With the ending of hostilities on Alcatraz the casualty list, convicts excepted, reads as follows:
Prison Guard H.P. Stites. His body was riddled by machine gun bullets.
Guard W.H. Miller. Before his death from bullet wounds and a crushed chest, Miller named Convict Joseph P. Cretzer as his murderer. Hospital authorities said Miller had been tortured.
Lieutenant Joseph H. Simpson, shot several times in the stomach. He
was placed under an oxygen tent.
Captain Henry H. Weinhold, shot twice in the stomach. He is also under an oxygen tent.
Guard Cecil D. Colwin, shot through the face. He lives at 2955 Van Ness avenue.
Robert R. Baker, shot in legs.
Fred J. Richberger, flesh wound in lower leg. He lives at 536 Parker avenue.
Harly Cochrane, wound in left arm.
Herschel R. Oldman, wound in left arm and leg.
Robert E. Sutter, shot in nose. Doctors report if Sutter had moved a few inches he would have been killed. He lives at 2702 Hyde street.
Elmus Besk, leg and face wounds. Residence: 128 Fourth Avenue.
Joseph Burdett, slight wounds.
E.B. Lageson, slight wounds.
Robert C. Bristow, slight wounds.
Fred S. Roberts, slight wounds.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 1946, page 3.
Here are the records of the three convicts killed in the Alcatraz uprising:
Bernard Paul Coy, 46, was serving a 25-year sentence for his part in a $2175 robbery of the Bank of New Haven, Ky., nine years ago.
Marvin Franklin Hubbard, 34, came to Alcatraz in November, 1944, after participating in a mutiny at Atlanta Federal Prison. He was serving time there for kidnaping a Chattanooga policeman, stealing a tommy gun, two revolvers and an automobile.
Joseph Paul Cretzer, 35, was doing 25 years for bank robbery, plus five for escape from McNeil Island, Washington, plus life for murdering a United State Marshall at Tacoma, where he was awaiting trail for escape from McNeil.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 1946, page 3.
Bodies of the Three Ringleaders End Up on Slabs, 30 Hours Cold
Huddled together, in one ambulance, the bodies of the three dead leaders of Alcatraz mutiny arrived ingloriously at San Francisco morgue yesterday afternoon.
They were shrunken, underweight bodies that had housed the desperate, malignant spirits of Joseph Paul Cretzer, Bernard Paul Coy and Marvin Franklin Hubbard.
Morgue attendants, who have practice at estimating such things, concluded that all three men had died at about the same time—30 hours before 6 o’clock Saturday evening. If they are right, that would be just about the time that cornered convicts called Warden James Johnston and asked for a deal.
This is the “truce” that ended at about 6 o’clock Friday night when a flurry of shots from within the prisoners’ citadel drowned out screams of those among the cornered men who wanted to accept the warden’s terms of unconditional surrender.
WHO SHOT THEM?
There was some speculation that the three leaders of the long-drawn prison revolt may have been shot by their comrades when the surrender truce ended.
Deputy Coroner Ray Brooks, examining the bodies, concluded that Cretzer and Hubbard died from rifle wounds, probably those from a heavy weapon, like the 30-06 that sharpshooters were using while Marines lobbied grenades into the prison. Coy, Brooks believes, died from pistol wounds.
One by one the bodies were removed from their ambulance, parked at the rear of the city’s Morgue in Kingston alley. They were carried into the Morgue by Brooks and Driver James Collins, who had removed them from the boat which transported them from Alcatraz to the Government pier.
First was Cretzer. His body was weighed—133 pounds, for a man standing five feet, six inches tall. Cretzer had been shot through the left temple above the right [sic] ear, and the bullet, in entering, had fragmented his skull. It tore flesh and bone in emerging at the side of the right ear. The path of the bullet, Brooks said, appeared to have been downward.
FOUR BULLETS IN COY
Next the body of Hubbard was removed. He had died either from what Brooks identified as a bullet wound above the left eye which crashed through the back of the man’s skull, or from a rifle bullet which entered the left side of his head above the ear and emerged through the right ear.
