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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A firefighter was killed by his friend while delivering him groceries

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 9, 2021

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

Harry Williams, 84, was to be charged with murder in the shooting death of his friend, Spokane firefighter John Batten.

Batten had befriended Williams years earlier after leasing some land from the old man west of Spokane. Batten usually made two trips a week out to Williams’ ranch to bring him fruit and other groceries.

It was during the last of those trips that Batten died.

Batten walked up to Williams’ door to leave some apples and oranges. Williams, who had become increasingly paranoid about shadowy intruders, had rigged up a rifle to discharge when the door was opened.

Batten was shot in the abdomen, but not killed. He was able to get back to his auto and tried to drive off to get medical attention.

At that point, Williams came out of the barn, grabbed his rifle, and for some reason fired at Batten’s car. It was that shot that killed Batten.

The Spokane Chronicle reported that an insanity defense was possible.

From the murder beat: Meanwhile, Spokane was still in shock about another fatal shooting. When Elmer Harding fired five shots at Spokane’s Waldorf Hotel he “not only ended three lives but shot deep into the hearts and lives of three women and four children,” the Chronicle wrote.

When Harding shot his wife and his brother, Carl Harding, he also shattered the lives of Carl’s wife and three children, who lived in Stevensville, Montana.

“Carl loved his wife and children,” the mother of Carl and Elmer said. “… Oh, it’s dreadful!”

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