Relatives sought for honored officer
Two American flags will fly in honor of Hebron native, Virgil Hall, Sept. 11. Mike Hesse, president of the Denver Police Museum is arranging the tribute to Hall, a Denver police officer who was killed July 5, 1945.
One of the flags will fly in Denver and the other over the US Capitol building in Washington D.C. Hesse is on the lookout for relatives of Hall’s who might still be living in the Hebron area. He would like to present a flag to the family.
Hall was born in Hebron Aug. 16, 1909, according to an account of the shooting written by Bill Finch in 2016. The record saw Hall moving to Denver in 1936 and marrying Mary Yarde of Garrett, Ind., three years later.
Prior to working as a police officer, Hall drove a fuel truck for Gates Rubber Company. He became a police officer April 21, 1942, in a class of 13.
At 1:10 a.m., July 4, 1945, Hall and his partner, Robert LaVernway, were patrolling when LaVernway spotted a possible stolen vehicle. Indeed, the vehicle, a 1940 black Ford sedan had been broadcasted as stolen. As Lavernway shined the spotlight on the two individuals in the sedan, they ducked and sped away.
Early in the chase, Hall unsuccessfully fired a round at the car’s tires. Seconds later, the chase ended as the driver crashed into a warehouse door. The driver and his passenger fled the car in different directions.
LaVernway went after the driver under Hall’s lead. Hall pursued the passenger, 20-year-old Manual Mondragon, who ran up a flight of stairs behind a building to the second-floor landing and hid behind a stack of wood. During the pursuit, Hall fired a warning shot.
As Hall reached the landing, Mondragon suddenly jumped out and fired three times at Hall, hitting him in the stomach, left chest and hips, from a little more than an arm’s length away.
Hall managed to club Mondragon over the head with his shotgun. It is unknown why Hall chose not to fire. He may have not been able to considering his proximity to Mondragon and the narrow landing. It’s also possible the gun wasn’t recharged after Hall fired the warning shot.
Instead of using his shotgun and not removing his sidearm from its holster, Hall hit the man and thought he was down, so Hall turned around and started down the stairs. But Mondragon got up and went after Hall, who spun around and fired, fracturing Mondragon’s pelvis, wounding him in the head, chest and arms and causing him to drop his gun.
Hall then went in search of his partner.
LaVernway had heard the shots and was heading Hall’s way. He heard Hall say he’d been shot and could see Hall had been wounded at least twice when Hall was back in the police car before he was rushed to Denver General Hospital.
The shooting went out over the airwaves at 1:20 a.m. Officers in seven police cars responded, along with two cars of detectives.
The man LaVernway had chased, Charles Montoya, age 20, literally ran out of his low-cut moccasin type shoes. He hid out at a truck body company and stashed one of two stolen guns. Montoya and Mondragon had broken into a car three days prior and took two handguns. Mondragon had the other gun, the one used to shoot Hall.
Mondragon was taken to the hospital for his wounds. He was interrogated during treatment and the two lead investigators discovered a third person who had participated in an aggravated robbery.
When asked if he knew Hall was a police officer, Mondragon said yes.
“I recognized his uniform all right,” he told investigators.
Mondragon was charged with second degree murder. He was already a felon for burglaries. This time around, Mondragon was also charged with being a habitual offender, which carried a mandatory life sentence.
Mondragon’s first trial was over in a flash because a defense attorney erred in outlining to prospective jurors the penalties for murder and manslaughter.
The second trial saw Mondragon’s attorneys basing their defense on self-defense. Prosecutors were going for first-degree murder.
Montoya and the third person to partner with he and Mondragon, Robert Kimball, were transported from their cells to testify. Each had been sentenced to 25 to 35 years for the robbery. In testifying, both either invoked the Fifth Amendment or claimed they didn’t remember anything.
Eventually, the jury was taken to the crime scene, where the shooting was reconstructed. Entered into evidence was Mondragon’s signed confession.
After the trial, the jury deliberated for six hours and found Mondragon guilty of second degree murder. The judge’s immediate sentence was 25 to 50 years in prison. A surprise from the conviction was Mondragon didn’t receive the death penalty, court officials said.
The same day Mondragon was found guilty, a minor accused of slaying a police officer in a Denver community was also convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Mondragon had to return to court for the robbery and the habitual offender charge. He ended up receiving life in prison plus 25 to 35 years for the robbery. The sentence was later reduced to 25 years to life. He was sent to the state hospital two years later and diagnosed with schizophrenic hrenic reaction, chronic undifferentiated type. Mondragon was at the hospital until his release. He died in 1995.
Hall’s funeral service was held at Olinger’s Mortuary Chapel in Colorado and he was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
His mother, Disey Hall, died in 1974 and is buried across from Hall. Mary Hall never remarried and is buried next to her husband. She died in 1978.
The year Hall was killed, 104 other officers were killed in the line of duty. Hall was the 46th Denver Police officer to die while doing his duty and the 10th to die in the area where he was shot, dating back to 1891.
To contact Hesse on any leads for relatives of Hall, call 303-495-9718.