Saturday, July 13, 2019

Murder at the Pool Table.

Thomas H. Jones, aged 21, was planning to leave Brooklyn on October 5, 1880, to start a new life in San Francisco. The night before his planned departure he went to say goodbye to his friend George Secor and the two young men went to a lager beer saloon run by N. Debrowski on Atlantic Street to play billiards.

Between games, they went to the bar for some soda water. As they were placing their order John J. Dwyer entered the saloon, extremely intoxicated. He stood next to Jones and Secor and said, “I’ll take whiskey for mine.”  Neither man knew Dwyer and they ignored him; Debrowski told him that he had no whiskey.

Jones and Secor finished their drinks and returned to the billiard table. Dwyer followed them and watched them play for a few minutes. Then, without provocation he said, “I’m the sucker, am I?”

Dwyer picked up an eighteen-ounce ash billiard cue and struck Jones behind the right ear with the butt end of the cue with enough force to break the cue into two pieces. He picked up the butt end and started chasing Secor who ran out of the saloon screaming for help.

Officer McCormack of the 1st Precinct rushed to the saloon, followed by Officer Reilly of the 3rd Precinct who saw Jones on the floor and sent for an ambulance. Jones died before it arrived.

John Dwyer was a 27-year-old plasterer, known as “Dr. Dwyer,” in South Brooklyn. He was a strong, powerful man, weighing over 200 pounds, known to become ugly when drunk. He had been looking for a fight all evening and had been thrown out of a cigar store before going into Debrowski’s saloon.

Dwyer had sunk into a drunken stupor when the policemen arrived and the officers decided to take everyone involved down to the station to sort things out. They arrested Dwyer, Secor, Dobrowski, and Dobrowski’s wife and began herding the group to the 1st Precinct Stationhouse. They had only gone a short distance when Dwyer snapped out of his stupor and began a desperate struggle for his liberty, “biting, sliding, and kicking the whole way.” Sergeant Eaton who jumped in to aid the officers received a kick in the stomach which nearly disabled him. Another officer was knocked down by a kick to the eye. The officers finally managed to subdue Dwyer and put him in cell.

John Dwyer was indicted for second-degree murder. At his trial the following January, Dwyer said that he could never remember what happened when he was drunk. While this was seldom an effective defense, in this case Dwyer was found guilty of manslaughter in the fourth degree and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary.

“Axe Handle and Billiard Cue,” New York Herald, October 8, 1880.
“The Deadly Billiard Cue,” Truth, October 5, 1880.
“Home News,” New York Tribune, January 20, 1881.
“A Light Sentence for Murder,” Truth, January 25, 1881.
“Murder at the Pool Table,” New York Herald, October 5, 1880.
“Murder at the Pool Table,” National Police Gazette, October 16, 1880.
“Suburban Notes,” New York Herald, November 25, 1880.


Graham Clayton says:
July 30, 2019 at 9:11 PM

A sad example of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rockatansky88 says:
September 16, 2019 at 12:12 PM

Only 2 years in Jail!?

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