March 23, 1921
Father admits shooting; Claims self-defense in killing of dry officers
Five men are held for deaths of Beckett and Wood in midnight liquor raid; Will be arraigned tomorrow.
Following the killing of S.E. Beckett, chief prohibition agent in charge of the El Paso office in the absence of Director James Shevlin, and C. Arch Wood, chief of the field forces of the border district, which occurred about midnight Monday at the Shearman hog ranch five miles east of the city, deputy sheriffs and federal officers yesterday afternoon arrested C.P. Shearman and his two sons, Allen and John, and Tomas Mendoza, a Mexican ranch hand, employed by the Shearmans.
Neil Shearman, the fifth member of the party charged with the murder of the two officers, shortly before 11 o’clock last night, telephoned to the office of the sheriff and informed Deputy Sheriff J.C. Stansel that he was at his home and requested the sheriff to come out and get him.
Deputy Sheriff Stansel went to the home at 2016 Federal street, where he found Shearman in company with his attorney, John Dyer, and they went to the county jail, where Neil Shearman was booked on a murder charge with his father, two brothers and the ranch hand. They will be given a hearing before Justice Rawlins Thursday.
Shearman stated that he had been at his home all day with the exception of a time in the afternoon when he came downtown. He could not say whether or not he was at the ranch the night of the shooting and declined to talk regarding the affair.
Following his arrest C.P. Shearman accompanied deputy sheriffs to his son’s home expecting to find him and urge him to surrender. Not finding him there the father expressed the belief that he would shortly return.
C.P. Shearman talked freely of the shooting to Deputy Sheriff J.C Stansel who headed the posse that made the arrest. He made no denial of participation in it and stated that the killing was in self-defense and that the officers opened fire.
In contradiction of Shearman’s version of the shooting the federal officers tell a story of treachery, ambuscade and massacre, in which the two officers were killed and W.C. Guinn and J.S. Parker, prohibition agents, who had accompanied Beckett and Wood, narrowly escaped with their lives. To substantiate their story agents say the pistols of their dead comrades are not powder fouled indicating they had not been discharged.
The story of the federal officers is one of men shot down without warning by those to whom they had just conversed with pleasantly and who had ensured the officer of no opposition to their prosecution of the search for which they had warrants.
The officers had been told, they claim, of a sick youth in the house and the desire of the father to avoid excitement on his account. They had permitted the father to go into the house and had given him time to give assurances to the sick boy. At his request they had permitted him to return to his automobile and take into the house the repeating shotgun, which, it is alleged, was afterward turned upon the officers and did deadly execution.
First Volley “Gets” Them
Relying upon his peaceable protestation officers Beckett and Wood had started from the front of the house to the garage at one side of the rear. They had hardly cleared the front of the house when several shots were fired from the rear and both men fell at the first shots.
But neither was fatally wounded, as the ground evidence shows. Both made efforts to crawl out of range and each received additional wounds in doing so. There are indications that each was shot at close range after death had ensued.
Officer Guinn took refuge in a chicken house on the opposite side of the ranch house, while office Parker left the scene to telephone to the city for reinforcements.
Searching for the missing officers whom he knew to have been on the place, it is alleged that C.P. Shearman started for the chicken house where Officer Guinn was concealed. As Shearman started to enter, Guinn fired and several buckshot passed through the rim and crown of the sombrero which Shearman as wearing. Shearman had on the hat showing the holes, when he was taken in custody yesterday afternoon.
This is said to have been the only shot fired by the prohibition officers on the ranch.
Capture Is Dramatic
The arrest of C.P. Shearman and his son, John, were made at 2130 Lebanon street yesterday afternoon, shortly after 2 o’clock and that of Allan Shearman was made on the effect in front of the house. He being alone but for the crowd of spectators that had been attracted to the scene.
Led by Deputy Sheriff J.C. Stansel, a posse consisting of deputy sheriffs Kilpatrick, Boone and Perkins. Tom White and John Wrenn of the department of justice force, and four prohibition officers, went to the house in Lebanon street in search of the Shearmans. The house is occupied by Ben McCreary. It is stated by the officers that Mrs. McCreary is the sister of the wife of Neill Shearman.
The house was found o be closed. Repeated calls failed to bring any response. The officers finally located McCreary and he told them the Shearman had come to his house at 1:20 o’clock in the morning, told him there had been trouble at the ranch, but did not state what, and had remained all night.
He said they were at the house when he left early in the morning to go to work, but that they might have left since then. He applied his key to the door, but the door was found to be bolted from the inside.
