Verde Heritage By Glenda Farley, Cottonwood, AZ Local historian Glenda Farley guides us on a journey back in time to discover fascinating moments that make up our Verde heritage and history.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE; Inquest, June 21.
"OUTLINE OF TESTIMONY GIVEN BEFORE THE CORONER'S JURY HOLDING AN INQUEST OVER THE BODY OF WILLARD J. FORRESTER AT CLARKDALE, ARIZONA, ON JUNE 21, 1928."
TESTIMONY OF DAVID O. SAUNDERS:
"I had been out of the bank and had just returned and walked through my private office into the accounting department. Immediately thereafter I saw the man who was killed [Willard Forrester] enter my office door from the lobby and I started to return to my office to find out what he wanted. He came in rather hurriedly. As I walked up to him he grabbed me by the right arm, swung me around and shoved a gun in my ribs, saying 'This bank is being held up.' Bob Southard, teller, and Mrs. Marston, clerk, who were on duty in the accounting office, and myself were then marched out into the lobby to the desk and ordered to start writing. We were badly frightened and did as he said."
"The second of the robbers, the man who was captured, [Lee Forrester / Earl Nelson] was standing by the inside entrance door of the bank and stood guard over us. As other customers came in they were herded together."
"Forrester then ordered Southard to open the door to the currency vault, stating that if he attempted any 'monkey business' he would 'blow him in two.' Forrester then removed all the currency from the vault and placed it in a gunny sack which he had with him. He also opened all the drawers at the desks and took the currency therefrom."
"He then came out and marched me back to the vault and asked me where the balance of the currency was, saying he knew there was $70,000.00 in the bank and he had only gotten $40,000.00. I denied that there was any more currency in the bank than he had taken and showed him my cash book to prove this statement. He then stated that if I were fooling him he would come back and get me if it took 20 years. He then marched me out again, set the sack of money down by the office door, after which all the people in the bank were ordered into the vault."
"It appearing that he was going to close the outside vault door, I argued him out of this, saying that so many people in a small space could not live thirty minutes, and I asked him if he wanted to add murder to the crime of robbery. After arguing with him for a while I persuaded him to close and lock the grating but leave the main vault door unlocked. This he did, after which he left the bank with his companion."
"As soon as the two were outside I commenced working on the lock, finally unlatching the door, seized my gun which was under the desk by the teller's window, and rushed outside. The two robbers were in their car --- Forrester driving --- and just approaching the corner of Miller's store, where they turned south. I opened fire on them and just at that time Deputy Sheriff Jim Roberts appeared at the corner. Forrester's companion commenced firing at him and Roberts also commenced shooting. The car swerved to the left and was brought up by the corner of the new high school building. Forrester's companion leaped out and started to run but was quickly captured and brought back. Forrester remained in the car, it being found that he had been shot through the head and killed. I give the credit for this shot to Deputy Roberts."
" --- The above is a true and correct outline of the testimony of D. O. Saunders given at the inquest over the body of Willard J. Forrester, at Clarkdale, Arizona, June 21, 1928, as transcribed from notes taken by me. [signed] H. V. Young."
TESTIMONY OF DEPUTY JAMES F. ROBERTS:
"I had just arrived at the corner of Miller's store when I saw Dave Saunders rush out of the bank and start shooting at a car which was nearing the corner on which I stood. Before the car reached the corner one of the two occupants (the one who was not driving) started shooting at me. The car turned the corner and started south. About five shots were fired at me."
"I pulled down on the fellow at the wheel and fired three shots. The car had about reached the rear of Miller's store when it swerved to the left, struck a guy-wire on a telephone pole and brought up at the corner of the new high school building."
"Forrester was shot through the head. His companion leaped out and started to run but was captured by two men working in the school yards. I do not know whether Saunders or I fired the shot which killed the driver."
"I had noticed these men hanging around town for two or three days, but their car, a Chrysler touring car, carried a Yavapai license I had not paid much attention to them and I had no conversation with them at any time."
"I interviewed the captured robber and he said the dead man was Willard J. Forrester and he gave his name as Paul Hoffman, but as he hesitated before giving the names I believe these may not be their correct names."
" --- The above is a true and correct outline of the testimony of Deputy Jas. F. Roberts given at the inquest over the body of Willard J. Forrester, at Clarkdale, Arizona, June 21, 1928, as transcribed from notes taken by me. [signed] H. V. Young."
Courtesy: Jerome Historical Society Archives; Herbert V. Young Collection.
The following verdict was returned:
"The deceased came to his death from a gunshot wound caused by a gun in the hands of James F. Roberts, a deputy sheriff of Yavapai county, Arizona, or D. O. Saunders, manager of the Clarkdale branch of the Bank of Arizona, following robbery by the deceased of the Bank of Arizona. The jury agrees that the shooting was justified and it was done in the discharge of duty."
See: The Verde Independent; "1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE;" December 7, 9, 12, 13, 2012.
The first bank robbery in Yavapai County will be reenacted in Clarkdale on December 14, at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. The part of David O. Saunders will be played by Bill Regner. The part of Officer James F. Roberts will be played by Clarkdale Chief of Police Randy Taylor. The Clarkdale Historic Building and Home Tour begins at 9 a.m.