Excerpts from The Gallup 14
The Gallup Riot (Chapter Three)
April 4, 1935
“God damn, there better not be any god damn trouble this morning,” Bobcat said, as much to himself as to the other deputy. Deputy Hoy Boggess listened and nodded as he checked the rounds in his .45 Smith & Wesson double action. He put three cartridges in each of the half-moon clips and snapped them into place. “And, while you’re at it, you’d best hope no one else has one of them god damn hog-leg shooters like that. Hoy, I don’t know why you carry that weapon. Those clips would drive me nuts. They’re a god damn mystery to me.”
Actually it was not so much a mystery as a curiosity. Sheriffs and their men bought their own weapons and everyone had their preferences. But Deputy Boggess was the only lawman in the county to pack the military version of the Model 1917 .45 Smith & Wesson double action. In the first place, at two and a half pounds, it was too big to carry comfortably, unless you had a good holster. Hoy did not. Secondly, it was not all that accurate because it had a tendency to shoot low. That could be compensated for if you were a dead shot (like Dee Roberts). Hoy wasn’t.
Dee preferred a single action Colt. He had several, but mostly holstered a .38 caliber that was light, fast and plenty powerful enough. He didn’t spend all day cleaning and checking it neither, like Deputy Boggess.
Just as well, thought Bobcat, God help us if Hoy ever has to pull that hog killer; more than likely he’ll shoot himself, or one of us.
They had heard there would be a crowd that morning when they took the prisoners down to the Justice Court to be arraigned on breaking and entering charges. Sheriff Carmichael always called the men in his jail “prisoners.”
Bobcat went along with that although I chided him on it. “This is a jail, not a prison. Why do you call them prisoners? The prison is up at Santa Fe where the real felons are housed at hard labor. The McKinley County jail is for drunks and those who disturb the peace of Gallup.”
I had no official business at the sheriff’s office that morning but I had heard about the meeting yesterday at the Spanish-American Hall and I wanted to hear how Bobcat and the other deputies were preparing for the “crowd.”
“So, Mr. Hastings Law school, ” Bobcat had responded, “if the guys in prison are called prisoners, how come the guys in jail aren’t called jailers? Don’t they teach you lawyers the difference between who is in the jail and who is doing the jailing?”
Actually, the good-natured exchange was helpful in lightening up the mood in the front office of the jail. It was not that anyone was scared or even worried. But there was some tension in the air on account of that little meeting yesterday when that Ochoa guy and the two others from the union stuck their unwanted noses into the sheriff’s business.
“So, you didn’t even let them see Campos and Navarro,” I said when Dee Roberts left the room.
“No, we did not. Besides, it was Navarro they seemed to be interested in and he is a shifty one. Mack told them straight out, they weren’t relatives and they damn sure weren’t lawyers, so they had no cause to see the cells or who we got in them.”
“My friend,” I said, “sometimes giving a man what he wants will keep him from taking what he wants. All they wanted was to see Navarro. Now you have to worry that they might want to take Navarro.”
About that time, Sheriff Carmichael and Dee Roberts walked back in and put an end to our conversation. They knew me but they gave me a pretty wide berth. I was a defense lawyer and sometimes made their arrests difficult with all that shit about due process and probable cause. As soon as I left Bobcat and Hoy went to the back of the jail and brought Victor Campos and his little buddy Navarro out front for the trip to court.
Sheriff Mack R. Carmichael was a miner’s lawman. As a former mine guard, he understood the hard life of the miner, but he was never one of them. Knowing their life but not living it was a definite plus. Going down into the shaft to arrest someone was one thing; going down to dig coal was another. Besides, you never wanted to get too close to someone you might have to bust—or, too close to a man who did not behave. In either case you might have to lock his ass up. So keep your distance. That was Mack’s rule.
The sheriff knew most everyone in town–miners and merchants, organizers and agitators. And, because he knew every mine owner and pit foreman in town, he also knew Juan Ochoa, at least by sight. Ochoa was a friend of the working man and that made him suspicious, at least in the eyes of the Gamerco coal bosses. For his part, Sheriff Carmichael was unsure about Juan Ochoa–was he just an organizer or a goddamn agitator?
