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Molecular biologist, dad joke enthusiast, Texan and Texas history buff, non-believer, skeptic, fan of Pratchett, Asimov and Sagan.

Sep 16, 2018, 11 tweets

Strap in for some crazy #Texas #history:
"The time they lynched Santa Claus for robbing a bank."

Let me set a scene:
1927: Texas Banker's Assn. responds to rash of bank robberies (3-4/day) by offering $5K reward for shooting a bank robber in the act.

Group of 4 criminals plan December 1927 heist of Cisco, TX bank:
1. Robert Hill
2. Harry Helms
3. Marshall Ratliff
4. Louis Davis
Ratliff was veteran bank robber, Helms and Hill he knew from Huntsville prison.
Davis was a cousin of Helms brought in because safe cracker got flu.

Ratliff borrows a Santa Claus suit from boarding house, dropped off blocks away, followed by children as decoy for entry of the 4 men through alley entrance of bank.

They pull guns, hold up bank, force tellers to open vault. Women with daughter enters during hold-up, bolts out side door, screams for help.

$5K reward draws an armed citizenry in addition to police!

Hill fires through window, into ceiling as warning... which results in a hail of random gunfire from armed civilians outside. Two police shot, possibly by civilians by accident. #WellRegulatedMilitia

Robbers grab two small girls as hostages, bolt to car under fire.

Here comes amateur hour:
Car was almost out of gas, one tire completely shot out.
Made it to the edge of town under fire, pursued by townspeople.
Stop & steal Oldsmobile from a 14(!) yr old driver Woody Harris.
Woody runs into trees (carrying keys).

Robbers, still under fire, transfer to new car, realize they can't start it.
Leave now unconcious Louis Davis in Olds, transfer back to original car.
They forgot money in Olds: total of $12K in cash, $150K in nonnegotiable securities.

At least 200 bullet holes in bank. 2 police officers shot, 6 townspeople shot. Davis dies from wounds.

Three days later, surviving 3 robbers caught by Texas Rangers in largest manhunt in Texas history to that date. 2 posse members injure themselves with accidental discharge.

Hill - 99 years. Escaped prison 3 times, paroled in 1940's.
Harris - death penalty for murder of police, execution 1929.
Ratliff went for insanity plea; had to be manually fed, bathed, taken to toilet.
Tried to escape, killing a jailer.

The next day, a mob of over 1,000 overpowered jailers, took Ratliff (Santa) and hung him from a power line pole. Knot failed on first try, but second attempt successful.

No trial resulted from the lynching.

"The time they lynched Santa Claus for robbing a bank."

Quick note for perspective:
The $5000 reward for shooting a bank robber in 1927 is the equivalent today of $72,000.
The $12K in cash they tried unsuccessfully to steal would be worth $172,000 today.

No wonder the armed townspeople were eager to shoot!

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