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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Cart and buggy standoff triggers road rage homicide

After a confrontation on a dirt road, one man was dead and another was in jail. (Spokesman-Review archive)
After a confrontation on a dirt road, one man was dead and another was in jail. (Spokesman-Review archive)

Even in the horse-and-buggy days, road rage could have fatal consequences.

George E. McMonagle, postmaster of Kiesling, just south of Spokane, was dead and Ernest Schlenker, local fruit grower, was in Spokane County Jail, charged with murder.

The two men met on a dirt road near their homes. Schlenker was in a horse and buggy on the way to town, and McMonagle was driving a wagonload of hay with his 12-year-old son.

Neither would give way on the road. Schlenker claimed that McMonagle “began to quarrel with him,” stepped down from the wagon and came toward him. Schlenker said he fired two warning shots over McMonagle’s head.

This failed to stop McMonagle. Schlenker claimed that McMonagle tried to drag him from his buggy, at which point Schlenker took dead aim and fired. He was claiming self-defense, said his lawyer.

McMonagle’s wife, who witnessed the shooting from her house, 600 feet away, told a different story. She said her husband was unarmed, and his last words, heard by her son, were, “Put your gun down and fight like a man!” Then the bullet tore through his heart.

She said that the true cause of the altercation went beyond road rage (a term yet to be invented). There was plenty of room, she said, for the wagons to pass on the road.

The animosity between the men began two years earlier. Schlenker had made the road “without getting any consent from authority” and the two men had quarreled about it.

However, she said, they had not spoken since that first quarrel.

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