While Carmichael didn’t much cotton to unions, he was downright hostile to agitators. Folks said that Juan Ochoa was a decent but committed man. In his mind, the difference was organizers did their work peaceable like; agitators always looked for trouble. So, when he heard about the meeting that Juan Ochoa and a few dozen others “like him” held at the Spanish-American Hall he pondered the difference between those who organized workers and those who agitated for trouble.
He had two men in his jail. He wanted them arraigned and out on the street without trouble. Navarro was a known troublemaker and a real agitating son-of-a-bitch. Victor Campos was just a man caught up in the times. He lived in the wrong place and had the wrong friends. But in a day or two they would be back out. Goddamn. Why did Bickel keep locking men up without setting bail? It was a damn nuisance for him.
If Bobcat and Hoy were nervous they did not let it show to the sheriff and his under-sheriff. Mack and Dee were hardheaded, hard-jawed men of the law. It was their job to put those who violated the law in jail. How long they stayed there was not their affair. They just took them to court and let the lawyers and the judges do the rest.
There wasn’t much of a crowd but there were some men sort of lollygagging about down there on Coal Avenue in front of the Sutherland Building where Judge Bickel held court every Monday morning. Leastways that’s what Roberts said when he drove by there on his way to the jail.
The trip to court was uneventful. They walked Campos and Navarro down the block in two separate groups. They went down Second Street a half block to Coal and then another half-block to Judge Bickel’s court. There was a small group in front but you would hardly call it a crowd. It seemed peaceable like.
No one said much other than “Que pasa, Navarro.”
“Que bueno,” he replied as they entered the glass door with the colored glass that blocked a part of the view of the front room of the court.
Some looked at Campos but most seemed to focus on Navarro. Maybe it was because Navarro was the kind of man that attracted attention. He was a quick, easy mover. He looked like he was nervous, even when he was silent. Victor Campos smiled even when being escorted down the street, but Navarro just looked about everywhere at once, without stopping to look at anything.
Bobcat was in back and looked at the little group to see who was doing the talking. Sure enough it was Juan Ochoa. I wished he was not here, thought Bobcat. But this will be over in a few minutes and we can get these hombres bailed out and gone.
An hour later, they were still sitting on the bench in Judge Bickel’s court when they heard the first sound of real anger from the crowd out front. The small group had grown and they were downright pissed about being kept outside. He looked out the cracked glass of the small window by the front door.
Bobcat hoped that Ochoa was gone, but there he was, standing and listening. Only now it was, by God, a crowd. God damn it, he thought, why in God’s hell didn’t Judge Bickel get on with it? No good could come of making men wait to see what they did not want to see in the first place.
A crowd is a funny thing. Some came because the word was out that Senator Vogel would be there in court. Some came because they were at the meeting at the Spanish-American Hall the day before. Some just were passing by and stopped to see what was going on. This crowd was getting nasty. Probably more than a hundred had gathered by now.
It was a typical April morning in Gallup—cold. Some wanted inside, either to listen or to get warm. Dee Roberts put Bobcat and Deputy Boggess next to the front door to keep the crowd out. “They got no business here, unless they are related to the prisoner or have one of them god-damn press badges. Relatives and reporters only, you hear me?”
Bobcat knew that Roberts was speaking for Judge Bickel, who talked to the sheriff and the under-sheriff in his little office in back of the court room itself before he started the first case of the day. He called it his “chambers” and that always got a snicker from most folks. “Chambers” seemed to be the kind of thing you’d find in a whorehouse that had those little alcoves with curtains on them. Maybe he meant that little town of Chambers, Arizona, and just the other side of the state line.
They could hear Judge Bickel up there on his bench but it was not easy. The crowd outside was getting noisier and there were some bad sounds coming through the plate glass window. Bobcat took it in stride but Hoy started snapping and unsnapping the lock-down strap on the tear gas canister he had brought from the jail. That did not make anyone feel better. It was sort of like a tic. Snap. Unsnap. Snap. Unsnap. Finally, Dee Roberts leaned over and held Hoy’s right wrist. ” No need to worry, Hoy; Judge Bickel will get to our business soon enough.” Well, thought Bobcat, it’d best be sooner. Those hombres outside might not be so sociable in another hour or two.
Just about that time, the crowd started some serious cursing, serious that is, for a crowd that included women and children. “Hey, cabron what the fuck you think we are out here, peones?” A small rock cracked the plate glass and everyone tensed up inside.
