• U.S.

National Affairs: Shooting Folks At Night

3 minute read

You are motoring alone on a country road at night. Out upon the road ahead of you steps a man in old overalls and a sheepskin coat, with a flashlight and a gun. He signals, “Halt.”

What do you do ?

Jacob D. Hanson, Secretary of the Niagara Falls lodge of Elks, driving up the hill of Lewiston Heights, N. Y., decided not to halt. Those overalls, that coat, that gun, looked thuggish. As he sped by, several shots banged out behind him. Farther down the road, another man appeared and started shooting. Everything went black for Motorist Hanson. His car careened into the roadside bank.

The householder nearest the scene refused to admit the rough-looking man in sheepskin and overalls who came pounding on the door to telephone for an ambulance. The householder sent for the ambulance himself. At the hospital, they said that Motorist Hanson might not live and would certainly be blind if he did, perhaps insane. A bullet had smashed into his right temple.

Beneath the gunmen’s disguises were found two U. S. Coast Guardsmen, assigned to watch for border rum-runners. They found no liquor in Motorist Hanson’s car. Neither had there been liquor in the car of one J. F. Stearns, into which they had fired three bullets as it topped the Lewiston hill a quarter-hour earlier than Hanson.

Feeling ran high in Niagara Falls. The Elks met and a mass meeting of citizens was planned. Coast Guardsmen Glenn Jennings and Chris Dew were held by the State police, the former perhaps for murder. In Washington, the Prohibition Bureau was badly embarrassed. Only that week, Agent Robert L. Taylor had had to be dismissed in West Virginia for shooting into an automobile. Before that there was an outcry from Canadians who complained that U. S. rum guards had fired across the boundary line at Detroit. Near Fresno, Calif., one Frank Aiello was lately shot dead for not stopping. In Yazoo County, Miss., Federal bullets whacked into a back seat occupied by a woman and her two children.

U. S. Prohibition Commissioner James M. Doran took the position that the Niagara Falls shooting involved the Coast Guard only and not any of his agents. “We are not going to put up with firing on vehicles on highways,” he said.

But feeling continued high at Niagara Falls, and elsewhere. The Senate, on a motion by New York’s Copeland, ordered an inquiry by its Commerce Committee. Commander Charles S. Root of the U. S. Coast Guard left Washington to inquire for himself. “Put them in uniform,” said editorials throughout the land.

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