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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Eastern Washington: A dramatic trial was underway for a Prohibition agent accused of manslaughter

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

A half-dozen trial witnesses made sensational claims that federal Prohibition agent W.C. Vest was drunk the day he shot Ernest Emley in the belief that Emley was a bootlegger.

They based this on their opinion that Vest “acted like a drunken man” in the aftermath of the fatal shooting near Keller, Washington. Vest and John G. Montgomery, both Prohibition agents, were on trial for manslaughter in the shooting of Emley.

The county sheriff, however, who also was on the scene, said neither of the agents was drunk. When Vest took the stand later in the day, he denied being drunk as well. He also denied “handling people roughly in the aftermath.” But he did testify that a relative of Emley told him, “You’ll pay for this.”

“I told him to be careful or he would get the same medicine,” Vest testified.

Another witness testified that Vest and Montgomery did not give sufficient warning before they fired shots at the fleeing car. The witness said they fired at the same time that they “shouted for the car to stop.” He said neither identified themselves as officers. Emley was a passenger in the car as it sped from a Keller dance hall.

The defense attorneys contended that the agents ‘“were proceeding with their duties, and that their safety had been endangered by the men in the car.”

The defense implied that Emley, an ex-soldier, had been supplying Native Americans in the area with liquor.

On this day

(From Associated Press)

1862: Union forces led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee.

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