The Crime

The Research

The Reasons

Sources

by Greg Fuller

 

The Crime

The evening of March 15, 1912 seemed to be routine for Lester Jones and Ed Harville. Both men were friends and worked as laborers, and probably had a difficult experience finding steady work. Jones and Harville were in their early twenties and were recent migrants from the upper South (Lester from Cincinnati and Ed from Tennessee). They were temporarily living with their friend Ike Harland at 1016 Sumner, two blocks west and three streets north of the crime scene.
That night, the two ventured to Mike Castriagano's Saloon, a primarily black bar. There they drank and played cards with their mutual friend George Wilson, an African-American bartender at that establishment. What took place during the early part of the evening is sketchy. It is clear that the men were on limited funds and Jones was given a plate of food that Wilson was unable to finish. Jones shared his food with Harville and the two ate off the same plate. Witnesses reported that, as the evening continued, both men consumed alcohol and that Jones was drinking excessively. Man On Central Ave. Near East 46th St., circa 1920; Collection, Western Reserve Historical Society Library
The night turned into morning. At around 5:30 a.m., March 16 a card game ensued between Harville and Harland. Jones, wanting to join the game, cleaned the bar for forty-five cents (the rough equivalent of $3.50 today). After about a half-hour, Jones made a bad play and Harville stood up and threw the cards in his face. On five different occasions, Wilson and Harland tried to stop the fight by placing Harville at the east end of the bar and Jones at the west end, near the bathroom.
During this separation, a gentleman emerged from the bathroom. Still enraged, Jones took his aggressions out on this stranger. Wilson and Harland tried to stop the altercation and shooed the innocent target of Jones' rage out the side door. At this time, Harville went behind the bar, opened a drawer, and took the .38 caliber pistol that belonged to Mike Castriagano, the Italian bar owner. John Braime, an African-American bystander, shouted that Harville had a gun. Ike Harland took Jones through the kitchen, out the back door, and told him to go home to bed and that he would soon follow. Harville stated that no one would take the gun away from him until Jones "got what was coming to him." At around 6:30 a.m. Jones left, but walked to Scovill instead of Ike Harland's house. The bar closed and all witnesses of the fight left the saloon.
Jones reappeared at the corner of 13th and Webster at around 6:50 a.m. The Cleveland streets were sunlit and beginning to buzz with local merchants starting their day. Frank Johanek, a caucasian man who lived on Cleveland's west side, owned a business across the street from Castriagano's Saloon. He arrived by horse and wagon along with Emmit Johnson, a resident of 1009 Orange Street, and witnessed the shooting. They both stated that Jones was "hanging around" and that Harville appeared, walked up to Jones and simply shot him once, then twice.
Mike Castriagano was preparing lunches to lure in customers. As he heard the first shot, he opened his door and witnessed the second shot. Jones, unarmed, took about three steps, fell, and cracked his head on the street, dying on the scene. Castriagano heard Harville say, "You son of a bitch, you got enough?" and slowly walked west towards the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Window Company, located downtown. W.S. Lyons, of 1248 Webster, awakened by the shots, hoisted his window up and saw Harville walk west towards Champlain Street. He saw that Harville had a gun in his right hand and was yelling, "You done me wrong but by God I got you!" Harville later told the police, "I walked to the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Window Company on Champlain and gave the gun to a colored boy named Wilson [the son of the bartender]. " Harville then left Cleveland for Middletown, Ohio where he was later apprehended by Officer George Moore and brought back to Cleveland via train on March 31st.
On March 16, 1912, Coroner M.A. Boesger M.D. presided over inquest number 15953 into the death of Lester Jones. The coroner's verdict and inquest seemed to only scratch the surface of what happened during Lester Jones' last day. There were eight witnesses to the crime. In my research, I found information regarding all but one witness, Emmit Johnson.

The Research