Officer’s Pistol Used Last Night
At half past two o’clock this afternoon information from Axtell Hospital is to the effect that Mr. Miller is resting easy. However, the authorities in charge gave practically no hope for his recovery. With a bullet wound entirely through the body, puncturing both liver and stomach, J. Clark Miller lies upon a cot at Axtell Hospital, with the chances for recovery in heavy ratio against him. The bullet was one of four fired at him by Night Officer Means at midnight last night, while he was endeavoring to escape from Officer Means and Puckett, after he had been placed under arrest for drunkenness and conveyed to the city jail. Miller is a stenographer and was employed in the roadmaster’s office. He is twenty-one years of age, well built and rather athletic, a jolly good natured fellow as described by his associates in the railroad service and by his fellow roomers at the Ida Johnson home, at Seventh and Pine streets. His only fault, apparently, is an inclination to occasionally indulge in intoxicants, and to this fact is due his desperate condition today, a condition that may terminate in death ere this paper reaches its readers. In company with Orin Miller, a fellow roomer at the Johnson home, who is likewise an employee of the Santa Fe, working in the telegraph office, he went to Wichita yesterday afternoon, and while there took several drinks. They returned to this city on a midnight train, the victim of the officer’s pistol a little the worse for the trip. While both men bear the same surname, Miller, they are, however, not akin. Arriving at the station here, Orin Miller, the operator, who is on night duty, started for the telegraph office to go to work, while, as he supposed, his companion Clark Miller, started home to go to bed. The former stopped in the passenger station for a few moments, and while there a Hackman, John Wiggers, came to him and told him that his companion of the night, Clark Miller, was in his hack on the Main street stand, and wanted him to come to him. He went in a few moments but when he reached the stand there was no hack there, and he went on over to the telegraph office and went to work.
From Wiggers it is learned that while his hack was standing at the curb near the Arcade Hotel, Miller came to him and asked him to take him home, requesting him, however, to go to the depot and get his “pal.” It was at this point that Wiggers appeared at the station, as above mentioned. He returned at once to his hack, and when he arrived found his “fare” out on the sidewalk, and Officers Means and Puckett in charge of him. They placed him under arrest, whereupon, according to Wiggers, he put up a fight, kicking the officers and endeavoring to escape from them. They finally loaded him into the hack and ordered Wiggers to drive to the city jail, which is located on Poplar street, adjoining the fire department, just south of Fifth street. Arriving at the jail Officer Means attempted to place him in a cell, when after a scuffle he broke away and ran south toward the railroad, escaping Officer Puckett, who had remained on the outside of the building. Officer Means followed him out and immediately began firing at him, commanding him to halt, and upon the fourth shot Miller fell. The horses attached to the hack were frightened by the shooting, ran away, and were captured at Fifth and Main streets. Wiggers returned with his hack to the scene of the tragedy, and the wounded man was placed in the conveyance and hurried to Axtell Hospital, where the desperate condition of his wound was at once apparent. As soon as possible after his admission to the institution an operation was performed, which disclosed that the bullet had passed entirely through the body from the right side of the back, passing through the main portion of the liver, and through the stomach, severing several of the more important blood vessels of the latter, from which there was a copious hemorrhage. These severed blood vessels were taken up and the bleeding from this source stopped, but the hemorrhage from the liver, owing to the fact that the bullet had passed entirely through it, could not be entirely stopped, owing to inability to reach the seat of the trouble.
Miller’s home is at Selbyville, Illinois, where his parents reside, and his father was last night wired concerning the almost hopeless character of the wound. A reply was received stating he would arrive here this evening or tomorrow morning. The physicians in charge of the case state that while there is always, in such cases, a chance for recovery, it is a very slim one, and the inference is given that his recovery would be cause for much greater surprise than should he succumb to his wound. The wounded man is quite popular among his fellow employees of the Santa Fe, and with all who know him, and there is much regret expressed over the unfortunate affair. A factor in favor of the young man’s recovery is that he is unaware of the desperate character of his injury, and believes that he will get well. For this reason his physicians will not permit him to be informed of his true condition realizing that to tell him the truth would only be to make his already slim chance for recovery less. And, in the absence of knowledge that he bears a mortal wound, an ante-mortem statement from him bearing on the shooting, would be of no value in court, in event the case reaches that stage. For this reason County Attorney Von der Heiden has taken no action in the matter, but will probably take his dying declaration whenever Dr. Axtell notifies him that it can be legally done. (The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Wednesday, December 14, 1910. Page 1).
