Reprinted from the San Bernardino Daily Sun
April 14, 1923
Elmer Estes, police officer of Colton and father of four children, was shot and instantly killed by a Mexican shortly before 11 o’clock last night in front of the Colton police station.
The slayer took Estes’ gun from the officer’s hand as he fell to the sidewalk, and with a companion fled east on I Street, leveling his revolver at pedestrians who attempted to stop him. A third Mexican fled west on I Street.
Half a dozen people, standing within a radius of 100 feet, witnessed the tragedy. The fire alarm shrieked out its warning and hundreds of people soon thronged the street. Posses were quickly formed.
Posse men Open Fire on Two Suspects
Firing by posse men began shortly before midnight, when Ray Ventle and Dan Huston met two Mexicans in the dark near the Southern Pacific tracks east of Colton. The Mexicans were ordered to halt, and one of them replied with two shots. The men returned the fire, using three shots. The Mexicans jumped over a sand dune and were lost in the darkness.
Shortly before 1 o’clock firing was again heard in the jungles east of the scene of the first shooting. Posse men involved in this shooting had not reported the details at 2 o’clock this morning.
Hundreds of armed men were thrown into the region, southeast of Colton, and officers expected action by dawn unless the slayer has succeeded in slipping through the posses.
Chief of Police Guy George of Colton called for volunteers for the expected battle.
A Mexican who gave his name as Jesus Garcia confessed at 1 o’clock this morning that he was one of the three Mexicans sought. He is the Mexican who separated from the slayer and his other companions and fled west. As posse men closed in on him at the Santa Fe railroad tracks west of Colton, he threw away a watch.
At 3 o’clock this morning Jesus Garcia, one of the Mexicans involved in the killing identified Ambrosio Acebedo, who was taken from a train at Ontario, as a companion of the death party earlier in the evening. Garcia declared Acebedo was not present at the killing. Believing he may be either the murderer of his companion, officers held him for identification by eyewitnesses.
It was estimated 300 searchers were out at 4 o’clock this morning, waiting for dawn.
Sheriff W.A. Shay ordered into the field every available deputy on his staff, the San Bernardino police force sent a squad of officers to the scene and Riverside contributed another squad. Within less than an hour dozens of posses were thrown into the Santa Ana river bottom south and east of Colton, and a great manhunt was on.
Colton, stunned by the tragedy, cried out for vengeance and hundreds of men volunteered for the hunt.
Decides to Take Men to City Hall
Estes halted the three Mexicans on Eighth Street, south of the Anderson Hotel, and when his questioning of the men did not satisfy him he asked them to go with him to the police station.
The officer was standing near Cosgrove’s Jewelry store talking with Kenneth Appersons, 1232 Acadcia Street, San Bernardino, and Miss Stella Heap of Fontana. The three Mexicans crossed the street, leaving the sidewalk at about in front of Willet’s store.
“When they approached us,” said Miss Heap, “Mr. Estes stopped them and asked them where they were going. They said they were going home. Mr. Estes said he had never seen them in Colton before and apparently doubted they were telling the truth. One of the Mexicans resisted Mr. Estes, and later went out into the street to bring him back. He searched the man but found nothing. He then told the three they would have to go to the police station. They protested, and Mr. Estes took the man who had resisted him by the arm and they started for the police station. Just at the door of the station, one of the Mexicans pulled Mr. Estes around and fired. There were four shots.”
Mr. Apperson told the same story as did Miss Heap. Both were able to give the Colton police a complete description of the three Mexicans.
Mexican Refuses to Enter Station
As Officer Estes started for the police station, he met A.E. Dillam and J.L. Price of the General Service Garage, who were on their way home.
“Mr. Estes asked us to come along,” said Mr. Price. “We had seen the officer standing on the corner, and I heard him say: ‘No, you will come down here first.’ The biggest one of the three refused to come. ‘We don’t know anything this man said. Estes searched him for a weapon. The other two started along all right.
“When they got to the door of the police station, the Mexicans refused to go in. Estes took the one who was making the trouble by the collar and was pushing him into the door with one hand. He had taken his gun out, but was not pointing it. Just then one of the other Mexicans grabbed Estes by the arm, whirled him around, and shot him.”
Mr. Dillman, who was closest to the officer, added: “When Estes fell, the Mexican who had shot him, held his gun up ready to shoot anyone who interfered, and reaching down rolled Estes’ body over and grabbed the officer’s gun. They separated. The murderer and one Mexican fled east on I Street and the third one went west, and turned north.
“Estes fired one shot, but he couldn’t aim his gun, for the Mexican had him by the arm in which he held the gun. Estes started to level his gun, but the Mexican was too fast. The Mexican fired three shots, one of them striking Estes right in the forehead.”
W.C. Hovey was in the Anderson Hotel and when he saw the commotion he went out and followed the officer and the prisoners. He saw practically what the others did.