Securing a pick, Deputy Sheriff Stansel broke open the door. The house was hurriedly searched by the officers but the Shearmans were not found. An opening in a ceiling of a closet gave access to a false garret, which was peered into by some of the officers but nothing was seen.
When the officers had about concluded that the men had left, Deputy Stansel decided to have a look at the garret. Using the shelves as foot and hand holds he climbed up and poked his head through the opening in the ceiling
Shearman Covers Stansel
He looked into a 45 six-shooter in the hands of C.P. Shearman. Standing nearby was John Shearman, but unarmed.
“Come on down here and give yourself up,” Stansel said to Shearman.
“Have you got enough men to protect us, Stansel?” asked Shearman, “We are not coming down just to be killed.”
“I’ve got plenty of men and you will not be hurt,” Stansel replied, and in a few minutes they were all in the living room.
In the meantime a large crowd had gathered from the neighborhood. Passerbys were attracted by bolts from the inside, an officer went to a telephone and called up the sheriff’s office. Deputy Sheriff Bryan answered and the officer asked that the fumigating outfit of the health department be sent out.
“What do you want with that? Asked Bryan.
“Yes,” came the reply.
“Then you don’t need any gas plant; he knows how to make them come out.” Remarked the deputy sheriff and hung up the phone.
Police officers Scherer and Holsiman last night claimed credit for having discovered the presence of C.P. Shearman and his son, John, in the attic. According to Scherer’s story, he first investigated the attic and failed to see the men. He went outside the house, took an observation of the chimney, he says, and came to the conclusion that they could be hiding behind it.
Upon re-entering the house, he says, he and Officer Holsiman discovered Shearman’s hat with the bullet holes in it and six-shooter which convinced him they were there. He says he then took another observation of the attic and discovered the men.
The trip to the sheriff‘s office, where the men were booked, was uneventful. Except for the conversation the eldest Shearman had with the deputy sheriff. The deputy sheriff has not given out that conversation in detail as it will probably be used as evidence, but it is known that Shearman admitted the shooting and alleged that it was done in self-defense.
Shearman and his son John were in excellent spirits when they arrived at the county court house and laughed and chatted with friends, whom they recognized in the crowd that had been attracted by the arrest. Allan Shearman had been represented to the officers as being ill in the ranch house, which caused the delay in the search and gave time for the ambuscade, according to the officers.
In contradiction to his father and brother John, who are physical giants, Allan is an invalid. His face and frame show the ravages of disease and it is said he has recently undergone an operation. He was not in the house at the time of the arrest, but was pointed out to the officers by his father when they came out. He was standing across the street in the crowd being kept back by the police officers.
Young Shearman Defiant
When deputy Sheriff Kilpatrick came over and told him to come the sick youth drew back and retorted: “You can’t arrest me without a warrant.”
The deputy told him that he had a warrant for him and the boy demanded that he be shown it. When shown the document, he accompanied the officer across the street and joined the party entering automobiles for the trip to the county jail.
But he had little to say. When being booked before being locked up he answered questions as briefly and as snappily as he could.
After the men were booked at the jail, Deputy Stangel questioned C.P. Shearman regarding the whereabouts of this son Neil. The father stated his belief that Neil would be found at home and offered to accompany the officers there and induce him to surrender.
They went to the residence, but found there only Mrs. Neil Shearman. She stated that her husband had been there throughout most of the day, but that he had left the house shortly before and she did not know where he had gone.
Mrs. Shearman Drives Up
Shortly after the house in Lebanon street had been surrounded by deputy sheriffs and federal officers yesterday afternoon. Mrs. Neil Shearman drove up in an automobile and stopped in the front of the residence. The engine to the car was kept running and she sounded the horn several short, sharp blasts and then gave a long one.
With her hand still on the button, she looked around and saw a man with a repeating rifle nearby. A few feet further was another with a reapeting shotgun. Others with rifles and six shooters began to appear from around the house, attracted by the automobile signal.
The long blast died out as the clutch was let in and the sudden speed with which the car darted off and shot around a corner showed that the accelerator was being held down to the limit.
While the Shearmans and Tomas Mendoza, the Mexican ranch hand, who were arrested early yesterday morning at the ranch, are held under state warrants issued by Justice Rawlins following his investigation into the deaths of the two federal officers, it is stated that the case can be brought within federal jurisdiction. Last night it was said the prisoners would be arraigned Thursday before Justice Rawlins.
Whether any such effort will be made will be determined today after the arrival of E.R. Elfers, assistant United States district attorney. Attorney Elfers was leaving for El Paso and is expected to arrive here this morning.
