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OUT OF THE VAULT: Poor aim saves three lives in shooting fracas

Published on December 9, 2017 3:00AM


The week running up to Christmas 1910 was an exciting one when a man ran amok in downtown La Grande with a gun. But not a single person was injured.

It was business as usual in the downtown La Grande shopping district on Dec. 23, 1910, when Earl West, a wood cutter, arrived on North Fir Street in front of the Dutley Bakery and across from the Julius Fisher saloon. He was carrying a .45-60 short-barreled Winchester and, according to the La Grande Observer, was “intoxicated and mean and probably crazed by drink.”

West first aimed at a passing buggy just a few feet away carrying two women, firing off two shots in rapid succession. Passers-by gasped in horror, but somehow both bullets went wild, probably burying themselves somewhere in the nearby railroad yard.

Incensed by his failure, West then whirled around and set his sights on Ray Baun, who had frozen in his tracks when the first cannonade went off. Baun was just a few feet away when West jacked another shell into the chamber and pulled the trigger.

But nothing happened. The third shell stuck in the breech.

While West frantically tried to return his weapon to working order, saloon owner Julius Fisher and a hastily formed posse overpowered him. West was taken to the city jail to sleep off his drunken rampage.

Renee Struthers is the Community Records Editor for the East Oregonian. See the complete collection of Out of the Vault columns at eovault.blogspot.com



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