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Three lawmen and one outlaw are shot dead in the "Shootout in Poplar Grove" at Kennewick on October 31, 1906.
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On October 31, 1906, three lawmen and one outlaw are shot dead in a gunfight that will become known as the "Shootout in Poplar Grove." Three lawmen approach the campsite of two suspected burglars in a "hobo jungle" near Kennewick. One of the outlaws opens fire on the lawmen, killing two of them. A third lawman shoots one of the outlaws dead. The other escapes but is later captured, but only after a member of the posse is shot by mistake. When it is all over, Kennewick "was left without a lawman on his feet" ("Horror").
The Shootout at Poplar Grove began late on the afternoon of Halloween when Kennewick Sheriff Deputy Joe Holzhey and a local saloon owner, H. E. Roseman, went to a transient campsite in the trees and questioned two men at a campfire about the burglary of two Kennewick stores the night before. One of the men angrily told the deputy that it made him "hot to have you spying around here." The two transients told them to stay away or there'll be trouble" (Dullenty).
It was later learned that the two men were Jake Lake, a 44-year-old sheepherder, and George "Kid" Barker, 16, who had just arrived after hopping a freight train in Spokane.
Holzhey and Roseman walked away, but soon met up with Benton County Sheriff Alex G. McNeill and Kennewick Marshal Mike Glover, who were also investigating the burglaries. The four decided to go back to the poplar grove to question the two further.
According to Roseman's account, Lake suddenly appeared between two trees, rifle in hand, and said, "Evenin' gents, I guess you're looking for trouble -- well, you're goin' to get it" ("Horror").
They Commence Shooting ...
According to Barker's account, Lake saw the lawmen coming and said, "We'll make the bulls hike back up to town; get your gun" (Dullenty). Lake stepped out, demanded to know why the men were "following them" and ordered them to throw up their hands. Barker said that the men reached for their guns and Lake "commenced shooting."
Holzhey and Glover went down immediately. McNeill took cover behind a sapling and emptied his six-shooter, although he was shot in the abdomen. Roseman, the only unarmed member of the party, took cover. When the shooting stopped, he helped McNeill into a handcart on the nearby railroad tracks and took him back into Kennewick.
... And Shooting
An outraged posse, fueled by whiskey by one account, immediately formed. The posse galloped to the grove and found Glover shot dead, Holzheny grievously wounded (he died the next day) and Lake shot dead in the trees. Barker was nowhere to be found.
A frenzied search ensued with what was described as half the male population of Kennewick. Posse member Forrest Perry later found Barker cowering in a ditch not far from where the shooting had occurred. Perry shouted at Barker to throw up his hands. The rest of the posse, confused, opened fire. Perry screamed and went down, shot dead. The posse had mistaken Perry for Barker.
Barker immediately surrendered and was taken to Prosser to stand trial for murder. He escaped before the trial could be held, however, and was never heard from again.
The entire bloody incident hinged on an unfortunate misunderstanding. Authorities later determined that Barker and Lake had nothing to do with the original burglaries.
Jim Dullenty, "4 Killed in 1906 Gunfight at Kennewick," Spokane Spokesman-Review, October 5, 1978; "Horror Marked This Halloween," Spokane Spokesman-Review, November 3, 1959.
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