As the slayer and his companion ran east on I Street, William McGrail, fireman, and Charles Larson, furniture dealer, turned the corner from Ninth Street into I. They had heard the shots and started to stop the two, but one of them held a revolver ready to shoot.
Large Crowd Attracted to Scene of Shooting
The fire alarm, following soon after the firing of the four shots, attracted a large crowd. Appeals for aid were at once telephoned to San Bernardino and as fast as officers could be assembled, automobiles rushed them to Colton. Many of them carried rifles.
Dr. C.F. Whitmer said that Estes died instantly from a bullet through his brain.
At midnight Mrs. Estes was told of her husband’s death. The family resides on Eighth Street opposite the Colton Theater. There are four children, the youngest about two years. There are two boys and two girls, the eldest Evelyn, 11 years old. Mr. Estes is also survived by his mother.
The officer came to Colton a year and a half ago from El Centro, and about a year ago was appointed on the police force.
Following is the description of the slayer, as officers pieced it together from various witnesses:
Age 22 to 25 years, height five feet three to five feet five; 120 pounds, slender, very dark Mexican, wore dirty gray cap, gray shirt and dark trousers.
At 2 o’clock this morning the Mexican captured near the Santa Fe tracks was beginning to break under the continuous questioning of Deputy Sheriff Jesus Amarias.
He declared his name was Garcia and that he hailed from San Pedro and Los Angeles and had reached Colton only yesterday. He declared he didn’t know who the other two Mexicans were, declaring he had met them only a short time before and was merely walking along with him
Garcia was arrested by C.S. Johnson, real estate man, and S.S. Church, of the Colton Dairy Company, both of whom are special deputy sheriffs.
They found a searchlight and the watch Garcia threw away. The watch was an open face and inexpensive affair.
At 2:30 o’clock this morning Garcia declared his companions were from San Bernardino and that he met them at the merry-go-round in Colton. Officers found witnesses, however, who testified that Garcia and three other Mexicans left a Riverside car at 10 o’clock yesterday morning. He insisted he arrived on a freight train later in the day.
Garcia declared the Mexican who did the shooting was of light complexion and not dark, as witnesses had declared.
Three Murder Suspects Are Given Grilling
Reprinted from The San Bernardino Daily Sun
April 16, 1923
Eyewitnesses to Slaying of Colton Officer Identify Men
Last of Arrested Mexicans Believed to be Gun Toter
Additional identification of the three suspected slayers of Elmer Estes, Colton police officer, was furnished yesterday afternoon by eyewitnesses to the tragedy enacted in front of the police station of the nearby city late Friday night.
All three suspects, Jesus Garcia, Ambrosio Asvedo, and Carmen Mungia, were housed in the County Jail for the first time last night. They were placed in the doubly guarded “murder row” and separated so as to prevent their communicating with one another.
Other prisoners have protested against being locked near them, so strong is the feeling against he suspected murderers.
Garcia was brought to the local jail yesterday by Sheriff Walter A. Shay and deputies. He was the first of the trio to be captured, having been cornered near the Santa Fe tracks in Colton early Saturday morning by a posse. He has previously been held in Colton.
Asevedo, whose correct name is believed to be Jesus Pola, was brought here from Ontario yesterday by deputies from the sheriff’s office. Munga was previously brought here from Los Angeles.
Tragedy Witnesses See Prisoners
Kenneth Appersons of San Bernardino, Miss Stella Heap of Fontana, A.E. Dillam and J.L. Price of Colton, W.C. Hovey, Charles Larson and William McGrall, also of Colton, all of whom with the exception of Larson and McGrail, were eyewitnesses to the tragedy, viewed the suspected slayers yesterday afternoon. Each was of the opinion that the trio housed under heavy guard are the real slayers of the Colton officer.
Larson and McGrail, who attempted to stop the two fleeing Mexicans, believed to have been Asevedo and Mungia, stated that the two suspects were the wanted men.
Suspects Deny Murder
All three suspects deny their knowledge or participation in the murder. Their stories have broken in dozens of places under severe grilling by members of the sheriff’s staff, however.
While the events of yesterday have materially aided in connecting the three suspects with the murder, other suspected Mexicans held in many Southern California jails may prove to be the guilty ones.
Officers Holding Mexicans
Officers throughout Southern California counties have arrested men answering the description of the men wanted and those who cannot furnish good accounts of their actions will be subjected to rigid investigation.
Of the three suspects Mungia is thought to have been the killer. He answers the description of being slightly taller than his two supposed companions. Officers declare that he appears to be a moron, and is of a vicious temperament.
Funeral services for Officer Estes will be held from the Knopsnyder funeral parlors in Colton this afternoon at 2 o’clock. The Rev. Horace Blood, pastor of the Fist Baptist Church of that city, will officiate.