Finally, the remains of crafty Coy, credited with strategy which started the revolt, was brought into the morgue. Four bullets had torn through his body. One ripped through his neck, one his right shoulder, one his left cheek and one his left ear. Brooks identified Coy’s wounds as probably caused by a pistol.
Guards at Alcatraz had surmised that the three desperate convicts had been killed by grenade fragments. But Brooks identified the wounds as being caused by bullets. He said the puncture wounds did not appear to resemble those that would be caused by steel fragments. But the way in which these three died will be certainly determined this morning, when an autopsy is performed at the morgue here.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 1946, page 3.
‘You Can’t Coop Up Men and Take All Hope Away From Them’
By Robert De Roos
It is easy to forget that the convicts who died in the abortive Alcatraz Prison break had friends.
Yesterday, a former Alcatraz inmate who did his stretch of 11 years on The Rock, came forward with this story, a story that is at once a thoughtful word for the dead and a bitter denunciation of the prison system he blames.
Calmly, sincerely, he criticized the harsh reality of Alcatraz Prison, a place without hope, a physical prison which is the more all terrible because it is a prison of the mind. He should know. He was there from the time it became a Federal Prison.
He criticized Warden James A. Johnston and James V. Bennett, director Federal Bureau of Prisons, as symbols of repressive system.
This is the convict, a mail robber, talking:
“I’m out now. I’ve got no beef. I just want to see something done so things like this riot won’t happen again.
“I know that if they treated the prisoners half civilly, the wouldn’t react like vicious beasts.
“You can’t coop up men and take all hope away from them.
“Warden Johnston always says the trouble with Alcatraz prisoners is that they want their freedom. That’s right. They want to get out.
“They realize they are in prison.
“If they were treated better they’d still try to get out, but they wouldn’t shoot innocent people, in cold blood.
“A good example of that is Joe Cretzer. He was a nice young boy and I liked him. Well, he tried to get out of Alcatraz five years ago, remember?
“What did he do then? He captured four guards in the mat shop. He had knives and hammers. But he didn’t use them. He didn’t harm the guards.
“Now look. This time he was shooting people in cold blood, at least that’s what the reports say.
“You see the way the place worked on him?
“Look, I’ve been pushed around over there and I yapped right back. I had my share of troubles. I’ve been in isolation and in the dungeon—11 days barefoot on a concrete floor, six or seven days without food—and it is tough.
“But not as tough as going without newspapers. Or only getting to see a show six or seven times a year.
“Every time we got any privileges—Johnston calls them privileges, but I say they are necessities—somebody had to suffer.
“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Johnston’s and Bennett’s system doesn’t work. If it worked they wouldn’t be in trouble so often.
“Of course, Johnston has to defend the system. And he has to whitewash everything. He got to make people believe he’s got 300 desperadoes on his hands. Shucks, there aren’t more than 50—I’ll bet not 20—really hardened, desperate men in the place.
“But they won’t give you a break.
“I was a seaman before I started stealing. Well, at the beginning of the war when they needed seamen so, I asked for a parole—I had three years to go—so I could go to sea.
“Johnston said he thought it was a good idea. But Bennett wouldn’t have it. They had to have the last drop of blood.
“THE MENTAL TREATMENT”
“Nobody’s asking them to take the guards away. Nobody’s asking for them to turn the place into a country club. All the guys want is some, just a little consideration.
“I never saw anyone got smacked around over there unless he was really out of order. It isn’t the physical treatment, it’s the mental treatment you get.
“The only thing that kept me going was the thought that I could get out some day. I had a home to come to and a trade to get back to.
“My friends say I took it pretty good. Eleven years in Alcatraz is a long, long time. I wish something could be done about that place—the little things that would count.”
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 1946, page 4.
G-Men Study Evidence for Federal Jury
By Alvin D. Hyman
The Rock was quiet yesterday.
