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South St. Paul post office could be named for officer killed there 89 years ago

Officer Leo Pavlak was killed in the line of duty by the infamous Barker-Karpis gang during an Aug. 30, 1933 robbery outside the South St. Paul post office.

Sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), HF3394 is a memorial resolution to Congress requesting the federal government rename the building in Pavlak’s honor. Naming a post office is a federal responsibility.

Passed 130-0 by the House Thursday, it now goes to the Senate where Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) is the sponsor.

“Giving your life in the line of duty is the ultimate sacrifice,” said Rep. Keith Franke (R-St. Paul Park).

According to the proposed resolution, Pavlak was escorting two bank messengers from a railway station where they picked up payroll money for Swift and Company that was shipped via train from the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. The money was then taken to the post office where it was put in bags. As the trio was robbed when leaving for Swift and Company, Pavlak, 38, was shot and died instantly. Another officer who arrived on the scene, John Yeaman, survived his injuries.

“Having the post office named in his honor is a true and fitting memorial. In addition, it has great meaning for all law enforcement officers but particularly for those who are his descendants,” his family wrote in support. “Leo has had a significant long-lasting effect on policing, especially in our family. His son Robert Leo Pavlak Sr. retired as a St. Paul Police Lieutenant and served as US Marshal for Minnesota. Some of Leo’s grandchildren and great grandchildren have become police officers and continued the tradition of service to the community.”

Robert Pavlak Sr. also served in the House from 1967-74 and 1979.

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