, that also expressed sadness over the loss of Officer Keating, came from his fellow officers:
Patrolman William C. Keating
Died in the performance of his duties
Denver Police Department
On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, fallen officer William Keating was honored with a memorial sign on 8th Avenue between Kalamath and Santa Fe Avenue. The Denver Police Museum would like to thank the International Police Association for their generous donation which paid for this memorial sign.
Memorial Sign located at: McCarty-Sherman showrooms near 8th and Santa Fe
- Keith Dameron, historian, Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial
- Denver Police Department homicide file 00277
- Denver Police Department employment records
- State of Colorado Bureau of Vital Statistics Certificate of Death 7707
- The Denver Post
- Rocky Mountain News
- Find a Grave.com