Senator Vogel and his lawyer, Harris K. Lyle, were having second thoughts about even coming to the arraignment. They had no part in it, as the only thing that was supposed to happen was the entry of a plea to the charge and the setting of bail.
Sheriff Carmichael was worried but didn’t show it. Dee Roberts was the same as always: confident and ready for whatever came his way. Like Bobcat, he rarely felt fear. Unlike Bobcat, he sort of enjoyed confrontation. For Bobcat, it was part of the job, but that did not mean you had to like it. Dee Roberts probably would have quit the job if things were always easy and no one got out of line. His job was to put troublemakers back in line, one way or the other.
As time sort of droned on, there was more than a hum coming in from the street. Funny thing about crowd noise, it can be real nice like in a crowded theater or a dance hall. Barroom crowds can be fun, but this crowd was no fun. This was a serious bunch but the judge and the district attorney did not seem to be getting it. They just went on with their regular Monday morning court calendar just as though no one was out in the street.
Hoy Boggess kept looking up at Judge Bickel who kept looking at the district attorney and the federal officer who had the first case of the morning. None of it made much sense to him and it did not seem to make much sense to Judge Bickel. Finally, he said he had heard enough, ruled on the case and then called the case of State of New Mexico vs. Victor Campos and Esiquel Navarro, for breaking and entry on premises owned by C. F. Vogel. By way of understatement, he asked: “Is everyone ready?”
The civil writ of eviction Judge William H. Bickel issued on behalf of Senator C.F. Vogel necessitated a criminal charge because those evicted did not stay evicted. Going back into Campos’ house was, technically, ‘breaking and entering.’ That made it necessary for the district attorney of McKinley County to charge Victor Campos and Esiquel Navarro in criminal court. The formal charges were not actually filed until an hour before the arraignment. The arrests of Campos and Navarro were accomplished without the benefit of an arrest warrant and before the filing of a criminal charge against either man. Bail was not set for either man. Gallup eventually followed the law, but not always at the right time.
The single charge ascribed to the defendants was wrongful and forcible breaking and entering of a certain house. The language of the formal charge described Mr. Campos’ going back into his own house as ‘a willful deed committed without lawful justification or excuse, which unreasonably disturbed the public peace and tranquillity.
Of course there was more to the formal charge than this, but it was legalese for ignoring a state senator and being a member of a suspect group which might be advocating the overthrow of the government.
The district attorney believed the defendants to be dangerous to the good people of Gallup and therefore insisted on criminal charges against the men involved but he was confident that Mrs. Lovato meant no harm and dropped the charge against her.
The truth was, Campos was indeed avoiding something but it was not prosecution. He could not be ‘prosecuted’ for living in the house he built with his own hands and paid for with miner’s wages over a seventeen-year period of time. His ‘ flight,’ while troublesome to Senator Vogel, was not unlawful. Lastly, he had every right to avoid the beating he might take if the special deputies caught him before Bobcat did. As for Navarro, he was a troublemaker with a capital ‘ T’ and a member of the National Miners Union to boot. So they started off with him.
“Mr. Navarro, I see you’re here without counsel. Do you have a lawyer?” intoned Judge Bickel over the racket of the crowd outside. As he waited for the answer, the judge was thinking about more important things like, lawyer or not, I’ve waited too long and the boys outside are pissed and I am going to get this case the hell out of here.
“No, judge, I don’t have no lawyer and I can’t get one in jail so could you set me some bail so I can get out?”
That drew an interruption from the prosecutor who wanted the case to start with Campos, who did have a lawyer. “Your honor, Mr. Campos’ lawyer can speak for both of them, at least for purposes of a plea and bail, and we can get this case off your busy calendar.” Like the judge, the prosecutor wished he had not delayed things so long with the last case but how was he to know the crowd would turn nasty?
Just who were these two beaners anyway? A simple B&E was all that was on the docket sheet he picked up in the office on his way to the usual docket call on Mondays before Bailless Bickel. Now, here he was, in the midst of an angry bunch of out-of-work miners who were acting like this was an important case.