After three days and two nights of riot and murder and battle, the Federal Pentiteniary on Alcatraz Island settled back in its worksday groove, still flaunting the 12-year reputation as an escape-proof prison.
Sabbath stillness replaced gunfire and scarems as Alcatraz totted up the cost of maintaining itself as a “maximum security” institution.
Two guards were dead, shot down at the very outset of the prison’s most violent test.
Thirteen others were wounded, two so seriously their life still hung in the balance yesterday.
Three convicts lay in San Francisco’s morgue—the ringleaders of a major escape plot against impossible odds.
Three of their recruits sat in solitary confinement at Alcatraz, contemplating their failure, while authorities sought to discover how many others had taken a fling at the foolhardy venture.
The prison itself was battered. Its concrete walls pock-marked by bullets. Its steel work bent and twisted by grenades. Its fixtures uprooted by rioting convicts.
Through this litter of battle, FBI agents moved in search of evidence which one day will be exhibited to a Federal jury when the United States Government demands the death penalty for convicts whose work it was.
Other G-men put questions to wounded guards still confined to the Marine Hospital, carrying on one of the numerous investigations spawned by the prison revolt.
Danil C. Deasy, assistant U.S. attorney whose assignment covers crimes on Federal reservations, disclosed that evidence gathered by the FBI will probably be laid before the Federal grand jury with a request for indictment.
“If the evidence results in indictments charging murder,” he said, “I feel certain that the prosecution will demand the death penalty.”
Participants in the uprising, he said, face such charges as murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and consipiracy to break jail.
He indicated that a week or more will be required for study of the evidence before it is submitted to the grand jury.
But the Federal court will act today on one matter associated with the uprising. It will call the name of Marvin Hubbard, whose petition for release on a writ of habeas corpus scheduled for hearing. It will take judicial notice of the fact that Hubbard, object of curiosity for visitors to the morgue, has no further use of the court’s rulings.
NAVY DEMOLITION MEN
At the request of Warden James A. Johnston, the Navy put a small force on the island—a demolition crew—bomb-disposal experts, to gather up unexploded grenades and clear the cell-house against the danger of their accidental discharge.
The veteran penologist, who personally directed the long fight against the desperate rioters, reported that the prison had resumed its normal routine and that utter calmness prevailed.
His superior in the prison service, James V. Bennett, boss of all Federal penitentiaries, was unstinted in his praise of the Alcatraz personnel and the handling of the emergency. Bennett flew to San Francisco from Washington on Saturday, and set foot on Alcatraz shortly after the stiffened bodies of the three leaders were found in the depths of a steel service corridor.
“There was not the least indication of negligence or carelesness or inefficiency in this affair,” Bennett said. “The felons found and took advantage of a weakness which not the most experienced and able prison man could anticipate.
“When the emergency broke, it was handled intelligently, courageously, and with great devotion to duty.
“Casualities were kept to a minimum. After the first half hour or so, there were no casulaties, except among the rioters.
“What was to have been a mass escape, failed utterly. Warden Johnston deserves high commendation.”
This comment came after he and Warden Johnston had made a thorough exmination of the cell-house, studying the battered area where convicts had fought prison guards from 2:30 Thursday afternoon until midmorning Saturday.
Possibility that an investigation may be forthcoming in Washington was brought forward by George P. Miller, Representative for California Sixth Congressional District, which embraces Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
Stating a belief the whole story of the rioting and the causes has not yet been produced, Miller asserted he will insist upon further, fuller inquiry.
When he returns to Washington this week, he said, he will ask the Department of Justice to undertake the investigation.
If results in that quarter are unsatifactory, he will call upon Congress, by resolution, to dig to the bottom of the entire affair.
A routine investigation, occasioned by the fact Alcatraz lies within San Francisco’s jurisdiction, will be undertaken by Coroner J.J. Kingston. Some time today, it is expected, he will set a date for the inquest into the deaths of two guards and three convicts.
