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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: A Gonzaga priest foiled a practical but unskilled robber, and an inmate escaped because he was ‘mighty sensitive’

 (S-R archives)
(S-R archives)

A gun-toting robber crept on to the Gonzaga University campus, walked into a building, confronted Brother M. McDermott in a hallway and said, “Hands up, quick! Hand out what money you got!”

At that moment, the Rev. Father James A. Kennelly arrived in the hallway and said, “How much do you want?”

“Oh, about $200 or $300,” the robber said.

“Sit down in the parlor until I can get the money,” said Father Kennelly, the Gonzaga vice president, as he ushered the robber into a vacant room.

Then Father Kennelly notified the police. The robber sat there patiently until a Spokane police officer arrived and disarmed him.

The robber was identified as Hedvin Nelson, 44, a laborer.

When asked why he attempted to stage a holdup at the university, he replied, “When you want to hold up anybody, the best place to go is to the people who have money.”

Police said Nelson did not impress them “as being a man of long experience as a highwayman.”

From the convict file: A prison escape artist nicknamed “The Elusive Louis” made a 25-minute visit to Spokane – in chains, on his way back to jail in Missoula.

Louis Lafrinire was being returned to the Missoula jail for the second time in as many weeks. In the most recent escape, he feigned illness while being taken to a different part of the jail. His total number of escapes was four, including one from the Montana State Prison at Deer Lodge.

When asked why he didn’t just serve his time, he said, “I’m mighty sensitive, and when they don’t treat me right, I’m going to try to get away every time.”

He was arrested in Prosser, Washington, shortly after his last escape.

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