“Mr. Navarro, the court cannot proceed with your arraignment and will not take a plea on your charge until you are properly represented by a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one for you. You will have to fill out the forms and give them to the clerk. That can be done later. As for the other defendant, Mr. Campos, I see no need to proceed with his plea since both are charged with the same violation. I will set bail at a nominal sum for both defendants, but that cannot be done until the afternoon calendar. I’ll endorse it and send it to the jail at 1:30 p.m. today. That’s all we need accomplish. The sheriff will no doubt want to get the prisoners back to jail for processing so they can be released.”
It was clear to those in court that Judge Bickel was speaking to the crowd but they, of course, couldn’t hear him. What they could see through the cracked plate glass on Coal Avenue was Sheriff Carmichael and his men getting the prisoners up and moving to the rear of the courtroom.
Bang! The sound was sharp and jolted everyone into attention. Everyone looked at the rear of the room where the venetian blind was still shaking as snapped up into position. Someone had hit the glass door so hard the blind snapped up.
Sheriff Carmichael decided that Campos could wait in the small holding cell till they got Navarro back to jail. They could come back for him on a separate trip. Navarro was the agitator and it looked like he was the one that nasty crowd out front was interested in. So he put Campos away and moved Navarro to the rear of the court.
The rear. That seemed to be what Navarro was trying to signal to the faces pressed up to the plate glass out on the sidewalk. Navarro sensed that Sheriff Carmichael was fearful of the crowd in front and was going to walk him out the back and down the alley to Second Street.
The jail was just up the alley and across the street; he would be back in his cell in three minutes flat.
Someone in the crowd hollered “regresar en salvar” and twenty or thirty men ran to third street and headed south to the alley. The sidewalk was a mixture of concrete, dirt and gravel pack. The sound of that many men running, like a pack, was ominous but there was more to it than just the sound. Somehow, the wind pushed ahead of the crowd and carried the smell of excitement, the smell of anger, and the smell of fear.
As the crowd reached the alley the ones in front could see someone starting to come out the back door of Judge Bickel’s office. Ignacio Velarde and Solomon Esquibel were leading the pack. Along with them was the big man with the black hat, the black mustache and the black look in his eyes. He had a club but he did not raise it up; it was carried level to the ground and moved from side to side as he took ever longer strides to get from the street to the rear-door of Judge Bickel’s little courtroom.
Fred Montoya was the first deputy to step out into the alley. He gulped, flinched and stepped back inside. Sheriff Carmichael moved to the front and he and Dee Roberts grabbed Navarro between them and moved through the doorway out into the alley.
Bobcat and Hoy Boggess followed right behind. The five of them moved on through the door and out into the alley. Four men with guns, and Navarro.
The alley was about sixteen feet wide with back doors on both sides. It was mostly houses on the south side because they fronted onto Aztec Street. The buildings on the north side of the alley were business and had little space in between—except for the vacant lot on the East Side of the justice court. Since the crowd was coming from their right, the sheriff and his men pushed their way east, toward their jail and safety, for them, as well as for the prisoner Navarro. Bobcat and Hoy Boggess were closest to the crowd and were between them and the prisoner, Navarro, held on both sides by Sheriff Carmichael and Dee Roberts. Of the four of them, only Boggess seemed to be aware just how close the crowd was. He could smell their anger and they could smell his fear. Those closest to him could see with sharp clarity how the deputies elbowed and hampered each other, reluctantly turning to resist the crowd as it hampered their forward progress to the safety of their jail.
The deputies could feel the continuous stir of men, women and children getting out of the way. The short silence as the two groups of men faced each other gave way to a steady, ponderous rumble like the sound of Navajo wagons crossing the plank bridges across the Purkey. The lawmen braced against the elusive weight of the crowd and moved on down the alley.
As the crowd surged in, a dark and forbidding man shook his fist and shouted, “Now you’ll see it, desgraciado.” That may mean unlucky in the dictionary, but Bobcat took it for what it was. Hunker down, lawman: “We’re here for Navarro.” As it happened, they did not get him. No one did. A sharp crack, vaguely like that of a .22, but different, startled the crowd. They seemed to push forward and then lean back, like there was a strong wind blowing. The smell of gas was suddenly overpowering. The sense of panic, even more so. Navarro burst loose and then on through the crowd just as the first shot was fired; no one ever saw him again. The odd, almost eerie sound of the tear gas canister became a part of the thrust of the movement of the crowd, and the deputies. The crowd rushed backward to the west and the deputies picked up the speed of their march to the east.