Preliminary to that inquest, Dr. G. Kerbulas, autopsy surgeon, subjected the bodies of Joseph Paul Cretzer, Bernard Paul Coy and Marvin F. Hubbard to post-mortem examination.
It developed nothing which did not confirm the supposition already put forward by prison authorities: that the three leaders of the revolt died fighting in the tunnel-like corridor beneath Cell Block C, where for two days or more they withstood the assualts of augmented prison forces.
The physical evidence clearly refuted conjectures any of the trio committed suicide. The number and location of the wounds made such a theory untenable, authorities said.
From the Warden’s office, which for the first time in all the prison’s history was thrown open to a press conference on Saturday night, came disclosure that three convicts, known to have been active in the uprising had been banished to solitary confinement.
They are: Clarence Carnes, Oklahoma kidnaper and murderer, whose doing 99 years; Miran “Buddy” Thompson, serving a similar term for identical crimes, and Sam Shockley, lifer who combined kidnaping with bank robbery in Oklahoma.
FIGHT OF WOUNDED
At the Marine Hospital, meanwhile, two of the wounded guards were being helped in their fight for life by oxygen and penicillin. One is Captain Henry Weinhold, into whose stomach the trigger-happy Cretzer had wantonly pumped two .45-caliber slugs. The other is Lieutenant Joseph Simpson, who received multiple wounds in the body.
Warden Johnston and Bennett spent two hours at the hospital yesterday questioning those wounded guards whose condition permitted them to talk.
To Captain Weinhold and Lieutenant Joseph Simpson, lying in their oxygen tents, Johnston and Bennett called out a message of encouragement:
“You did a good job. You showed a lot of guts!” they told the wounded men.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 6 May 1946, pages 1 and 9.
How Was Escape Plotted?
What Was Franklin’s Role?
How Did Coy Make Bar-Spreader?
Why Was Cretzer Sure They’d Fail?
By Stanton Delaplane
The story of the Alcatraz riot beings to take final shape now. But it leaves teasing questions.
What did Whitey Franklin have that Joe Cretzer needed? Slugged guard Burch heard Cretzer say: “Well, that———it up. Frisco’s as far away as ever!” when he was unable to free killer Rufus Franklin from his electric-locked cell.
“Franklin and Cretzer were in isolation together once and probably hatched the scheme,” Warden Johnston surmised yesterday. “Franklin was just the kind of tough guy, a guard killer, they needed.”
It’s still anyone’s guess. How long did Cretzer plan the escape? How long did Bernard Coy have the home-made bar spreader that got him into the gun gallery? The ingenious tool made of toilet parts—how did he make it?
What were the details of that long planned escape—each detail so essential that Cretzer knew, 10 minutes after he started, that the game was lost?
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
The story was somewhat pieced together Saturday night at revolt’s end by Warden James A. Johnston and Federal Prison Director James Bennett. It was an historic session, the first press conference on The Rock.
While nerved-up convicts cat-called “Saltwater Johnson,” the big 72-year-old warden took newsmen into the big cellhouse.
It is apparent now that Johnston had the break controlled Thursday night. The drama of shooting thereafter was dangerous drudgery.
Out of Alcatraz during the three days came all sorts of stories:
The warden was held by the convicts. This was untrue. Johnston never was held.
The convicts had machine guns, 3000 rounds of ammunition. Untrue. The convicts had the original rifle with 50 rounds and the pistol with 21 rounds that they took from Guard Burch when Coy slugged him after forcing the gun gallery.
Convict Carnes had a knife, probably taken from the kitchen.
Sam Shockley, Tex Thompson and some others had gas billies thrown down from the gun gallery. They all had gas masks from the same place.
There was a story that convicts forced the armory. This was untrue. The convicts NEVER got outside the cellhouse.
To understand this, think of Alcatraz cellhouse as a big lion cage. There are only two entrances: One is the back gate leading to the walled exercise yard: the other leads into the front offices and guard rooms.