In the absence of the district attorney United States Commissioner A.J. W. Schmid yesterday went in an advisory capacity to the federal officers. He visited the scene of the killing in company with the officers and advised as to the investigation.
Later a conference was held between Commissioner Schmid, Justice Rawlins, District Attorney Clark and County Attorney Pelphrey. It is expected that other conference in which District Attorney Elfers will participate, will be held today.
The course to be pursued by federal officers, it is expected, will be decided after Attorney Elfers has made his investigation.
It is claimed that Officer Beckett and Wood were engaged actively on federal business, armed with a federal warrant, and that they were proceeding to carry out the instructions of the warrant when they were killed in the performance of that duty.
This, it was claimed by federal officers yesterday, may be set up to bring the case under federal jurisdiction.
Others maintained that this killing not having taken place on the federal reservation come within the state jurisdiction and that state officers are not likely to waive jurisdiction and relinquish any right of the state.
Story of Killing
Officers Beckett and Wood were killed Monday shortly before midnight at the Shearman hog ranch, about five miles east of El Paso, where they had gone in company with Prohibition Agents, Parker and Guinn to make a search for controlled liquor. Before going Officer Beckett secured search warrants from United Sates Commissioner Schmid.
Neil Shearman at the time was out on $5,000 bond on a charge of violating the prohibition law and was to have been given a trial in United States district court at the April term. The officers had information that a large consignment of liquor was to be landed at the hog ranch Monday night and went prepared to intercept it.
Shortly after their arrival at the ranch and before they had made their presence known, C. P. Shearman drove up in his automobile. He was halted and shown the warrants of authority to make the search.
It is claimed by the officers that Shearman laughed and that they were mistaken. He said they had nothing to conceal and the officer so would be welcome to search.
He told them they say, that he had a sick boy in the house who was probably asleep, and asked that the be permitted to go inside and give the boy warning so that he would not be excited and disturbed when the officers came in. The officers agreed to this they say, and Shearman started in, apparently in a pleasant frame of mind.
When he had gone a few steps he turned around and returned to his car where the officers were still standing.
Returns for Gun
“My shotgun is in the car and I might as well take it in now,” Shearman is reported to have said and the officers permitted him to take the automatic gun along with him into the house.
A few minutes afterward Beckett and Wood started to go around the house in the direction of the garage to the rear. As they came around the corner of the house and stared toward the garage, where they expected to find some contraband, a volley of shots was fired and both men fell.
Condition of the ground shows that both men attempted to crawl away and wounds on their bodies show that they were shot while in the crawling position. The first shot to strike Officer Wood, it is thought, struck him in the right leg about four inches above the ankle. This was apparently a dum-dum bullet, as it spread and almost tore the foot from the leg. He received two wounds in the neck, one of which also was apparently from a dum-dum, two buckshot wounds in the front of the body, buckshot wounds in the leg and a wound in the left side two and one half inches long, apparently from a dum-dum.
Officer Beckett did not receive so many wounds. He had a wound in the right side, just above the hip, thought to have been the first received, and another wound from a dum-dum entering the right check and coming out of the neck. A pistol wound in the center of the forehead, just below the hair is thought to have been administered after he was dead.
Following the shooting four men are said to have been seen by prohibition officers to enter an automobile and drive away from the ranch.
Slain Men Had Families
Funeral arrangements for S.J. Beckett had not been made last night, pending the arrival of hi father and other members of the family. He was 31 years old and leaves a wife and two small children, Robert, aged 8 and Dorothy, aged 6. He was married 10 years ago to Miss Rose Arfaten in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Mr. Beckett was a native of Nebraska and came to Texas shortly after his marriage. For a time he was a member of the rangers and later entered the immigration service. When the prohibition force was organized under the Volstead act, he transferred to that service and was made chief prohibition agent by Director James Shelvin. He was regarded as one of the best officers on the border.
Besides his wife and two children, he leaves a father and mother and three sisters; Mrs. J. Green of Hollywood, Cal., Mrs. L.H. Knetle of Omaha, Neb. And Mrs. H.E. Isard of Omaha.
The body of C. Arch Wood will be taken today to Abilene, his childhood home, for burial. Funeral services will be held there on Thursday. He leaves a wife and daughter, Elizabeth, 14 years of age. They have continued to reside in San Antonio since Mr. Wood had been station in El Paso.
Mr. Wood was formerly a member of the narcotic force in San Antonio. He was transferred to El Paso when the border prohibition district was created last October and was made chief of the filed force for the district.