As he stood examining an automatic pistol in the Smith gun shop, 510 South Main Street, at 8:30 o'clock yesterday morning Robert Long, 21-year old ex-reformatory inmate, shot and killed J.O. Smith, 74, proprietor, severely beat Paul Smith, a son, and was captured as he ran up the street.
Although Long claimed the shooting was accidental, a six-man jury during a coroner's inquest at the Johnson funeral parlors yesterday returned a verdict that "death resulted from a bullet wound inflicted from a gun in the hands of Robert Long," and specified him criminally responsible for the death.
According to testimony of Margaret Smith, 18, granddaughter of the dead man, and Paul Smith, 44, his son, at the inquest yesterday afternoon, Long entered the gun shop at about 8:15 o'clock and asked to see several guns.
After looking at a rifle and a pistol Long was said to have asked for shells for the automatic. He filled the clip and without a word, deliberately pointed the gun at the elderly man and pulled the trigger, according to testimony of both the son and granddaughter.
Paul Smith at once grappled with long. As Smith lunged toward the ex-convict the boy pointed the pistol at Paul's heart and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed and the bullet failed to explode. Long at once started striking Smith on the head, inflicting three long gashes, Paul testified.
In the mean time Miss Smith had rushed to the street and called for help. Long, after beating the younger Smith, dashed out the door and north up the street.
The alertness of Owen Lentz, Swift and Company employee, who was loading a truck at the plant across the street, probably prevented the escape of Long. Hearing the cried of Miss Smith to "stop that man" Lentz pursued Long, grapsed him by the coat collar and threw him to the pavement.
Mr. Smith was rushed to Grace Hospital where he died about an hour later. The bullet had passed through his abdomen.
According to the testimony of Miss Smith and Paul Smith at the coroner's inquest, Long was in the shop when they arrived about 8 o'clock.
Miss Smith went to the back of the store, sat at a counter and started to work a crossword puzzle while her father worked nearby.
While Long looked at guns another customer came in and made a purchase.
As Mr. Smith turned to wait upon Long again the lad asked for some shells to fit a .38 calibre automatic he was examining. The elderly proprietor placed a box on the counter. Long started to fill the gun.
His son told of heaqring the boy ask for more shells and of the conversation between his father and Long over the gun. A few seconds later a shot was fired.
Paul Smith jumped up and saw his father leaning on the counter; a short distance away stood Long holding the smoking pistol.
The son immediately leaped at the ex-convict, who wheeled and attempted to fire the pistol a second time when it jammed.
Long fled from the building bareheaded. He was pursued by the younger Smith, who because of loss of blood was soon outdistanced.
Lentz, former Hutchinson high school star and national guardsman, had little difficulty in holding his victim after tackling him. Patrolman James Woodson, who was only about a block away at the time of the shooting, relieved Lentz of Long.
Only one shot was fired, Doctor H.M. Stewart, coroner, announced after an autopsy last night.
The bullet entered Mr. Smith's back, on the right side, was deflected downward and forward by the shoulder blade through the right lung, liver, and stomach. It came out on the left side of the abdomen, near the groin, clipped off a piece of Smith's left finger. The missle was still traveling at at terrific speed, boring through an inch-thick plank before coming to rest in a tray on the floor.
Police were convinced only one shot was fired after examining the gun, which showed that the cartridge ejector had jammed after the murder charge. This fact is believed to have saved the younger Smith's life.
Officer Ben Jones, who arrived a few minutes after the shooting, said Mr. Smith claimed that he had his back turned when the shot was fired. Protruding bits of thread from the hole in the vest indicated that the bullet had entered from the rear and and had come out through the abdomen.
The wounded man was barely able to talk when officer Jones arrived. He was seated in a chair holding his abdomen. The index finger on his left hand had been partially severed by the bullet.
Whether Long shot the man while attempting to rob him was not determined. Mr. Smith often carried considerable money in his clothes, it was said. Keys to the shop were found in Long's possession when he was arrested.
The bullet which killed Smith was dug from a board about four and one-half feet above the floor.
Following Long's arrest a large crowd collected at the gun shop. There were murmurings against the boy and police were watchful lest an outbreak occur. He was immediately removed from the city jail to the county jail.
Long made a confession before County Attorney Max Wyman yesterday afternoon in which he admitted the shooting but claimed it to have been accidental.
During the quesitoning Long said that he had been in the Smith shop before looking at guns and just decided that he wanted one yestreday morning. He admitted to having no money with which to make such a purchase.
