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September 9: Fatal Shootings in Benson County

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A man wanted for various crimes in other states met his demise in 1938 in Oberon, North Dakota. A sheriff’s deputy intervened in late-night street brawl, and as one of the troublemakers fled, Benson County Deputy Sheriff Walter Crane called for him to halt. The man drew a gun and fired at Crane, who shot back, killing the man.

On this date in 1938, the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the dead man as Paul Cross, alias Bill Carr, who was wanted in connection with the shooting of a Pennsylvania highway patrolman during a holdup of a tavern, plus robberies in four states.

The FBI identified Cross by fingerprints provided by Benson County authorities. FBI agents traveled from Aberdeen to Maddock and Minnewaukan to handle the investigation. U.S. Department of Justice agents had been looking for Cross and his companions for months. An FBI agent also planned to send in Cross’s gun and its bullets for analysis to determine whether the weapon was used in the fatal shooting of a pool hall operator in Wolford, North Dakota, during an attempted holdup. Cross’s brother and other companions were later arrested in Ohio in connection with various crimes.

Coincidentally, the same day as Cross’s shooting death, a coroner’s jury cleared Deputy Crane for a previous fatal shooting of a “transient harvest hand.” The man was reportedly part of a group that had taken a shot at people attending a fall festival. A revolver with one round fired was found on the dead man’s body, helping to justify the use of deadly force.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura

The Daily Republican. 1938, March 21. Page 1: “Trooper shot by surprised bandit trio”
Argus-Leader. 1938, August 16. Page 2: “North Dakota seeks for pair of slayers”
The Bismarck Tribune. 1938, September 3. Page 1: “Officer cleared in man’s death”
The Bismarck Tribune. 1938, September 9. Page 10: “N.D. sheriff shot Pittsburgh outlaw”
The Record-Argus. 1938, September 9. Page 1: “Paul Cross is slain in West”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 1938, September 9. Page 34: “Transient killed by deputy identified as bank robber”
The Bismarck Tribune. 1938, September 10. Page 2: “May link toughie with Wolford death”
The Bismarck Tribune. 1938, December 9. Page 1: “Brother of man killed in N.D. held for crimes”

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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