Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ione shooting spree leaves one dead, six injured

A notorious ex-convict with a penchant for troublemaking went on a drunken shooting spree July 2, 1909, in the tiny town of Ione, Oregon. By the time Theodore G. “Charlie” Earhart ran out of ammunition, six men were injured and a Portland man was dead.

Earhart was well-known for his bad character, and had been pardoned just six months prior after serving two years in the Oregon penitentiary for assault with a deadly weapon. He had pulled a gun on Deputy Sheriff Walter Cason of Ione in 1907, threatening to kill him if he did not secure Earhart’s release on gambling charges.

Earhart decided to start celebrating the 1909 Fourth of July holiday early and, after filling up on whiskey, went looking for trouble in downtown Ione. He first met Ione resident Charles Clark and insulted him by throwing a lighted match in his face. A scuffle ensued, Earhart pulled a knife, Clark pulled a gun to defend himself and fired five shots at his assailant, none of which found their target.

Earhart continued down Ione’s main street and broke into the Walker hardware store through the front plate glass window, arming himself with a double-barrel shotgun and two boxes of No. 1 shot shells. He then returned to Main Street and began to defy a crowd of townspeople that had started to gather. He forced a friend in the crowd, Henry Reed, to come forward and act as a human shield when Marshal Tom Carle arrived. Soon after, a posse headed by Deputy Sheriff Cason arrived and a shootout began. Earhart was slightly wounded in the back by one shot and fled, hiding under a nearby wheat warehouse.

From his refuge under the warehouse Earhart began firing back at the mob of 50 men, wounding William Clark, the brother of the man he first insulted. Four other men were shot in the feet and legs, and Joe Beasley was wounded in the face as well. Deputy Sheriff Cason received a charge of shot in the back. All of the wounds were minor ones.

A Portland man, William H. Escue, was accidentally shot by a member of the posse while he was crawling up a ravine to escape the gunfire. He did not survive his injuries.

Earhart finally ran out of ammunition and surrendered himself to Morrow County Sheriff E.M. Shutt, who arrived from Heppner approximately an hour after the altercation began. Earhart was lodged in the Morrow County Jail, and from there sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.

Earhart swore he would have his revenge against Deputy Sheriff Cason and, in September 1914, after being released from prison, he made the attempt. Coming across Cason in front of Heppner’s Palace Hotel, Earhart pulled a gun and fired one shot at the lawman, but missed. Cason shot back and killed Earhart, then turned himself and the two guns over to the Heppner city marshal. A coroner’s inquest and preliminary hearing into the shooting concluded that Cason had fired in self-defense, and he was set free.

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