The only U.S. Secret Service officer to die protecting a president was honored at a sunrise ceremony across from the White House.
Leslie Coffelt was killed in front of Blair House 70 years ago while defending President Harry Truman from an armed attack. Truman, napping in a second-floor bedroom at the time, was residing in the building while the White House was being remodeled.
“He came to work on Nov. 1, 1950, probably not expecting anything different,” Chief Thomas Sullivan of the Secret Service Uniformed Division said at the wreath-laying ceremony Monday, according to WTOP-AM.
“Shots were fired,” Sullivan said. “Officer Coffelt was hit three times, in the abdomen. He got out of the booth, mortally wounded, fired one round at a gentleman who was trying to go up the steps here at Blair House, and hit him in the back of the head. He stopped him from going in the front door, from 31 feet away, with his revolver.”
Two Puerto Rican pro-independence activists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, carried out the assassination attempt.
Torresola was the one shot dead by Coffelt.
Collazo was convicted of murder, sentenced to die and then sent back to Puerto Rico after Truman commuted his sentence to life in prison, the station reported.
Truman unveiled a memorial plaque at Blair House in 1952.
“It brought home to me the fact that it is not the president who is in danger on occasions of this kind, but it is the men who guard him,” Truman said