During the questioning Long told the following story of the events that occurred after he entered the store:
"I asked how many shots the automatic held and he said 'seven,' then he brought some bullets out of the box he had open and gave them to me.
"Then his son and granddaughter came in. She stood by the counter and he sat in the back part. Another fellow drove up and bought some cartridges for a rifle.
"Just after this fellow left I was looking at cartridges for the rifle. He had two other rifles in the desk and he put one in the case, set the shells in ther box and closed up the cartridge box he was holding, then it happened.
"I was leaning on the counter, he he was back of the counter and a little to one side; I was about six feet from him.
"And when the gun went off this young fellow, young Mr. Smith, jumped at me and the girl jumped up and I started for the door. He jumped on me and I hit him with the gun.
'He started fighting me and I dropped the gun and started fighting. The girl opened the door and ran out and just as she ran out, I pushed him away and started running. He started after me. I ran north up the street. A fellow came from the west side of the street and grabbed me and Mr. Woodson came up and got me, took me to an oil station called police headquarters.
"I didn't know that I had shot him until that young fellow came out and told Woodson that I had shot him."
Long claimed that he wanted the gun to go rabbit hunting.
The lad was sentenced to the reformatory for car theft on August 31, 1929, and was released on January 8, 1932. He lived at 1118 North Main Street, weighs about 140 pounds and is about five feet 11 inches tall.
His mother was doing laundry work at the home of her daughter when informed that her son was held for murder.
Paul Smith, the son, and his daughter live at 415 East Acre Street, near Casey Park.
At the coroner's inquest yesterday afternoon, Officers Jones and Woodson, Miss Smith, Paul Smith, and Lentz were questioned.
The jury consisted of John Wolff, Dale Rittgers, Howard Watson, Roy Hill, Earl Palmer, and Harry Dick.
Hutchinson (Kansas) Herald, May 4, 1932.
A charge of first degree murder will be preferred against Robert Long, 21, ex-reformatory inmate, in connection with the fatal shooting of J.O. Smith, 74-year old gunsmith, it was announced today by Max Wyman, county attorney.
Smith died from a gunshot wound inflicted by Long in a shooting at the Smith Gun Shop, 510 South Main street. Police said the slain man's son, Paul Smith, believes Long shot the aged man in a holdup attempt.
Long, who served a term in the state reformatory here for car theft, decalres it was accidental; that the gun exploded, sending a .38 calibre steel-jacketed bullet into Mr. Smith's back, as he was placing the pistol back on the show case. After the elder Smith had been shot, Long and Paul Smith engaged in a scuffle in which the latter was severely beaten over the head.
Then Long fled from the gun shop, being captured about a block away byOwen Lentz, Swift & Co. employee and a member of the National Guard.
A coroner's jury, investigating the shooting, returned a verdict that "death resulted from a bullet wound inflicted from a gun in the hands of Robert Long." The jury of six men also recommended that Long be held criminally liable in connection with the fatal shooting.
Witnesses reiterated the details of the shooting before the jury. Members of the jury were John Wolff, Dale Rittgers, Howard Watson, Roy Hill, Earl Palmer, and Henry Dick.
"In view of the findings of the coroner's jury we can hardly do anything else but bring the charge against Long," said Mr. Wyman.
Members of the county attorney's office are busy trying a bank robbery case in district court and Mr. Wyman did not know just when a formal charge would be filed.
Long is being held in the county jail. The court appointed Clyde Raleigh as his attorney.
Paul Smith, the son, charges that Long snapped the automatic at him after shooting his father. The ex-reformatory inmate denies this, however.
When police picked up the fallen gun the discharged shell was still in the barrel, the extractor apparently failing to kick it out. To determine whether or not the shell was snapped twice will necessitate a ballistic expert, it was brought out in the coroner's inquest.
Hutchinson (Kansas) News, May 4, 1932.
Funeral services for J.O. Smith, who was shot in his gun shop Tuesday morning, will be at 2:30 o'clock Friday afternoon at the Johnson Funeral parlors. Rev. Claude Miller will officiate. Burial will be in Memorial Park cemetery.
Hutchinson (Kansas) Herald, May 5, 1932.
Robert Long, ex-reformatory inmate who shot and killed J.O. Smith early this week, was arraigned in the city court yesterday on charges of murder and manslaughter. He pleaded not guilty and his preliminary hearing was set for May 13. Long was committed to jail in default of $5,000 bond. The youth contends that the shooting was merely an accident.
Hutchinson (Kansas) Herald, May 7, 1932.