Archived Story

Ask Trooper Rob: Review rules of domestic violence

Published 10:57pm Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Domestic violence: MCL 750.81(2) states : (defendant) did make an assault or an assault and battery upon (name of victim) and the victim is any of the following: (a) an individual with whom   (he/she) had a child in common, (b) a resident or former resident of (his/her) household, (c) (his/her)  (a) spouse or (b) former spouse, or (d) an individual with whom (he/she) had a dating relationship. This is a misdemeanor punishable by 93 Days in jail and/or $500.00.

On Nov. 19, 1956, about 9 a.m., Trooper Stewart Luckey was dispatched to “routine family trouble” at a house on North Genesee Road, about 8 miles north of Flint and 6 miles east of Clio.

When Tpr. Luckey knocked on the door, there was no answer. He began walking to a neighbor’s house when Eutalia Richards, 63, and Alneta Barrett, 17, ran from a house next door. Barrett was engaged to Richards’ son, Leon, who was not home. Richards said her partially paralyzed husband had struck her with a coal shovel during a bitter quarrel. Since his stroke nine years earlier, Harry Richards “had not been right.” Although he did have psychiatric exam years earlier, he was cleared and the police were court ordered to return his guns.

Cautiously approaching the house, Luckey peered into the kitchen window and saw Harry Richards sitting on the floor with a rifle in his lap. Luckey took the two ladies to the Mt. Morris Police Department, where he called for reinforcements. Troopers George Lappi, 27, who enlisted with the MSP on Nov.12, 1954, and Bert Pozza, 27, who enlisted on Dec. 11, 1950, were two of the four reinforcements too arrive. Extra shotguns and tear gas were brought along.

At 10:30 a.m., there was no sign of Richards. The troopers approached from different sides to take action. Lappi threw stones at the front window and shouted to Richards to surrender. The response was a single rifle shot. Momentarily exposed, Lappi was struck in the chest. Mortally wounded, he called out to others that he had been shot and needed an ambulance.

Coming to Lappi’s aid was Cpl. Robert Vesey, who dragged Lappi to safety. After lobbing tear gas into the home, a barrage of gunfire poured down from the second-story window.

Pozza thought he saw Richards escape out the back door. He broke cover and attempted to head him off. Pozza was mistaken. Richards was still upstairs, and he shot Pozza just back of the right shoulder. Again, Cpl. Vesey was able to drag the wounded trooper to safety. In doing so, Vesey was shot in the ankle.

More than 40 officers from several police departments eventually arrived and laid siege to Richards’ house with volleys of gun fire and tear gas. After about an hour of gun battle, Richards finally came out the back door and was captured and arrested.

Left unattended during the combat because ambulance crews were held off by Richards’ gunfire, Lappi and Pozza were finally removed from the scene. Lappi was pronounced dead upon arrival, and Pozza died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

The tear gas took its toll and before Richards could be brought to trial for the two murders, he, too, died, of bronchial pneumonia and gastric ailment within a month of the shootings.

Pozza was a U.S. Army veteran and served at the Flint Post since recruit school. He died on his wife’s birthday.

Lappi also served in the Army prior to joining the MSP and being assigned to the Flint Post. At his funeral, his wife went into labor and gave birth to their third child. The day before the shooting was the Lappi’s wedding anniversary.

Pozza was buried in Iron Mountail, and Lappi is buried in Champion. Gov. Williams presented posthumous Valor medals to the widows of Pozza and Lappi during a recruit school graduation on June 20, 1957.

During the same ceremony, Cpl. Vesey also received the Valor Medal. Jones and Luckey received the Bravery Award.

This was the first time the MSP lost two troopers in a single incident. It wouldn’t be the only time. Lappi and Pozza were the 19th and 20th troopers to die in the line of duty.

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