★☆★ OFFICER THOMAS J. EVANS ★☆★
By: Keith Dameron, Historian – Colorado Law Enforcement Memorial
Pueblo Patrolman Jeff Evans, 62, was shot and killed about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 13, 1919, while walking his beat in the 500 block of West Second street in an area known as the “Peppersauce Bottoms”. He apparently heard the cries of a woman who was quarreling with two men and came upon the scene from the alley. A brief conversation may have ensued before Evans was struck in the back of the head, knocked to the ground, then shot in the chest by the other man. Mr. & Mrs. Claude Hudson witnessed the shooting and stated that the two men were “Mexicans”, drunk and had run off. Pueblo Police Night Captain Jack Sinclair called out every available officer and detectives. Officer Evans was found on his back with his revolver near his hand. He had died almost instantly as the coroner determined that the bullet had cut the aorta and lodged in his back near the spine. Pueblo officers searching the Colorado-Kansas railroad station found three men sleeping in a passenger coach. All three were taken to the Hudson home on Second street where they positively identified one of the men but said they had never seen the other two men. Officer John Miller had remained at the rail yard out of sight and a short time later found the other suspect hiding in the coach, wet to the waist because he had been hiding in the weeds until the other officers left. The second suspect had a revolver and 40 rounds of ammunition when arrested, was positively identified by the Hudson’s and then jailed. The two “Mexicans” were part of a six-man section crew for the railroad that worked the daily train to Stone City.
Both suspects (Jose Gonzales & Salvadore Ortez) were in custody before daylight and the community was outraged by the murder of Officer Evans. Pueblo Chief of Police Daly said that the men denied everything at first, then admitted to being at the Hudson home but stated they were so drunk they did not know what they had done. The fate of the prisoners changed dramatically that evening. About 9:00 p.m. that evening the police received a call of a riot in the 1700 block of Schley Ave. Night Captain Sinclair, with a wagon load of officers, rushed to Bessemer, leaving Desk Sergeant Garfield McCafferty alone at the city jail (in the “old city hall”) with the city health officer. About 9:10 a “mob” of 50-100 approached the jail, disarmed a Pueblo officer nearby then pointed their guns through a window at the sergeant and the health officer. Holding them at gunpoint, others entered obtained the jail keys then found the prisoners sleeping in a cell. Both were knocked unconscious, bound and “…dragged out of the jail into automobiles and the mob proceeded at break-neck speed up Grand avenue to Fourth street and down west Fourth street to the bridge.” The prisoners had ropes placed around their necks and then were thrown off the bridge over the waters of the Arkansas River. The mob dispersed. Meanwhile the police wagon realized that the riot call was a fake and returned to the jail to find out what had happened. They found the two victims of the lynching about 45 minutes later where a crowd then gathered while the officers waited for the coroner. In fact, officers had to move the crowd from the bridge for fear that the bridge would collapse. It was reported that this occurred during a “driving rainstorm” and that it was very dark due to cloud cover. Sgt. McCafferty and the health officer both stated that the men wore hats or caps pulled down low to their eyes and blue or red handkerchiefs over their faces so they could not be recognized. The few words spoken were in a rasping voice and not identifiable either. Grover Shoup and Pueblo County Sheriff Thomas stated that they would…” ferret out and punish…the leaders of the vigilance committee which hung the two Mexicans last night”.
The coroner’s jury met on Monday and Acting Coroner Mahar and Assistant DA Langdon conducted an investigation including interviews with four witnesses. They reached the following verdict: “Patrolman Jeff Evans came to his death on the night of September 13, 1919, at 508 West Second street, Pueblo, Colorado, from the effects of a gunshot wound inflicted by Jose Gonzales after deceased had been felled to the ground by a blow delivered by Salvatore Ortez and said blow and said gunshot were inflicted with felonious intent.”
Thomas Jefferson (Jeff) Evans was born in Kansas Territory (probably in Olathe, Johnson County) in January of 1857. He married his wife Tranquill in 1893, and they had three children. He lived at 1237 Bragdon Street and had worked for the Pueblo Police several time in the past and had recently rejoined the force. The funeral was held on Tuesday at the Whiton Chapel and the body of Officer Evans was then escorted to the depot where it was take by train to Lamar. He was buried the same day at the Riverside Cemetery in Lamar, next to his wife, who had died 16 years earlier. Jeff Evans was survived by his tree children; Harry R. Evans, 25, of Canon City, Mrs. Julia Evans Kulp, 23 of Pueblo and Mrs. Frances Evans McKinzie, 19, of Denver.
The coroner’s jury met again on Thursday (18th) to try and determine who was involved in the lynching. The Mexican government was represented by Senor A.J. Ortiz and attorney Ed J. Stark as counsel. Both Gonzales and Ortez were Mexican citizens. Seventeen witnesses testified but no one was able to identify anyone that took part in the affair. The coroner’s jury was adjourned until September 30 at the request of Senor Ortiz in case some identity evidence might be discovered. No new information was discovered, and the coroner’s jury issued the following statement: “We, the jury, find that Jose Gonzales and Salvador Ortez came to their deaths on September 13, 1919, by being hung by their necks in Pueblo county, Colorado, by persons unknown to this jury.” According to author Steve Leonard, this was the last lynching in Colorado.EOW: September 13, 1919
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Pueblo Police Department
The Pueblo Chieftain – Sep 13-19, Oct 1, 3 1919
Prowers County News - Sep 19, 1919
Ancestry – Library Edition
US Census - 1860, 1900, 1910