this day in crime history: october 14, 1912

On this date in 1912, New York saloon keeper John F. Schrank shot former President Teddy Roosevelt in Milwaukee, WI. Roosevelt, who was running for president on the Bull Moose party ticket, was in Milwaukee to give a speech. Prior to the speech, he had dinner with advisers at the Hotel Gilpatrick. As he left the hotel, supporters waiting outside cheered him. Also waiting for the former president was John Schrank, armed and ready for action. As Roosevelt turned and waved to the crowd before getting into his car, Schrank aimed a pistol at Roosevelt’s head. Just before he pulled the trigger, a spectator named Adam Bittner struck Schrank’s arm, spoiling his aim. The bullet struck Roosevelt in the chest, hitting a glasses case and a fifty page speech before lodging in the former president’s body.

The crowd pounced on Schrank and began pummeling him. The beating continued until Roosevelt stood up and implored the crowd to show mercy to the man. The police arrived and took Schrank into custody. Roosevelt eschewed a trip to the hospital, and vowed to give his speech “if it’s the last thing on earth I do.” Roosevelt arrived at the Milwaukee Auditorium several minutes later and gave his speech to 10,000 supporters, the bullet still lodged in his chest. Roosevelt eventually lost the election, coming in second to Woodrow Wilson. The incumbent, Republican William Howard Taft, came in third; the only incumbent president ever to do so. The bullet remained lodged in Roosevelt’s body for the rest of his life (on the lower left in the x-ray photo above).

John Schrank, who claimed the assassination attempt was done per the instructions of the ghost of President William McKinley, was (unsurprisingly) declared insane. He spent the rest of his life in mental institutions. He died of natural causes in 1943 at the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – John Flammang Schrank

Wikipedia – Theodore Roosevelt

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this day in crime history: september 8, 1935

On the day in 1935, Senator Huey “The Kingfish” Long was shot in the Louisiana State Capitol.  He died two days later of complications from the wound.

Long was shot after a confrontation with Carl Weiss, a Baton Rouge doctor.  Weiss allegedly took exception to Long’s persecution of Weiss’s in-laws, who were Long opponents.  Weiss was shot multiple times by Long’s bodyguards and died at the scene.

The details of what actually happened aren’t clear, and several theories exist as to what went down.  The official story is that Weiss ambushed Long in the hallway of the Capitol and shot him.  But some people believe that Long was mistakenly shot by his bodyguards.  One theory has it that Weiss never even drew a gun, and that Long’s bodyguards overreacted, shooting Long and Weiss, then planting Weiss’s .32 automatic (which he usually kept in the glove compartment of his car) at the scene.

Thanks to a lack of modern forensics and a slipshod investigation, we’ll probably never know what really happened that night.

Further reading:

HueyLong.comAssassination

Wikipedia – Huey Long

this day in crime history: september 6, 1901

On this date in 1901, US President William McKinley was shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. President McKinley died eight days later from his wounds. Czolgosz was subdued at the scene by the crowd and taken into custody. He was tried in NY State court and convicted of murder. He was executed in the electric chair at Auburn Prison on October 29, 1901.

This video is of a reenactment of the execution of Leon Czolgosz. The original film was shot by Thomas Edison in 1901.

Further reading:

University at Buffalo: Leon Czolgosz and the Trial

Biography: Leon Frank Czolgosz

Wikipedia: Leon Czolgosz

this day in crime history: september 5, 1975

President Ford being rushed from the scene of an assassination attempt.
President Ford being rushed from the scene of an assassination attempt.

On this date in 1975, Manson family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme was arrested after pointing a gun at President Gerald Ford in a park in Sacramento, CA. The gun, a .45 automatic, was found to have four rounds in the magazine and none in the firing chamber. Fromme later claimed she had intentionally removed the round from the firing chamber, and that she had gone to the park to alert Ford about the plight of California redwood trees.

Fromme was charged and convicted for the attempted assassination of the president. At the sentencing hearing she threw an apple at the prosecutor, striking him in the face. She was sentenced to life in prison. (Apparently the apple-a-day thing doesn’t work on lawyers.)

Lynette Fromme was granted parole in July of 2008, but was not released until August 2009 as she had to serve extra time for a brief 1987 prison escape. Upon release she moved to Marcy, NY.

Seventeen days after Fromme’s assassination attempt, Sara Jane Moore attempted to assassinate President Ford outside a hotel in San Francisco, CA.

Further reading:

About.com – Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme

Wikipedia – Lynette Fromme

Syracuse.com – Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme plans to live in Oneida County

this day in crime history: june 30, 1882

On this date in 1882, Charles J. Guiteau was hanged in the District of Columbia for the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Guiteau had shot Garfield on July 2nd of the previous year. Garfield lingered for two months, finally dying on September 19, 1881. The motive for the shooting: Guiteau was angry at the president for failing to offer him an ambassadorship as a reward for a pro-Garfield speech Guiteau wrote which almost no one heard or read. In short, the guy was a nut.

If Guiteau’s motive for the assassination isn’t proof enough of his nuttiness, his conduct at the trial was sure to seal the deal. He gave testimony in the form of epic poetry. He passed notes with spectators, often asking them for legal advice. He even publicly bad-mouthed his defense team during the trial (Hint: you should really wait until after you’ve been convicted before you start tossing brickbats at the people who are trying to save your skin). Guiteau was convicted on January 25, 1882 and sentenced to die.

Further reading:

The Assassination of James A. Garfield, By Robert Kingsbury

Wikipedia – Assassination of James A. Garfield

UMKC Law School – Last Words of Assassin Charles Guiteau

this day in crime history: june 18, 1984

ABerg

On this date in 1984, radio talk show host Alan Berg was shot and killed outside his home in in Denver, CO. Berg, who frequently courted controversy on his radio show, was shot by members of a white nationalist group known as The Order. Eventually, two members of the group, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, were convicted of racketeering and civil rights violations in connection with Berg’s death. Lane was sentenced to 190 years in prison, Pierce to 252. Lane died in 2007, Pierce in 2010.

Further reading:

Denver PostThe murder of Alan Berg in Denver: 25 years later

Wikipedia – Alan Berg

Wikipedia – The Order

this day in crime history: june 5, 1968

RFK

On this date in 1968, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, was shot in Los Angeles, CA.

It was just after midnight when Kennedy finished addressing supporters at the Ambassador Hotel’s Embassy Room ballroom. His advisers decided it would be best to leave the hotel through the kitchen, so as to avoid reporters who were pushing for an impromptu press conference.

As the entourage moved through the kitchen, they were confronted by 24 year old Sirhan Sirhan, an immigrant with Jordanian citizenship. A Christian of Palestinian descent, Sirhan was angered by Kennedy’s support of Israel. He  produced a .22 caliber pistol and shot Kennedy repeatedly. Kennedy fell to the floor as his security detail, consisting of former FBI agent William Barry, decathlete Rafer Johnson, and pro-footballer Roosevelt Greer, wrestled Sirhan to the ground and subdued him. The gun discharged several times during the struggle and five people were injured. After being subdued, Sirhan managed to break loose and grab the gun again. He attempted to shoot it, but he had already used up all his ammo.

Senator Kennedy was taken to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan for emergency surgery, but the prognosis was not good. At 2 AM the following morning, a spokesman announced that Kennedy had died.

Sirhan Sirhan was tried by the State of California for murder. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. His sentence was commuted to life by a California court in accordance with the People v. Anderson decision. He is currently incarcerated at California’s Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego and has been denied parole over a dozen times.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – The Murder of Robert Kennedy

About.com – Robert Kennedy Assassination

Wikipedia – Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy