On the night of October 29, 1946, Pensacola Police Officers Ed Lawhorn, W. E. Dickson and Louis Champa responded to an illegal gambling game complaint. Such complaints were not uncommon but were becoming more and more dangerous. When the officers broke the game up, several participants fled. One man, Elbert Jones, had another idea. He pulled a weapon an attacked Officer Champa, who, as a last resort, shot Jones in the leg. Champa immediately performed fist aid measures and transported Jones to the Pensacola Hospital. Jones was later arrested.
Nearly five years later, late on a Saturday night, May 26, 1951, Motorcycle Officers L. B. Morgan and Louis Champa were monitoring traffic at the intersection of Palafox and Blount Streets when a vehicle sped south past them. Champa and Morgan pursued. When the speeding car approached Gonzalez Street, another car entered into the intersection from the east without stopping at the stop sign. As soon as 31-year-old James Carl Davis realized his mistake, he stopped…in the intersection…in the path of Officer Champa’s pursuing motorcycle. Champa tried to take evasive action, but the 1950 Buick Davis was riding in was too close and Champa’s motorcycle struck it solidly.
Officer Champa was taken by ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Davis was arrested for Manslaughter and held in jail. During the interview with Davis, he admitted to running the stop sign. An occupant in his vehicle yelled to him to stop and he did, but directly in the path of Champa. Eventually, the county solicitor, Forsythe Caro, found that there was not enough evidence, and refused to prosecute.
Champa, a six-year veteran of the force, was born in Eveleth, Minnesota – fifty miles from the Canadian border. He later moved to Cleveland and then to Pensacola in 1943. He and his wife, Florence, lived at 158 Aragon Court with their three daughters, Betty, Cleo, and Vicki. Funeral services were held on Monday, May 28 at Fisher-Pou Funeral Home. Officer Champa was buried in full Pensacola Police Uniform with motorcycle officers serving as pall bearers.
An interesting note…three weeks after Officer Champa’s death, his 17-year-old daughter Betty was named “Miss Fiesta of the Five Flags.”