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100 years ago in Spokane: An inmate shot by police in recent escape found to be digging way out of jail

From our archives,

100 years ago

Fred Johnson, the convict the newspapers nicknamed Spokane’s “tiger man” for his desperate and bloody exploits, was back in the news.

A week after he had been shot and captured in the Spokane River while trying to escape, Johnson remained nearly comatose in his Spokane jail cell.

Or so his jailers thought.

He had actually been attempting to dig his way to freedom. Jailers discovered that he had “dug through an 18-inch wall separating his cell from the corridor, and it was believed he was prepared to make his break for liberty this morning.” He had torn thin strips of steel from his bed and converted them into blades. Nearly 30 bricks had been removed from the wall and cleverly hidden beneath his bed.

His jailers were “astounded.” They said they had been checking him constantly, knowing his “desperate character.” He always pretended to be asleep or unconscious.

They finally discovered his scheme when they heard a rasping sound and forced him away from the bed at gunpoint.

They removed him to the “dungeon cell” and shackled his legs with “50 pounds of steel.”

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1776: A group of Spanish missionaries settled in present-day San Francisco.


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