Friday night last at Union Junction, Sheriff Hug shot and probably fatally injured a man named John Keefe, of Moscow, Idaho, who, it appears, was en route to Baker.
The attention of the sheriff was called by a passenger to a man who dropped off No. 18, carrying a bundle and hastening toward some freight cars. The sheriff overtook the man and called to him, finally asking him what he had in the bundle, and for a reply the man threw the bundle in the sheriff’s face and started to run; the sheriff was soon out-footed in the race, and finally fired his gun into the ground a time or two in hopes of stopping the man, who acted much like a criminal of some sort. At last the sheriff fired a shot at the man’s heels, but the bullet struck the fleeing man in the back and passed through his lung. The wounded man was picked up and taken to La Grande on No. 18, where medical and surgical attention was secured.
From the statement of the wounded man he was en route to Baker from Moscow and was riding the blind to save his scanty amount of cash.
Inasmuch as the sheriff had been looking for a couple of men all week, and the actions of this man indicated that he was seeking to avoid recognition or detention, the action of the sheriff is not at fault, though much regretted by him as by anybody else.
Keefe made his mistake in throwing the bundle in the sheriff’s face and starting to run. Any officer would have concluded that there was something wrong with the man.
Keefe showed that he was a member of the Order of Elks, and the local lodge at La Grande looked after his wants pending the arrival of his father from Idaho.
The incident is one greatly deplored by the sheriff, but after all is said and done, he was following the line of duty.
His attention having been called to the act of the man dropping from the train in a suspicious manner carrying a bundle, the sheriff was in duty bound to go to the bottom of the matter.
Possibly not fully understanding the situation, the man made a mistake when he threw the bundle in the sheriff’s face and started to run. After that it was plainly the duty of the officer to stop him.
Later-Keefe died from the effects of his injuries Monday evening last. Several of his relatives were present. Keefe appears to have been of good family, fairly well to do, and there appears to have been no good reason for his traveling on the blind baggage, except from choice. The body was shipped to Moscow, Idaho, for interment. Keefe made an ante-mortem statement in writing. Miss Neuhaus, of Baker, who was with Keefe at the time of his death, and is said to be his fiancee, is credited with the statement that in his dying hour, Keefe denied throwing his bundle in the face of the sheriff-that he simply dropped it and started to run.
June 15, 1915 Newspaper Story
Contributed by: Larry Rader