Bobcat heard a louder pistol blast, saw Navarro run and the sheriff fall. All in the space of two or three seconds. The crack of the shot was surprising but the gushing of blood from the headshot the sheriff took was absolutely terrifying. Bobcat struggled, and for a few moments was completely helpless, tossed under trampling feet, smothered and squashed under struggling bodies. As he reached for Navarro, he felt rather than saw, him move on up the alley. As he drew his gun he felt and heard the blasts of other guns but they seemed far away. Hoy buckled next to him as something or someone came crashing down with a mauling weight. Even as he dropped to the rough stones in the alley, Bobcat could hear the last shots, smell the blood and feel its splatter, hot but oddly refreshing.
As Dee Roberts looked to his left at the sound of the first shot, another rang out. The sheriff was hit again as he fell to the ground. He had heard a hissing sound just before the first gunshot but it was lost now in the hail of bullets all around him. Dee felt a bullet whiz by his cheek so close he felt the wind of it as he drew his gun. He heard the soggy puck-sound the missed bullet made in the telephone pole to his left. At first he thought he was alone in the crowd but then realized that Bobcat was still standing, but stooped over, like he was hit. Hoy was down and bleeding. Hoy’s blood splattered on Bobcat, and in seconds, began to mix, from the outside to the inside, with Bobcat’s own blood, now gushing from the gaping shoulder wound.
Dee Roberts was struggling with his own weapon. Something was wrong. He couldn’t get it to fire at first. With his left hand, he fanned the hammer of the single action .38 and hit Solomon Esquibel with the first shot.
As Bobcat drew his gun out of the holster, he felt the burn and was jolted by the second bullet blasting into his right lung. “I’m shot,” he cried. As he fell he saw the claw hammer come out of the crowd and slam Hoy Boggess, again and again. He thought he saw the flash of a blade or a pick, he couldn’t tell for sure. He seemed to be firing but maybe it was just the firing at him that he heard.
Hoy was still trying to unloose that big .45 hog leg from his back belt when he hit the ground, three or four feet from Sheriff Carmichael’s twitching body. What Bobcat didn’t know at the time was that Deputy Boggess actually threw the first punch, so to speak. As they came through the door, Hoy could see the crowd in front of him, the other side of Sheriff Carmichael. He thought he saw a gun, but no one else did. He had a tear gas canister in his hand, even though Sheriff Carmichael had told him to put it away just before they came through the door. He thought someone was reaching for the prisoner. He had a hold of him with his left hand and was intent on drawing his gun. So it seemed logical, at least to him, at least then, to hurl the tear gas canister into the crowd. Trouble was, the tear gas didn’t disperse as much as it infuriated the crowd. Those in front saw Hoy throw the gas and one of them had a claw hammer. Getting hit in the head with anything is gonna give you a bad day, but a claw hammer will mess up your whole year.
All in all, some fifteen shots were fired. Dee Roberts emptied all five rounds from his single action .38 Colt. Some said that Bobcat fired twice after he was hit but others doubted that. Hoy Boggess later said he used Bobcat’s gun to fire twice into the crowd before he lapsed into unconsciousness. Sheriff Carmichael never fired his gun.
As quickly as it started, it was over. Fierce-eyed men with guns were coming into the alley from both ends, fearful of enemies but there were no enemies, only bodies. The remaining few in the crowd of onlookers seemed as bewildered as the newly arrived men of the law. None seemed to comprehend the bloodied, dirtied shirts of the deputies or the blown-up unrecognizable face of Sheriff Carmichael visible in the brown pool of his own blood. The stillness of his body matched the stillness of the crowd.
Two dark-skinned men in the crowd died, one right away and the other a week later at St. Mary’s Hospital. Everyone assumed that it was Dee Roberts that got him or her. He thought so too. Direct or ricocheting bullets hit at least six other men, and one woman. The cries, the smell of open wounds and the fierce burning of the tear gas were at first overpowering and, then, almost an understatement. When the dust settled, the smell of revenge became overpowering.
Sheriff Carmichael was dead at the scene. Everyone assumed that someone in the crowd had shot him. Dee Roberts thought so too. That is, he thought so until it was pointed out that the two he shot were the only ones with guns and he killed them both.
That was a problem, since he shot them just as Bobcat got hit in the chest with a .45 caliber bullet and Hoy Boggess was felled with a claw hammer. Then he remembered that Hoy’s gun was lost in the melee. When they find Hoy’s gun, they will find Mack’s killer, he thought.
