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Jim Kershner’s This day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

“Austrian Murdered,” screamed the headline.

A well-dressed man, about 30, was shot dead at about 14th Avenue and Wall Street in a murder that “bore the marks of a black hand mystery,” said a breathless Spokane Daily Chronicle story.

The Black Hand was a Sicilian blackmail and terror group of the era. The man was shot three times – in the face, neck and back – at about 8:55 a.m. in the trees behind a home. Police found hobnailed boot prints leading away from the scene.

The body was not yet identified, but the foreman of a nearby Italian work gang said he recognized the man as an “Austrian” who had asked for a job the day before. Austrian was the term widely used for almost anybody of Balkan or Eastern European origin.

In subsequent days, police would discover that the murdered man was actually Italian. In fact, the Chronicle reported that the man might have been “a hired assassin” brought in to murder Frank Bruno, a Spokane saloonkeeper and reputed crime kingpin. This theory didn’t exactly square with the fact that the murdered man had worked for several days in Davenport’s restaurant kitchen.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1846: Neptune was identified as a planet by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle.