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Dedication planned for span that might be renamed for Connellsville police officer

| Saturday, June 21, 2014, 12:36 a.m.
Mark Hofmann | Daily Courier
Connellsville police Chief James Capitos stands with the Crawford Avenue Bridge in the background.

Connellsville police plan to hold a dedication ceremony at the Crawford Avenue Bridge once it is formally renamed in honor of a city police officer who lost his life in the line of duty.

Earlier this week, the state House unanimously passed a bill to rename a number of highways and bridges throughout the state. Included in the bill was the Crawford Avenue Bridge; if approved by Gov. Tom Corbett, it will be renamed the Officer McCray Robb Bridge.

Robb was shot and killed more than 130 years ago.

“I'm surprised it didn't take as long as it takes other cases,” said Connellsville Police Chief James Capitos, who said he's heard of cases where it took decades for a bridge or a roadway to be named after a fallen police officer. “Sen. (Richard) Kasunic fast-tracked this.”

Kasunic received information from the police department and added the request to rename the bridge to the legislation. The bill will go on to the governor for enactment.

“This is a great testament to not just Robb, but for all officers killed in the line of duty, especially one of our own,” said Capt. Steve Shaffer of the Connellsville police.

In addition to holding a dedication ceremony, Capitos and Shaffer would like to have a marker placed at the bridge. There is no other marker to honor the fallen police officer — except his gravestone, located at Hill Grove Cemetery in Connellsville.

For the ceremony, Shaffer said he wants to look for any of Robb's descendents and ask them to attend. He is not sure whether there are any relatives. Robb never married.

“That's my biggest goal,” Shaffer said. He asks that anyone who has expertise in ancestry searches contact him at the police station at 724-628-2020, ext. 101.

“To find a distant cousin or a relative there to have in his honor, it's something fitting for a hero,” Shaffer said.

Last year, the Connellsville Police Department worked to get Robb's name added to the national Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in Washington so that he could be recognized among other police officers who were killed in the line of duty.

Robb was killed in a May 25, 1882, incident when Connellsville police received a report of a group of men being disorderly at a circus that was in town. The men were confronted by Officer Noble McCormick, who argued with one of the men, Jefferson Low.

According to reports, Low grabbed McCormick by the throat and threw him to the ground.

Robb was pulling Low off of McCormick when Low's brother, Bayard, drew his revolver and shot Robb twice in the chest, killing him almost instantly.

According to newspaper accounts, the town was outraged.

Bayard Low fled and was later found hiding in a house. As he was apprehended, a mob formed with the intent of lynching him and his brother. Borough officials decided to send the brothers on a train to Uniontown to be locked up for their own safety.

Bayard Low was found guilty of murder in the first degree in September 1882. In his retrial in March 1883, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and avoided execution.

Along with the anger the town felt toward Bayard Low, they felt an equal amount of sympathy for Robb, who was a Civil War veteran. At least 3,000 people attended the 33-year-old man's funeral, covering his coffin with flowers. The city and voluntary 25-cent contributions from citizens paid for the funeral.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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