When they dug a .45 caliber bullet out of Sheriff Carmichael’s shoulder at his autopsy and compared it with the .45 caliber bullet they took from Bobcat’s lung at his surgery, it looked like someone shot the sheriff and Bobcat with Hoy’s gun. The question was who? And, where was Hoy’s gun? When the gunfire let up and the dust settled his hog-leg .45 was gone. And so was Navarro.
Gallup had itself a hell of a mess to deal with. Every lawyer in town, including me, spent the rest of the week in one way or the other dealing with the riot. About an hour after the ambulances carried the wounded out of the alley, a blast on the fire siren summoned the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars into action. Gallup took on the look of an armed camp as special deputies (mine guards) equipped with shotguns, rifles and pistols filled streets. Warrants were signed and arrests were made—lot’s of ‘em. Hundreds of houses were ransacked looking for a Model 1917 .45 Smith & Wesson—all that turned up were piles and piles of Communist literature. Up in Santa Fe, Governor Tingley assured a group of demonstrators that ‘only the guilty need fear punishment.’ While Sheriff Roberts was rounding up more than a hundred men and women, Governor Tingley sent a telegram to Governor E.C. Johnson of Colorado. Governor Johnson had faced some similar problems in his state and Governor Tingley requested details on his method of concentration camp and deportation of aliens. The telegram read:
COPY OF WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM
APRIL 4, 1935
Governor Ed. C. Johnson
Please give me details regarding your method
concentration camp and deportation of aliens on relief.
Clyde Tingley, Governor
Funny how a telegram from a governor gets answered right away, particularly when it’s to a governor. Governor Johnson telegraphed his reply back that same afternoon just about the time that the round up of aliens and other radicals in Gallup was moving into high gear:
The International System
Denver Colo 949A Apr 4 1935
HON. CLYDE TINGLEY, GOVERNOR
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
BECAUSE OF TREATIES WITH FOREIGN COUNTRIES DEPORTATION MUST BE VOLUNTARY WHICH WOULD BE EASY TO WORK OUT IF FEDERAL RELIEF AGENCIES WOULD COOPERATE BY WITHHOLDING OR THREATENING TO WITHHOLD RELIEF WHICH THEY WILL NOT DO EVERYONE ELSE INCLUDING FOREIGN CONSULS AND IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT COOPERATING WE ARE NOT MAKING ANY HEADWAY JUST NOW
ED C JOHNSON, GOVERNOR OF COLORADO 1002A
That sort of thing seemed to be justified since the large group of defendants sitting in jail that day asked Carl Howe to speak for them. Mr. Howe was not a lawyer but he was active in the local Communist Party in Gallup. He was also the spokesman for the International Labor Defense League in New Mexico and had lived in Gallup since 1933. In the next three months, well over a hundred people were sent out of the country by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the request of the governor of New Mexico.
The man who first tried to figure out who shot the sheriff was the McKinley County coroner, Dr. Travers. He did the autopsy. He did it the way he hated to—with an audience. He would have much preferred to do it alone and he would have preferred to wait a few hours. He had done hundreds of post-mortem examinations and was long past the idea that the body on his examining table was a human being. Nevertheless, he thought the family had a right to see the deceased before he did his cutting.
Dr. Travers said he would explain what he found as he went along, even though he knew that the new sheriff (Dee Roberts) and the district attorney (David Chavez) were not interested in the details. They wanted to know the answer to just one question could the autopsy tell them that shot the sheriff?
The first thing he did was to look at the head wound; actually it was a face wound. “Look here, Sheriff Roberts, you can see the tattooing right here above the nose.”
Dee did not want to look at his life-long friend’s blown up face but he did. “Sheriff Carmichael never had no tattoo, Doc, I can tell you that. What in hell are you talking about?”
“Tattooing is caused by gunpowder embedded in your skin when someone shoots you at short range. If you look close with this glass, you can see the projectile gunpowder right here, see? That cannot be wiped off. It tells me right off that whoever killed our sheriff was standing no more than three feet away when he fired on him. And he was not much closer than that neither because there is no soot present.”
“Soot, you mean like from a stovepipe or what?” chimed in Mr. Chavez.