This huge cell house holds four cell blocks. Each block is made of three tiers of individual cages with catwalks like a porch running around the outside of each level. These are cell blocks A, B, C and D. All are inside the same four walls.
But D block for the tough boys has been somewhat separated. A concrete wall running the length of the building makes a separate room. D block sits in the center.
The gun gallery is two levels of barred catwalk, stuck on the side of the wall. It runs crossways to the cell blocks, across the building. Walking up and down, the gun guard can look down each corridor and help any floor guard in trouble. It cannot be entered from inside the cell house. Guards go in from outside the building through a double set of steel doors.
No guard EVER gets into the cellhouse with a gun.
WHEN GUARDS DIED
This held true during the riot until Saturday morning. Thursday, Warden Johnston did not dare send men onto the floor of this big cage with guns that might be lost in fighting. Wounded guards were pulled out of the dark where convicts ran loosed, by unarmed men.
The first step of the fight left one guard dead and three wounded. That was when they tried to fight from outside into the gun gallery.
By Thursday night, guards in the gallery had driven the convicts back into the three tiers of C block. They controlled the corridors between C and B. The closed off D block. The fight from there on was between guards shooting into C block and convicts firing back.
It was apparent that Johnston and his guards did an excellent job of control.
Guard Miller lost his life and kept the convicts in.
When Miller was held up, he tossed the key to the backdoor and freedom into an empty cell. Convicts beat and shot him to death trying to find that key.
After that they never had a chance.
“The first thing a prisoner does is case the joint,” said Johnston. “They watch everything, ever guard. They look and look for a weak point.
“Coy had been watching Burch for days. He knew just how long it took for Burch to make his rounds of the gun gallery in D block. When the chance came, he monkey-climbed the bars and spread them.”
Johnston sits on dynamite.
“In the last year we had 65 prisoners transferred here as too tough for other places. Those 65 have a record of 69 successful escapes, 16 tries that failed and 12 plots that were discovered.”
“Hot” prisoners are placed in the separated D block.
Just when things look safe, along comes a tractable semi-trusty like Coy, tearing the place apart.
Every guard goes into the lion cage knowing that convict eyes appraise every move. Watching and waiting.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 6 May 1946, pages 1 and 9.
Evidence on which the Government will rely to send ringleaders of the Alcatraz revolt to death in the San Quentin gas chamber still was being gathered yesterday in the wreckage of the three-day battle.
While prison routine returned to its normal grooves, work crews repaired damage and FBI agents pressed their investigation.
Thus far, it was learned, four inmates face virtually certain prosecution—four whose names appeared on the original list of riot-leaders telegraphed from the island by Warden James A. Johnston while the fight still raged. They are Sam Shockley, Miran “Tex” Thompson, Clarence Carnes and Louis Fleish.
THREE OTHERS DIED
The other three who made up the Warden’s list died in the dark, cluttered prison corridor where they made their last stand. They were Paul Coy, Joseph Paul Cretzer and Myron Hubbard. Their bodies were removed from the San Francisco Morgue yesterday to the funeral parlors of Julius S. Godeau to await claims of relatives or burial in potters field.
Inquiries indicated the body of Hubbard may be claimed by relatives, but thus far nobody had asked for the bodies of Cretzer and Coy.
In the chapel of Nat C. Maneely & Co., 1363 Divisadero street, numerous friends and relatives gathered yesterday for services for Harold P. Stites, guard, who died while attempting to rescue a wounded colleague from the fury of the rioting convicts. Internment was in the National Cemetery.
Meanwhile, Warden Johnston disclosed, contributions began pouring into the island toward a fund for the families of the two dead guards, Stites and W.A. Miller. Miller was killed when performing an act of heroism which kept a key to the cellhouse away from the rioters, and definitely forestalled the plot to escape.
Not only fellow-workers at Alcatraz, but employes of Federal prisons throughout the Nation, hastened to add to the fund. In several instances, Alcatraz employes put their entire pay check into the collection, the warden said.
