A Brutal Murder

January 30, 1897


A teenaged “colored” boy is shot and killed in Wytheville after a fight with a white boy and the officers trying to arrest him.


Wytheville, January 24- Chief-of-Police Thomas L. Moyers shot and killed Thomas Johnson (colored) in the office of Fourth-Avenue Hotel, on Main street last night.
The policeman shot him twice. The first shot took effect between the fifth and sixth ribs, on the right side, in front. The second one was a flesh wound under the right shoulder blade.
The killing grew out of a difficulty between the colored man and Earle Moyers, nephew of the Chief-of-Police.
Earle Moyers is a boy about 15 or 16 years old, and runs an express and baggage wagon to and from the station. Thomas Johnson, who was killed, was a porter at the Fourth-Avenue Hotel.
Struck the Porter
Late yesterday evening Earle Moyers went to the Fourth-Avenue Hotel to see a drummer about taking his baggage to the depot, when he had some words with Johnson about the baggage, which resulted in young Moyers’ striking the porter with his driving whip and the porter’s taking the whip and breaking it up.
At the train last night, at train time, about 8 o’clock, the difficulty between the two was renewed when the colored man struck the boy. After the eastern and western bound trains had passed young Moyers came back to town, went before a justice of peace and swore out a warrant for Johnson’s arrest, charging him with an assault.
Serving a Warrant
The warrant was put in the hands of Chief-of-Police Moyers for execution, and he went down to Fourth Avenue Hotel and found Johnson in the office. The Chief told Johnson that he had a warrant for his arrest. Johnson replied: “Very well, but wait until I can get my coat,” and added: “I will go with you, but you must not put your hands on me,” or words to that effect. Moyers made some reply and went towards the colored man, when he resisted.
Struck him with a Club
Moyers then struck him with his club. The colored man turned, after being struck, snatched the club from the policeman’s hands, and dealt him several blows over the head with it. Moyer then drew his pistol and fired. The colored man turned and started to run, when Moyers shot him the second time. Moyers at once walked out of the office and placed himself in the hands of some friends, Deputy-Sheriff Walker White being one of them.
His Lifeblood Oozing
The colored man walked a few steps towards an ante-room in the rear part of the office and fell. Dr. P.B. Green was sent for. He arrived in a few seconds, made an examination, and told Johnson that he would die in a few moments, which he did, for he only lived about forty minutes after he was shot. A large crowd soon gathered, most of whom were colored people. The friends of the deceased made all sorts of threats, none of which they could carry into execution, for they could not find a policeman.
There were only three witnesses to the killing- namely, Mr. Eli Rider, clerk of the hotel, and Craig Johnson and Walter Burks (both colored.)
The Murderer in Jail
Policeman Moyers is now in jail, having been placed there this morning awaiting his preliminary trial, which takes place tomorrow.
Blair and Blair will defend him, while Judge J.G. Holbrook and Mr. Waller S. Poage, assisting Commonwealth’s- Attorney Robert Sayers, will prosecute him.
Killed Another Man
The feeling her among the colored people against the prisoner is very great, and this feeling was precipitated by the killing of another colored man, Lorenzo Furchess, here last August by Mr. Moyers. Furchess was from North Carolina. Mr. Moyers had a warrant for his arrest, and went to execute it, when Furchess ran and Moyers shot and killed him at a distance of some seventy-five yards, Moyers was tried and acquitted.
A post-mortem examination this evening showed that Thomas Johnson was shot through the liver.
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Upper Left Quadrant

Contributed By

Brian Schrott


“A Brutal Murder,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed January 22, 2020, http://blackvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/31.