Tales from the Morgue: Assassination attempt

2012-09-20T11:15:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Assassination attemptJohanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 20, 2012 11:15 am  • 

When one thinks of an assassination, it is usually of a high-ranking government official like the president or of a well-known activist.

However, the murder of a police officer can be considered an assassination as well. This attempted assassination brought on heightened emotions because the victim was well-liked and because an innocent girl was also shot by accident.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Aug. 31, 1910:



Officer King Shot In Back By Assassin

Jerome's Popular Night Watchman Is Now Lying in the Hospital With a Bullet Under His Heart.

JEROME, Ariz., Aug. 30.— One of the most cowardly attempts at assassination that ever disgraced the criminal annals of northern Arizona occurred here tonight when N.B. Chavez, a Mexican, shot and seriously wounded Night Officer Charles King. The injured man now lies in the United Verde hospital with the bullet logged immediately under his heart. The attending surgeons say that he is doing well as can be expected under the circumstances.

The leaden missile entered his back to the right of the spinal column, which it missed by a fraction of an inch. It ranged along the ribs around the right side to the front, where it stopped immediately under the skin. It has not moved.

There is great indignation among the citizens. Soon after the news of the shooting spread large crowds gathered on the street corners and feeling is at a high pitch. This was intensified further when it became known that a 15-year-old Mexican girl living in a house in the vicinity of the attempted assassination was also struck by one of the bullets fired by Chavez. The bullet entered the lower part of her abdomen, and she is suffering great pain. It is believed there is little hope of her recovery.

Chavez is now a prisoner in the branch county jail. He is protected by a strong guard. It is believed that wiser counsel will prevail and that no attempt will be made to mob him.

Adding further to general indignation of the citizens is the rumor that three shots were fired as a decoy to attract the attention of Officer King to the scene of the shooting. It is alleged that the shots were fired to bring him to the place with the intention of shooting him as soon as he arrived. The plan worked as he intended with the exception that the shots were not fatal.

Mr. King was on his usual rounds in the redlight section of the town about 9:30 o'clock when he heard three shots near a stone house occupied by a Mexican family. He immediately hurried to the scene of the shooting. Arriving in front of the stone house, where several Mexicans were gathered, he was shot from behind, the bullet entering about the middle of his back. A second shot was fired which went wild of its mark, entering the front door of the stone house and lodging in the abdomen of the 15-year-old girl. Hearing the second fusillade many citizens ran to the place and were amazed at seeing Officer King shot and severely wounded. He was taken to the hospital and placed in the care of surgeons.

George Sherman and George R. Doty, who were among the first to arrive, arrested and held Chavez until the arrival of Marshal Fred Hawkins, who lodged him in jail.

At this hour it is impossible to learn all the particulars of the crime as the only witness of the shooting were Mexicans, who refuse to discuss it. It is maintained by some that Chavez did not do the shooting, and that is was done by another Mexican. It is also claimed that there were eye witnesses who will testify that he us the guilty one.

Mr. King has been a peace officer of Jerome several years. He is a brave and very efficient officer, and while very popular with law abiding residents is despised by the lawless element. He has been the means if ridding the place of many undesirable characters, and it is generally believed that the attempt to assassinate him grew out of some of his official investigations of crime recently committed in the town. He has always been fearless in the discharge of his duty and has never been known to flinch in the face of danger. Only a few years ago he entered a saloon where several Spaniards and Mexicans were engaged in a race war, armed with pistols and knives, and succeeded in arresting ten of the principals, although severely wounded in the affray.


Chavez served 5-yearTerm.

JEROME, Ariz., Aug. 30.— Attending surgeons say that Officer King is resting easy and that no attempt will be made to remove the bullet for several hours.

From further details learned of the attempted assassination, it appears that Chavez and his wife quarreled yesterday and that she left for the home of a relative in the stone house. Chavez called and it is alleged threatened to kill the entire family if she did not join him. She refused and he is alleged to have fired three shots at her, one striking the 15-year-old girl, who is a relative of the Chavez Family. It is also stated that the bullet which struck Officer King was fired by Chavez from inside of the house, while the officer's back was towards the door.

Chavez is said to have served a term of five years in prison, but on what charge is not stated. He is considered a bad "hombre" and is alleged to be quarrelsome. He is being guarded in the jail, but no attempt will now be made to harm him, as excitement has abated since it was given out that Officer King may recover.


The second part of the story was submitted after more information was obtained. However, it was easier in that day to add to the story instead of rewriting it and resetting the type.

The Morgue Lady appreciates the language and editorializing that accompanied such articles long ago. While it would be refreshing to have such a phrase as "one of the most cowardly attempts at assassination that ever disgraced the criminal annals of northern Arizona" in today's news articles, it is now extremely unlikely. Nowadays it's just the facts — the verified facts. Of course, columns are opinion and therefore have different rules than news articles.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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