So fast were contributions arriving, he said, that no attempt to estimate the total amount has yet been made.
JOHNSTON VISITS WOUNDED
Warden Johnston visited the Marine Hospital, where two of the wounded prison force are still in critical condition. They are Captain Henry Weinhold and Lieutenant Joseph Simpson. Eleven other guards were wounded, but all are out of danger, physicians reported.
Captain Weinhold’s condition was so serious that an emergency blood transfusion became necessary late yesterday. Because his son, Henry Weinhold, is in the Maritime service, an appeal was made to the service school in Alameda for donors.
Vernon Johnson, Herbert L. Charles and John C. Hansen responded and raced from Alameda to the Marine Hospital, under police escort, in 30 minutes.
The city and county of San Francisco will conduct a formal inquiry into the outbreak next Friday when Coroner John J. Kingston holds an inquest into the five deaths. Prison officials, guards and FBI agents are expected to testify—but no convicts.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 8 May 1946, page 8.
Edna May Cretzer, alias Kay Wallace Benedetti, whose husband, Joseph Paul Cretzer, was killed leading the Alcatraz prison break riot, appeared in police court yesterday charge with shoplifting.
With her older sister, Helen, she is accused of stealing a hat, coat, and three brassieres from a department store last month. Both women pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial.
Attorney John Murphy, identifying Kay Wallace as Cretzer’s “friend” rather than his wife, said she had planned to claim the body of the slain convict today.
The FBI, however, identifies her as Mrs. Cretzer.
The Federal agents also charge that she served as the lookout for Cretzer and her brother, Arnold Kyle, when they were known as the Nation’s No. 1 bank-robbing team. They add that as Kay Wallace she was charged at one time with shooting an Indiana policeman.
Police here charged she jumped $10,000 bail in 1938 when she was accused of putting 17-year-old Jeanne Walters into her Contra Costa house of prostitution, one of the most unsavory white slave cases on record.
Mrs. Cretzer and her sister live at 175 Blythdale, in the Sunnyvale Housing Project in Visitacion Valley.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 8 May 1946, page 8.
Warden and Guards Relate First-Hand Details of Struggle
Warden James A. Johnston’s first terrifying report of the murderous revolt inside Alcatraz on May 2—a report that rampaging convicts were armed with a machine gun—was based on an understandable error on the part of E.J. Miller, associate warden.
For the first time, Warden Johnston cleared up that persistent mystery yesterday as he went before an inquest into the deaths of two guards and three convicts who died in the three-day battle.
The inquest produced findings that Harold P. Stites and W.A. Miller, guards, died from gunshot wounds “inflicted by Joseph Paul Cretzer, Bernard Paul Coy, and Marvin Hubbard and other convicts.” It charged all convicts involved with murder.
And it dismissed the killing of the convicts Cretzer, Coy and Hubbard by unidentified guards as “justifiable homicide.”
Before proceeding into the inquest, Warden Johnston explained the erroneous machine gun report thus:
At the first sign of trouble, Miller hurried into the cellhouse to investigate. Unsuspectingly, he walked into the muzzle of a rifle wielded by Coy, who was disguised in a guard’s uniform.
Coy fired twice, setting off a gas-billy in Miller’s hand. Stunned and half-blinded, Miller staggered back to the Warden’s office and reported “Coy’s loose in there with a machine gun.”
At once, Warden Johnston flashed the first word of the revolt to the mainland. He included the assertion: “Convict has machine gun in cell house.”
This assertion gave rise to rumors convicts had stormed the prison armory, had taken guard-towers, had smuggled an arsenal into the prison.
“We learned within a few hours,” the Warden said, “that there was no machine gun and that the convicts had only the rifle and the .45 automatic taken from Bert Burch, the guard in the gun gallery. But at that time, we were too busy to send a correction.”
GUARD BURCH’S STORY
Burch, himself, told the Coroner’s jury just how Coy, having squeezed his way through presumably toolproof bars into the gun gallery, surprised and disarmed him.
