Patrolman Gannon Shot During Raid on ‘Shiners, Alleged Assailant Flees

Submitted by Donna J. Glasgow

Saturday, October 23, 1926

Boyd County, Kentucky


William E. Gannon, Boyd County patrolman, was shot three times about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon and probably fatally wounded during a raid on a still on East Fork.  Harry Thompson, who was placed under arrest at the still, is the alleged assailant.  He escaped after the shooting.

Gannon with a bullet in the abdomen and two in the back is in a critical condition at the King’s Daughter’s hospital.  His attending physicians hold out little hope for his recovery, in spite of the fact that he had a good night and his condition seemed somewhat improved this morning.

According to the story of the events that led up to the shooting as told by Squire T.N. Newsome, Jr., Gannon said that he had a moonshine still located.  He deputized Ed Brown of Westwood and set out to get it early yesterday morning.


Walk Across Mountain

            When he had gone as close to the still as he could in the automobile Gannon and Brown left the machine on Hoods Creek and they walked across the mountain to East Fork.  They came upon Harry Thompson, according to Newsome, and three other men eating lunch in a field a short distance from the still.  Three of the men ran and escaped after an exchange of shots.  The officers, it is said, fired into the ground.  Thompson made no effort to escape.  He sat still and invited the officers to eat with him.  They declined, however.

            According to Newsome, Gannon placed Thompson under arrest and told Brown to guard him while he poured out the mash and got rid of the other stuff.  All the while, the story runs, Thompson kept urging Brown to lay down his gun so he could help Gann in the work of tearing down the still, assuring him that he would not be harmed.

            Thompson is alleged to have told the officers, after Brown refused to lay down his gun, that:  “If you fellows had fired a shot to harm one of my men neither of you would have left here alive.”

            After Gannon had dismantled the still, he and Brown carried it about a quarter of a mile to the nearest road.  Here Gannon asked Thompson if he had a gun on him.  He assured Gannon that he had none, adding that if he had had one he would have given it to him.  He told the officers that the high-powered rifle they secured was the only weapon he had.

Watched Still

            Then, Newsome continued, Gannon told Brown to stand there and watch <missing from copy>


Patrolman Gannon Shot


son over to the car on Hoods Creek and come back and get him (Brown) and the still.

            It was while on the way to pick up Brown that the shooting occurred.

            “Gannon told me,” Newsome went on, “that as they neared the top of a hill a short distance from where they had left Brown and the still, Thompson suddenly pulled a pistol and fired at Gannon.  He missed him.  Gannon then said he grabbed Thompson and threw him out of the car.

            He jumped on top of Thompson, but the latter wriggled himself free and shot Gannon in the abdomen and as Gannon attempted to get his gun, Thompson, who was dodging around the machine, fired two more shots into Gannon’s back.”

            Newsome said that Gannon told him that he fired several times at Thompson, but he kept running around hiding behind the car and most of his shots hit it instead of Thompson.  He said, however, that he believed he hit Thompson as he finally disappeared over the hill.

            For a time, Newsome said Gannon told him, he lay beside his machine.  Finally he gained enough strength to get into the car and drive down a hill to where Brown was waiting.  When he reached Brown he came to him and told him that he was killed.  He then collapsed.

Trouble Again

            Brown stated that when they neared Thompson’s mother’s home one of Harry’s brothers was there, Andrew Thompson.  It is charged that he rushed out with a gun and attempted to shoot Gannon because he believed that Gannon had killed Harry.  Newsome said that some women held Andrew back while Brown leveled a high-powered rifle on him and placed him under arrest.  He was brought into town but later released on bond on a charge of flourishing a gun. 

            Immediately after news of the shooting reached Squire Newsome he organized a posse and scoured the hills until 3 o’clock in the morning, but no trace of Thompson was found.

            Newsome reported that he went to get the still that had been left beside the road, they found that it had been removed.

            It was reported today that Thompson was shot twice in the shoulder and once in the stomach, but this could not be confirmed from any reliable source.

            Gannon is considered by county officials to be one of the best and most conscientious officers in the county.

            At the hospital last night Gannon is reported to have told his wife that if he didn’t get well he was prepared to die and that he wanted the still placed in the front yard of his home to show the citizens of Boyd County just what he had been doing.






Boyd County, Kentucky

Tuesday, October 26, 1926


No Trace Found of Alleged Assailant


            County Patrolman W. M. Gannon, 45, who was shot late Friday afternoon allegedly by Harry Thompson, whom he had placed under arrest on East Fork following the dismantling of a moonshine still which was supposed to be the property of Thompson, died at the Kings Daughters Hospital at 5 o’clock this morning.

            Gannon was shot three times, once through the abdomen and twice in the back.  Thompson escaped after the shootings and is still at large despite the ceaseless search being conducted by county officers.

            He has been reported at various places, but all these reports have proved to be false.  A woman called the squire’s office and told the officers to watch Ashland doctors when they started to Russell and they’d find Harry Thompson.  She hung up without giving her name.

            Late yesterday Thompson was reported to be at Chesapeake, Ohio, at his brother-in-law’s home.  Two officers accompanied by the sheriff of Lawrence went to this scene but he was not there.

            A number of persons have reported to the officers that Thompson is wounded ands is being treated by a doctor here in town, while other reports say that he was not touched by any of the half dozen or more bullets fired at him by Gannon.

            Funeral services for the slain officer will be conducted from the Westwood Baptist church at 10 o’clock Thursday morning and burial will be made in the Dixon Cemetery.

            Besides his wife, he is survived by the following children:  Fay, 14, Audrie, 13, Alfred, 10, and Charles, 3.

            Coroner J. L. Richardson will probably hold an inquest over the body at the Muller Undertaking establishment this afternoon or tomorrow morning.