November 26

This Day in History

Crime

Nov 26, 1933:

Vigilantes in California lynch two suspected murderers

Thousands of peoples in San Jose, California, storm the jail where Thomas Thurmond and John Holmes are being held as suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Brooke Hart, the 22-year-old son of a local storeowner. The mob of angry citizens proceeded to lynch the accused men and then pose them for pictures.

On November 9, Brooke Hart was abducted by men in his own Studebaker. His family received a $40,000 ransom demand and, soon after, Hart's wallet was found on a tanker ship in a nearby bay. The investigative trail led to Holmes and Thurmond, who implicated each other in separate confessions. Both acknowledged, though, that Hart had been pistol-whipped and then thrown off the San Mateo Bridge.

After Hart's body washed ashore on November 25, a vigilante mob began to form. Newspapers reported the possibility of a lynching and local radio stations broadcast the plan. Not only did Governor James Rolph reject the National Guard's offer to send assistance, he reportedly said he would pardon those involved in the lynching.

On November 26, the angry mob converged at the jail and beat the guards, using a battering ram to break into the cells. Thurmond and Holmes were dragged out and hanged from large trees in a nearby park.

The public seemed to welcome the gruesome act of vigilante violence. After the incident, pieces of the lynching ropes were sold to the public. Though the San Jose News declined to publish pictures of the lynching, it condoned the act in an editorial. Seventeen-year-old Anthony Cataldi bragged that he had been the leader of the mob but he was not held accountable for his participation. At Stanford University, a professor asked his students to stand and applaud the lynching. Perhaps most disturbing, Governor Rolph publicly praised the mob. "The best lesson ever given the country," said Governor Rolph. "I would like to parole all kidnappers in San Quentin to the fine, patriotic citizens of San Jose."

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