“Coy must have been crouched behind a small wooden door set in the gallery to stop draughts,” the guard testified. “As I took hold of the door to pull it open, he hit it and the door swung open and pinned me against the wall. I was off balance and before I could get set he was throwing the door on top of me. He gave it to me with a club.”
Burch rubbed the side of his jaw and went on: “The first lick he hit me was here. I threw up my rifle, instinctively, and he grabbed it with one hand and hit me again but I dodged and took it on the back of my head.
“We were pulling and hauling, and I was giving back when I must have tripped over a lunch-box. Anyway, I went down on my back, and we both let go of the rifle and it clattered to the floor. He was on top of me when we hit.
“I had my gun in a holster on my hip and it was under me. We both struggled to get it. Somehow or another, it got away from both of us. When he saw I didn’t have it, he twisted my arm up behind me, and beat me on the back of the head, and then worked his fingers into my collar and hooked them and began choking me.
“The next thing I can remember, I was tied to a conduit pipe and he was out in the cell block. I was stripped to my underclothes.”
INSIDE THE CELL BLOCK
Happenings inside the cell-block were related in rich detail by Ernest Lageson, junior guard, only one of nine prison officers who came unhurt through Cretzer’s cold, merciless attempt at massacre.
Going about his duties in the main cell-block, he had heard the commotion of the newly started uprising in Cell-Block D and had started to investigate when he was met by Coy. At that time Coy was swinging a billy-club and he informed the guard: “This is it, Mr. Lageson,” and, motioned him toward D block.
Amid screams of “That’s the —— —— —— we want!” and “Get that dirty, motorcycle ——!” Coy and his fellow rioters herded nine guards into two adjoining cells.
Lageson was able to identify those convicts: Hubbard, bearing the rifle; Clarence Carnes, swinging a club; Coy, with a club; Cretzer, with the .45 automatic, and Louis Fleish “unarmed, just standing there, saying nothing.”
After long fumbling with and testing of keys taken from the captive guards, the convicts concluded the guards had tricked them. “Sam Shockley and Miran Thompson made a great to-do about letting us live,” Lageson related. “They kept saying: ‘We’ll kill every —— —— —— so none of them will be left to testify if we make it into town.”
“YOU’RE GOING TO DIE”
“Captain Henry Weinhold was in our cell, and he began telling Cretzer the convicts weren’t getting any place. So Shockley said: ‘You’re all going to die,’ and Weinhold answered: ‘Well, we can only die once,’ and Shockley said: ‘Yes, and you’re sure going to.”
“Then Cretzer put his .45 through the bars and shot Mr. Weinhold, who fell on the floor, and shot Mr. W.A. Miller, who fell back on the bunk with his feet hanging over. He shot around the corner at three other guards in the cell and then he shot at me and missed, and I shammed and fell down in the corner.
“He moved on to the next cell and fired four or five shots at the three men in there. Then Shockley came back and saw me and shouted ‘That —— —— —— —— in the corner is still alive.’
“Cretzer put his gun between the bars and aimed and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. He took the clip out and put in another and said, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Lageson,’ and pulled the trigger. I ducked and rolled and the bullet just creased me on the cheek, but I lay there and played dead.”
Frank Johnson, lieutenant of the guard, described the battle waged by a half-dozen guards who made their way into the gun gallery through convicts’ enfilade fire. One was shot down in the attempt and another—Stites—was killed a few minutes after reaching the gallery.
Witnesses heard included Mrs. Bessie Stites, widow of the slain guard; Dr. T.O. Carver, who treated the wounded at Marine Hospital; Dr. Louis Roucek, prison physician; and Drs. Jeanne Miller and Gus Karhules, autopsy surgeons.
Frank J. Hennessy, U.S. attorney who will prosecute the surviving “other convicts” who will be tried for the murder of the two guards, participated actively in the questioning of witnesses.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle, 11 May 1946, pages 1 and 7.