Madera’s police force has always been of the highest caliber, so this story is not meant to suggest anything to the contrary. However, even the most vigilant lawman can get caught with his pants down (euphemistically speaking) every once in a while. This is what happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 28, 1952.
It all started when one Richard Crowley, a 27-year-old ex-convict and two companions, Richard Albritton and Bert Brouhard, walked into Pete’s Italian Bar and Cafe in Chowchilla shortly after midnight. The trio was in a stolen car and up to no good. Crowley, the obvious ringleader and the only one who was armed, pulled a gun and relieved the saloonkeeper, Bill Matsel, of $60 and a fifth of whiskey. Then the trio headed for Madera.
The victim immediately reported the holdup to the local police chief, J.F. Rhine, who alerted both the Madera and Merced authorities.
When word of the robbery reached Madera, its police force went immediately on the alert. If the robbers came their way, the local lawmen would be ready — and they would have been if only it hadn’t been for all of that fog...