And Now You Know: Orange Police stop a rolling arsenal

Published 1:35 pm Saturday, October 13, 2018

By Mike Louviere

On the evening of October 6, 1930, Deputy Sheriff Alva Griffith, assisted by George Rexes, a commissioned deputy and also a fireman, stopped a Ford coupe occupied by four men.

It was reported in the Orange Leader: “A veritable arsenal on wheels ready to be operated by four adventuresome young men from New York was taken into custody by the sheriff and police departments here last night.

Four men and seven vicious looking pistols, all loaded to the guards with a sufficient number of cartridges to furnish four or five rounds for each pistol were taken when a Ford coupe with a rumble seat was halted at the intersection of Green Avenue and Fifth Street last night.”

Police Chief Jeff Carter and Patrolman George Jett went to the scene of the arrest and took the four men to the city jail to await the arrival of Lake Charles police officers.

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Henry “Ham” Reid had requested that the heavily armed men be apprehended by Orange officers.

The men had created suspicion in Lake Charles by displaying four pistols and buying three more. They had also displayed their money rolls.

Their arrest had been ordered by Sheriff Reid, but the men had gotten out of Lake Charles. The car had been seen heading west, so Sheriff Reid phoned Orange and asked for assistance from law enforcement.

There was a traffic jam at the west end of the Sabine River Bridge, somehow the car had also gotten past that. Officers Griffith and Rexes recognized the car and stopped it at the intersection near First Baptist Church. In addition to the seven pistols, they also discovered “two giant pocket knives.”

A large crowd gathered to watch the arrest and search of the car. It created “a considerable traffic jam.”

Four boxes of shells of different sizes to fit the seven pistols were immediately found. A further search uncovered two more boxes and a package of shells wrapped up in a handkerchief.

A detective magazine, “Black Mask” was found in the car. The front page picture was “a desperado with a pistol in each hand shooting up the town.”

The men were Harold Brown, Robert J. McManus, and Nelson Schoonmaker all of New York and J. Atkinson from Charleston, South Carolina. They were between ages 21 to 24. All four claimed to be automobile mechanics looking for work “in some Texas oil field.” If not successful in finding work in Texas, they were “going on the California.”

All four men were “slightly intoxicated” when they were stopped in Orange. Three of the men had between $50 and $70 in cash in their pockets.

Sheriff Reid and his deputies were about an hour later than expected reaching Orange due to the heavy traffic and the bad condition of the highway across the marsh due to the heavy traffic.

News reporting at the time of this report was different from today. This report of the apprehension and arrest of the four men is almost casual. The Calcasieu Parish sheriff had called the Orange Sheriff and asked for the car to be stopped in Orange. However, absent from the report is the reason Sheriff Reid asked for the men to be apprehended. It seems he was suspicious because they had seven pistols and some money. The report does not say that the four men were accused of any crime. After the four men were released into the custody of Sheriff Reid and his deputies and taken back to Lake Charles, nothing further was reported.

“And now you know.”