“No, Mr. Chavez, I mean soot from gunpowder. Is this your first autopsy?”
It was his first and, he hoped his last. He did not want to be here any more than Dee Roberts did. But as long as he was he thought he’d best get it straight. Judge Otero had ordered him to be present and expected him to report back quickly–even though he would get the autopsy itself straight from the coroner’s office.
Three men dead, seven more in the hospital and pretty near fifty-five men locked up in less than two hours since the bloody battle in the alley. Those were sure-fire reasons for Judge Otero to make everything a priority. First on his list was to find out who shot the sheriff.
While Doc Travers was making clinical notes at Carmichael’s autopsy, Mary Ann was writing in her little black binder.
Mary Ann Shaughnessy’s Journal
April 4, 1935
My purpose in starting you was a simple one. My plan was to record the events and circumstances surrounding the eviction of those pitiful people in Chihuahuaita. I don’t even know them. A man I hardly know, our local state senator, started their evictions. Now, I’m sure I don’t want to know him.
That was my “plan” until this morning. I never thought I would write to you (or anyone on the face of this earth) about the death of a man I know and the possible death of another man who man who may be as close to Billy Wade as I am. Sheriff Mack Carmichael was killed this morning and Bobcat Wilson, his deputy, was shot twice. Billy Wade says Bobcat probably won’t make it.
I feel so helpless because I love Billy Wade. That’s not the way love is supposed to be. Love is being able to help whoever you love. But I can’t help Billy Wade because Bobcat, his closest friend, is lying on a white starched sheet, looking as white as it is, gasping for breath and holding on to life as fiercely and as silently as he does everything else. From the news at school this morning, someone tried to free a prisoner who was being taken from court to jail and all hell broke loose. I know that’s not very descriptive but I have heard so many different versions from so many people that it is probably more descriptive than anyone knows right now. In fact, “all hell broke loose” was what our principal, Mr. McDonald said in the lunchroom. Apparently he heard about it during second-hour homeroom from Abby Gonzales (who heard it from her father, Frank). The first wild story we heard was that a bunch of radicals were waving banners, and shouting things, because of the evictions in Chihuahuaita shot dozens of people. Everybody is blaming the union that has the coal miners out on strike. But then, someone said that it was a riot that started when the deputies opened fire on the crowd. That seems equally unlikely. Sheriff Carmichael and Bobcat are not the kind of men who “open fire” on anyone. They are the kind of men who defend themselves but I cannot believe they would shoot into a crowd of people, even angry people. Particularly Bobcat, he has friends in Chihuahuaita (according to Billy Wade).
The paper is already out and the ink is hardly dry on the ugly big headline about Bobcat and Mack. The story is predictably sketchy but that’s to be expected. I do hope they decide to really go after this story and report the truth about what ever it was that happened. Billy Wade tried to go down to the jail to get something for Bobcat but Second Street is all blocked off from Aztec to Coal Avenue. They did let him through, but he said it was it hard because there are troopers and mine guards all over the place. No one seems to expect any more trouble (as though we didn’t have enough already).
My tendencies toward paranoia are probably getting the better of me, but I wonder if the prisoner was one of those who was resisting the evictions. Madam Journal, I started to write to you about the evictions. Maybe I still am. Maybe this unspeakable tragedy is actually another chapter in the eviction story. Oh, one other thing. They said that a man by the name of Navarro was the prisoner and that he is still loose somewhere in town. Someone at Harshman’s garage heard the people in the alley chanting “We Want Navarro” or something like that. I’m sure that Billy Wade told me last week that a man with a name like that was arrested by Bobcat for resisting the eviction of some friend of his in Chihuahuaita. If that is really the case, then there is a connection between the evictions and the killing. God, I hope it is only one killing. I will feel so sad for Bobcat’s family, and Billy Wade. Damn, why do people love money so much? But, there I go again, asking a question that might not be relevant. Was it money that is at the core of the evictions? Maybe not, maybe it was more complicated, like breaking a labor union. Of course, come to think of it, that is about money too, isn’t it?
First things first, as Billy Wade put it on the phone from Rehoboth this afternoon. Let’s pray for Bobcat now, you can investigate later. He didn’t mean it in a cruel way, but it hurt anyhow. I should be thinking about Bobcat’s life, not how he got where he is.
I must sign off for now and meet Billy Wade. He will need me tonight