In this week’s issue of your paper I read the account of the shooting of J. Clark Miller by Night Officer Means for attempting to avoid being put into jail on account of being drunk. I am not and have not been a resident of Newton since 1899, I do not know Officer Means nor Miller, nor am I in sympathy with the man who drinks and being a prohibitionist, do not condone any act committed by any man while under the influence of drink. I do not know if the young man died from the effect of his wound or not, but whether he did nor not, the case appeals to me just the same and I cannot but comment on it. Had the prisoner been a desperate character who had committed some crime and would have been a menace to the community to be at large, there might have been some excuse for using a gun to bring him down when he tried to escape, but to shoot down a young man whose offense seems to have been nothing more than to have been slightly under the influence of drink and whom, I presume the officer knew and could have arrested next morning in his room or place of business, seems to me entirely uncalled for and inexcusable from every point of view humanitarian and otherwise, and little short of criminal. I will be generous with Officer Means and assume that the prisoner in his effort to escape, roughly handled the officer, perhaps provoked him to anger by striking or otherwise causing him pain, and that while being thus wrought up he used his gun, but if such is the case, he is not a safe man to entrust with a gun and authority to use it, and your citizens should see to his removal from his position. As an officer he should at all times use judgment and common sense while in discharge of his duty. J.E. Ruth, Kingisher, Oklahoma, Dec. 17, 1910. (The Newton Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Tuesday, December 20, 1910. Page 1).
Clark Miller Died At Half-Past Three
Clark Miller, the young man shot by Night Officer Means on Tuesday night passed away at Axtell Hospital at half-past three o’clock this afternoon. He passed a bad night, was quite weak this morning, and rapidly sank to death at the hour stated. His father, who was expected to reach Newton last night or this morning, failed to reach the son’s bedside ere death relieved his suffering. Funeral arrangements will be announced tomorrow. (The Evening Kansas-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Thursday, December 15, 1910. Page 1).
Clark Miller Was In Wiggers’ Hack
According to His Dying Statement Taken by Dr. Axtell. He Was Going Home. Officer Means Says He Was Not in Hack, and Assaulted Him. Dr. Axtell, who took Miller’s dying declaration, explained to the jury that certain facts which he had not had time to incorporate in the statement of Miller, should be placed before them towit; That Miller did not know that Means and Puckett were officers when they came to him at the hack. Miller several times made this assertion to Dr. Axtell, and did not know why they were trying to take him from the hack. Miller’s Dying Statement, Axtell Hospital, 8:30 a.m., December 15, 1910: “I had been drinking to a small extent, but on arrival in Newton from Wichita I was so tired and sleepy I went straight to the hack and told the Hackman to get my partner and we would go home. While waiting there for Oran Miller the officer came to the hack and said; “Here is another one – we will just get him, too.” He reached in for me, grabbed me by the shirt tearing it, and hit me in the nose. I think I kicked him but I do not think I hit him. He was going to drag me out of the hack and I refused to get out. Finally I said if he was an officer I would have to go with him. By this time another one was there. We all three rode to the jail in the cab. I asked him not to put me in but let me go home. He said, “Come on – Come on,” so we walked to the jail door, I between the two officers. When we got to the jail door I turned and ran. I did not hit anyone there nor offer any resistance. I heard at least two shots fired before I felt one that hurt me and I fell down. I was then on Fourth street. I had run south toward the railroad. They put me in a hack. Realizing that I am about to die I make this as my dying statement.” Signed, Clark Miller Witnesses: J. T. Axtell, Della M’Cray, & Ruth Winey.
Body Taken Home. The inquest was adjourned at noon to half past o’clock, when it was the intention to have the jury visit the scene. J. R. Miller, of Shelbyville, Illinois, the dead boy’s father, arrived in Newton yesterday afternoon and reached Axtell hospital twenty minutes after the lad passed away. He left for home, accompanying the remains, at one o’clock this afternoon. Interrogated by a Kansan reporter, he expressed a determination to have the shooting thoroughly investigated, and if there be a basis for criminal prosecution, stated that if necessary, he would return to Newton and file an affidavit. He expects to arrive home with his boy’s body at 11:20 tomorrow morning. He said that Clark was very punctual about writing home and that his mother heard from him every two weeks, regularly. He left home last April, and was twenty-one years of age on March 18, last. (The Evening Kansan-Republican, Newton, Kansas. Friday, December 16, 1910. Page 1).
(c) Excerpted from the book, Deadly Encounters: Murder in Harvey County, Kansas by Darren McMannis. Used by permission.