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Our vigilante past
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While today’s criminal justice system can, at times, seem to favor the guilty and punish the innocent, all one needs to do to get the proper perspective is read the history page published every Saturday in the Journal.
The history page is where you can find newspaper stories of old, thanks to Scott Atherton and his dedication to preserving and promoting local history. I urge you to not bypass this page in your quest for up to date news and information, as there are amazing — and sometimes disturbing — tales that are recounted.
In the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal, a crime story first published on Nov. 12, 1919 made me appreciate our current legal system even more than I already do. This particular article reported the unfortunate shooting of a local high school boy by Night Policeman Archie Warner.
First off, what is with the Night Policeman title? Was Officer Warner forbidden to work in the daytime? Or did his title just change to Day Policeman Warner after sunrise?
Anyway, the story went on to tell how a couple of teenagers hotrodding through town had their joyride ended with one receiving gunshot wounds. Here is an excerpt from the original Turlock Journal story:
“It appears that Ramos was riding in a car driven by Charles Dorr and as it seemed to Night Policeman Archie Warner that they were going entirely too fast for the safety of the public he ordered them to stop.
“As they gave no heed to his order he drew his gun and fired at one of the wheels of the car at a distance of something like half a block; the bullet struck the pavement and glanced upward, striking young Ramos in the back just under the shoulder blade and coming out in the upper part of his breast.”
The article goes on to say that Ramos was taken to the hospital, but at the time this particular article came out, his condition was unknown. But this is not the interesting part of the story.
What happens next is something straight out of classic Western movie. Town residents, angered by the shooting of the teen, turned into a mob and started searching for Officer Warner. According to the article, the crowd did not disburse until the police commissioner and city marshal vowed “the law would be upheld and the officer protected if it required the presence of every deputy sheriff in the county.”
Wow. You never see an angry mob in Turlock anymore. And while as an editor my mouth waters at the headlines an angry mob would warrant, as a resident of Turlock I am glad that we generally leave the meting out of justice to law enforcement and the court system.
Can you imagine if Turlockers took to the streets and supplied their own justice for every crime or perceived crime? The jails would be a lot emptier, but it would not take long for a modern-day Salem witch trial to develop.
I hope things worked out for the Ramos boy and Officer Warner. I, for one, am glad that in today’s world: 1. Officers rarely shoot at moving vehicles; and 2. Most citizens have faith that anyone who does wrong, including police officers, will face justice in our courts.
Now if we can only convince New Yorkers.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.