Edward Leeney

Patrolman Edward Leeney

Iowa City Police Dept. patch

Patrolman Edward M. Leeney

Homicide

Patrolman Edward M. Leeney
32 YOA
Iowa City Police Department
Iowa City, IA
Johnson County
April 29, 1926

Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

Around 10 p.m. on Thursday, April 29, 1926, a speeding Ford coupe raced through the Iowa City, Iowa streets, Motorcycle Officer Edward M. Leeney hot on the vehicle’s trail.

Leeney — a local police force patrolman — had just approached the intersection near Market and North Dubuque streets when his motorcycle, traveling at about 48 miles per hour, suddenly collided with a city streetcar.

Newspaper article

Courtesy The Cedar Rapids Republican, April 30, 1926

The impact bounced Lenney’s body hard against the streetcar before winging him to the pavement several feet away. The married father of three young children suffered a skull fracture and died 10 minutes later at a local hospital.

An Unfortunate Accident … or Murder?

In early July 2011, Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine decided to start looking further into Iowa City’s only case of a police officer killed in the line of duty. The Chief’s interest in Leeney had begun earlier in the year when Iowa City officers Mike Smithey and Paul Batcheller flew to Washington, D.C. for an awards ceremony.

According to a Press-Citizen article dated July 2, 2011, the two men went to a memorial for fallen officers while in D.C. and got a rubbing of Leeney’s name. Back in Iowa City, the police department has an old Press-Citizen article framed and hanging in the station, but efforts to locate more news articles about Leeney have proved unsuccessful.

“We’d like to pay more of a tribute,” Hargadine told the Press-Citizen for the July 2 story. “We just thought we’d like to memorialize it.”

Based on the article’s reader comments, some clearly wondered why the case would be classified “cold” (let alone a murder), rather than just a vehicular accident. The answer — precluding any ex post facto laws (any new laws making an action a crime when the action was not a crime at the time it was committed) — could be summed up nicely in today’s Iowa Code Chapter 707, Section 2, subsection 3. Boiled down to the very basics, this is how the rules play out (italics are mine):

  • 707.1 MURDER DEFINED. A person who kills another person with malice aforethought either express or implied commits murder.
  • 707.2 MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE. A person commits murder in the first degree when the person commits murder under any of the following circumstances:
  • [Jump to] Subsection 707.2(3) The person kills another person while escaping or attempting to escape from lawful custody.

The key word in 707.1 is implied”; Criminal Intent is implied if the results of an action, though originally unintended, are almost certain to occur. (i.e. If one tosses a live grenade into a crowd of people, someone is almost certain to be killed, even if the thrower didn’t intend to kill any particular person in the crowd.)

In Edward Leeney’s case, when a law enforcement officer must resort to chasing a fleeing suspect through a city at high rates of speed, a collision involving someone is practically inevitable. Had Officer Leeney not been chasing the Ford coupe through Iowa City that night, would he have collided with the streetcar and been killed? Not likely.

“It is important we honor the officers …”
Johnson County in Iowa
Johnson County in Iowa
Iowa City in Johnson County Iowa City in Johnson County

In September 1992, Iowa City Police Association Local 16 commemorated their slain officer with a recognition ceremony and presentation of a commemorative plaque to Leeney’s family.

On May 15, 2003, Johnson County’s nine law enforcement agencies participated in another memorial service for Leeney; their “Peace Officer Memorial Day” was one of many held nationwide that same day.

“We have been lucky in our departments in this county through the years,” Coralville police Sgt. John Williams — who led organization efforts for the ceremony — told the Cedar Rapids Gazette for a story published the day before the ceremony. “It is important we honor the officers across the country who were lost in the line of duty.”

Iowa City Police Chief Sam HargardineCourtesy photo Iowa City PD
Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine

Edward Leeney’s granddaughter, Cathy Hogan, attended the May 15 memorial, which included a 21-gun salute conducted by the Iowa State Patrol Honor Guard and a cappella rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Sgt. Bob Cox.

All across Coralville, residences and businesses lowered flags to half staff in observance of the revered tribute.

So far, Hargadine told the Press-Tribune, some of Leeney’s nieces have been tracked down and Sgt. Denise Brotherton also located Leeney’s gravesite. The gravestone, Hargadine said, noted that Leeney had been a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles; the chief would like the officer’s service to the city to be noted as well.

Edward Leeney headstoneCourtesy photo Randy McCrory, findagrave.com
Edward Leeney is buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Oxford, Johnson County, Iowa.

In addition to his wife and three children, Leeney was survived by his mother and two brothers.

He is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Oxford, Johnson County, Iowa.

Information Needed

If you have any information about this unsolved crime please contact Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine at (319) 356-5275 or e-mail Sam-Hargadine@iowa-city.gov.

References:
Copyright © 2017 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

4 Responses to Edward Leeney

  1. Jack Toomey says:

    After reading the account of the death of the officer I too wonder why anyone would consider this a cold case? Obviously they knew the name of the streetcar conductor back in 1926 and for some reason chose not to charge him. It’s not a “cold” case. It’s a case where no charges were filed.

    • Greg Harris says:

      I don’t believe the street car conductor would have any culpability. The person who could be charged would be the driver of the car Officer Leeney was chasing.

      • Jody Ewing says:

        Greg, you are exactly right, and I apologize to Jack for not addressing this earlier. The streetcar conductor wasn’t responsible in any way, but Officer Leeney would *not* have been killed that night if not chasing a fleeing vehicle. Leeney died as the result of another committing a crime (fleeing law enforcement), and it’s only listed as a cold case because the fleeing driver was never apprehended or charged.

        Obviously, given the number of years ago when this happened, there’s no possible chance this could ever be “solved,” but it’s listed here as a matter of respect for Leeney’s family because there “was someone” out there at the time who caused Leeney’s death, and got away with it. Hope that makes sense.

  2. Jack Toomey, sadly, Edward Leeney’s case resembles far too many deemed cold cases even in recent decades; officials may feel certain they know who committed the crime, but for whatever reason have never filed charges. (As many in LE have told me, “knowing who did it” and “proving it in a court of law” are two very different things.)

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts