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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Spokane: Drunken engineer engages police in gun battle

A drunken locomotive engineer and two policemen engaged in a bloody gun duel on the downtown streets, The Spokesman-Review reported on Aug. 27, 1916. (The Spokesman-Review)

From our archives, 100 years ago

A drunken locomotive engineer and two policemen engaged in a bloody gun duel on the downtown streets — and it all began when a woman bashed the engineer on the nose with a beer glass.

The engineer, James H. McBride, 26, was part of a drinking party in a hotel room. When a woman came in with a tray of beer, he made some kind of a rude comment. She hurled the glass and bloodied his nose. Yet what really bothered him was “the attitude of the other men in the room,” which was apparently not sufficiently supportive.

He was “incensed” — and apparently extremely drunk — and left on his motorcycle and got his rifle and a box of bullets. While he was gassing up his motorcycle at a Division Street gas station, two officers arrived. McBride assumed incorrectly that they were there to arrest him. In fact, they knew nothing about the previous altercation.

“What do you men want here?” shouted McBride.

“A little gas,” they replied.

“I believe you are officers and if I knew it I’d kill you,” said McBride, who raised a rifle in their direction.

The officers retreated and said they would buy their gas elsewhere. But when McBride tried to leave, walking his motorcycle, the officers rushed him from behind. McBride dropped the motorcycle, whirled and fired, hitting the coat but not the flesh of one of the officers. One of the officers returned fire, hitting McBride in the breast.

“The engineer went down firing, but arose and pumped shot after shot at the (the two officers).” The bullets smashed a plate glass window, but nothing else.

McBride finally dropped from his wound. He was arrested and taken to the hospital, where his injury was not considered life-threatening, barring infection.