Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eureka Springs Gunfight Showed Marksmanship of Armed Citizens

Spring Street, where the citizens shot up the gang in 1922

Recently, a video of a Eureka Springs, Arkansas City Council meeting showed them to be a little hostile to armed citizens.  It was not always so.   Because of that article, I became aware of one of the great examples of armed citizens stopping a criminal gang in the commission of a bank robbery.

No, I am not talking about the  James-Younger Gang and how they were shot to pieces in Northfield Minnesota in 1876.  One bank clerk was murdered, and one townsman, an immigrant who was believed not to understand shouted warnings, was exposed in the street and killed in the crossfire.   Two outlaws were killed in that robbery attempt, and two others seriously wounded.

I am talking about a famous attempted bank robbery that occurred 46 years later, in 1922, in Eureka Springs itself.  The robbers attempted to rob the First National  Bank at 40 Spring Street.  Here is a contemporary account from the Wichita Eagle that was printed a couple of days after the event:
The Wichita Eagle September 30, 1922
  Five bandits robbed the bank the other day and thought things were going about as usual.  But just as they headed for their car at the curb, in the customary manner, they suddenly realized that they had made a mistake.  They were in Arkansas!  No helpless crowd of hopeless citizens stood agape while the dashing bandits sailed right out of their ken like a meteor on a starry night.  That's not the way they do it in Arkansas.  Two pedestrians on the way to visit a sick friend saw what was going on and stepped inside the hank door in time to open the battle with a few well directed bullets toward the bandit's vital organs.  A lawyer in an office overhead said to his earnest client, "excuse me a moment please," stepped to a front window and put a half dozen bullets where they would do the most good.  A dentist asked his patient to keep open wide please just one moment, and rested his rifle on the window sill long enough to make sure that at least one of the bandits would fail to leave town that day.  A school boy hustling home to lunch whipped out his automatic and joined the attack." 
  Now the merchants began issuing from the lunch counters and their kitchens.  Each individual had his pistol spitting fire and steel as soon as he came within range.  And not an innocent bystander was scratched.  No wild shooting down at Eureka Springs.  Needless to add, not one of the five bandits got away, and all the money, $70,000, was carried back into the bank.
Later accounts differ a little in the details.    A silent alarm was pressed. Alert citizens saw what was happening and disabled the get away car with gunfire.  The town constable, exercising tactics, flanked the robbers and took one out with a head shot.  One citizen grabbed his .38, assumed a supported kneeling position, and took out the robber who was providing covering fire for the retreating outlaws.  Hostages dropped flat in the street as the robbers tried to run to cover.

 It is worth noting, that in this more modern version of the Northfield raid, in spite of dozens of shots being fired by numerous townspeople, not one innocent person was hit.  One hostage suffered some powder burns.  The bank robbers were hit numerous times.  Two of them died in a few minutes, one took four days to expire, with over a dozen bullet wounds.  The remaining two outlaws survived serious wounds and were sentenced to the state penitentiary. 
The shootout in Eureka Springs puts the lie to the idea that armed citizens simply fire wildly in a gunfight.   Dozens of shots were fired.   The only people hit were the outlaws.

 ©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch


isaac said...

This is a great example of citizens taking action against criminals. Proof that we do not need the government for everything. If only people would come to their sense.

Anonymous said...

If this had happened and modern police had responded in stead of citizens, there probably would have been many more innocents hit by the officer's gunfire than bad guys being hit.

Anonymous said...

Compare and contrast with the LAPD performance in Torrance, where they shot up two hispanic ladies delivering newspapapers. One Hundred and three (103!) shots at the wrong people in the wrong make, model, color truck, without even identifying a suspect.

Anonymous said...

Just what we need, everyone and their grandma, including automatic rifle toting school boys, raining gunfire at bank robbers with hostages... Am I the only one who thinks this is absurd?

Anonymous said...

It was pure luck that innocent people were not harmed in the crossfire of this ridiculous chaos... why even risk innocent lives? I think the banks can absorb the loss, a mere flee bite to them...

Dean Weingarten said...

Why allow individuals who have proven themselves to be a threat to innocent persons and property an opportunity to continue their predations, when you have a chance to stop them.

This wasn't their first serious crime, and if the citizens of Eureka Springs had not intervened, it would not have been their last.

Unknown said...

Why, yes.

Unknown said...

As a tax payer I absorb all bank robbery losses through the FDIC. So do all other taxpayers.