In memory of ‘Mac’: Sheriff’s officials remember their fallen colleague

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:25 am on Friday, April 27, 2012

Montcalm County Sheriff’s Lt. William “Mac” McCarthy was killed in the line of duty 30 years ago today.

Remembering Mac

An April 28, 1982, article titled “Lawmen Stunned By Comrade’s Death” in The Daily News quoted local law enforcement officials sharing memories about their friend and colleague, William “Mac” McCarthy.

• “The county and law enforcement in general has suffered a tremendous loss,” said Montcalm County Sheriff Thomas Hebert. “In all my years of police work, I’ve never met a more dedicated and hard-working police officer than Bill McCarthy. We just won’t ever be able to replace him. This is a sad, sad loss for everyone in the county.”

• “Oh Lord,” said former sheriff Thomas Barnwell, who worked with McCarthy for 20 years. “He was a city officer when I came here and he was the first full-time hire I made when I was sheriff. He was the first plainclothes detective this county had.”

• “I hope the shock doesn’t wear off in a week’s time,” said Greenville Police Chief Garry Duram. “I hope people will stand up and demand that things change. The state of Michigan has lost a great cop.”

• “If there ever was a professional policeman, it would be Bill,” said Greenville Assistant Police Chief Bruce Schnepp, who worked with McCarthy for more than 20 years. “Bill was always a gentleman and always very caring, not only to people who were victims, but also to people who were arrested. He was very fair. He was the most honest, dedicated cop there ever was and I hope people won’t forget Bill McCarthy.”

• “He was a fine guy and an excellent police officer and one of the hardest working officers seen in a long time,” said Michigan State Police Lakeview Post Commander Lt. Bruce Smith. “It’s a tragedy.”

• “I feel like crying, I guess,” said Ionia City Police Chief Ken Voet, who had worked with McCarthy since the mid-1960s. “It’s pretty hard to accept it.”

• “I was impressed with him, both as a man and a detective,” said Stanton attorney Homer Miel, who was Montcalm County prosecutor for 31 years. “It’s the end of a good career. I’m sure if Bill had to do it all over again, he would be more careful — but Bill had courage. He must have assumed he could talk the man out of the gun.”

• “He was a good officer,” said Tony Morlock, who worked for the sheriff’s office for 18 years before his retirement. “He’d get on a case and just wouldn’t quit. He’d go out on a case at any time of the day or night.”

• “It’s hard for me to grasp that he was killed the way he was,” said Montcalm County Emergency Services Director Larry Bogart, who previously worked as a sheriff’s detective and was McCarthy’s partner for more than six years. “Mac was an orator when it came to talking t people. Mac was the kind of guy who was always helping out another officer. He had a great love for this county and the people in it. He was one of the best there was.”

REYNOLDS TOWNSHIP — Three decades have passed since Montcalm County Sheriff’s Lt. William “Mac” McCarthy was murdered in the line of duty.

The memory of April 27, 1982, still brings Lewis Corwin to tears.

The sheriff’s office received a report of a family dispute at a Reynolds Township home around 5 p.m. that day. Corwin, who was on duty as a sheriff’s deputy, was dispatched to the scene. McCarthy, who had just finished working for the day, radioed Corwin to slow down and he’d provide back-up. The men arrived at the mobile home at the same time.

Robert Solomon, 44, lived at the home with his wife and 12-year-old stepdaughter. A neighbor later described Solomon as “a Virginia hillbilly with a chip on his shoulder.” Solomon had a drinking problem, a violent streak and a history of arrests and convictions dating back to the mid-1960s.
Solomon’s wife came out of the house to talk to the officers.

“Don’t go in there,” she warned. “He’s drunk and he’s got a gun.”

Solomon himself came to the door, threatening to kill the officers. He refused to talk to Corwin, who was in uniform, but agreed to talk with McCarthy, who was a plainclothes detective. McCarthy was known for his skill in the art of reasoning with people — both criminals and victims.

McCarthy entered the home as Corwin and Solomon’s wife waited outside.

Less than a minute later, Solomon shot McCarthy in the chest with a .22 caliber rifle. The bullet entered the left side of McCarthy’s chest, passed through his heart and into his right lung.

McCarthy never drew a gun.

The detective stumbled out of the home clutching his chest. He managed to stagger behind his patrol car, where he died. He was 49 years old and less than a mile from his home.

Corwin fired one shot, hitting Solomon in the arm before Solomon disappeared inside the house. Corwin took cover behind his patrol car and radioed for help. Solomon’s wife hid behind a nearby pickup truck. The wife’s 12-year-old daughter had witnessed McCarthy stagger from the home. The girl ran to a friend’s home where she was later located.

Up to 70 officers surrounded Solomon’s home — Michigan State Police officers from Lakeview, Newaygo and Rockford posts and sheriff’s offices from Isabella, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm and Newaygo counties. Officers attempted to talk to Solomon via a bullhorn, but received no response. Officers thought Solomon’s daughter might still be in the home at that point, so they proceeded with caution.

Around 7:30 p.m., officers shot tear gas into the trailer and rushed the mobile home. They found Solomon’s body lying on the floor of a back bedroom.

Solomon had shot himself in the head with the same rifle he used to kill McCarthy.

April 27, 1982, is as painful today as it was 30 years ago today.

“They say time heals all things,” said Corwin, who is now retired and runs a private detective agency in Stanton. “Although it has been 30 years since Lt. McCarthy passed, the pain and sorrow still lingers on for the family and each and every officer.”

Mac, as he was affectionately known, was buried in Reynolds Township Cemetery — just a stone’s throw from where he died. About 600 people attended the funeral — at least half of them police officers. Montcalm County Sheriff Thomas Hebert presented McCarthy’s wife, Nancy, and his 5-year-old daughter, Jennifer, with a flag in McCarthy’s honor.

McCarthy graduated from Howard City High School before embarking on a career on law enforcement as a police officer for the village of Lakeview in 1957. He was hired as the sheriff’s first plainclothes detective. Before he died, he was about to receive a commendation from the sheriff for his part in solving the shotgun slaying of a Winfield Township woman in 1981.

Montcalm County Sheriff Bill Barnwell had spent the entire day of April 27, 1982, working alongside McCarthy in the detective bureau.

“I remember the day very well,” he said. “It was a sunny and pleasant Tuesday. I remember we both left the office at 5 p.m. He walked out the back door and I went out the front door to my car. I was not home long when I received a call from Central Dispatch that he had been shot and killed while backing up Deputy Corwin on a domestic only a mile from Mac’s home.”

McCarthy was the second law enforcement officer in Montcalm County to lose his life in the line of duty. Sheriff Franklin Henkel was shot and killed Sept. 22, 1926, by Edgar Arnett at the the village of Lakeview’s homecoming celebration.

Barnwell said some of McCarthy’s colleagues plan to meet privately today to honor Mac’s memory.

“Lt. McCarthy will never be forgotten,” Corwin said. “He was a true professional, a dedicated officer and he is and always will be missed.”

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