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Hot Springs, Arkansas Police Sergeant Thomas Goslee

For a long time tensions had been building over control of the profits from gambling and other illicit activity in Hot Springs. The Hot Springs Police Department and the Garland County Sheriff's Department were each getting part of the action from the lawlessness and each was determined to protect its interests. It all happened on what turned out to be a bloody and violent Monday.

On the morning of Monday, March 16, 1899, the Independent Party Members held a meeting at the Hot Springs City Hall. Included in the meeting was mayoral candidate C.W. Fry, who was supported by Police Chief Toler. There were several police officers present at the meeting.

As soon as the meeting ended, an unidentified person ran to the Sheriff’s Office to inform Sheriff Williams of the subjects covered at the meeting.

Sheriff Williams stomped out of his office and headed downtown where he encountered a friend, Dave Young, who had worked as a deputy from time to time. They entered the Klondike Saloon where they discussed the meeting until about 1:30 p.m.

At approximately the same time, Hot Springs Police Sergeant Tom Goslee had lunch at the Corrinne Remington Café. Following lunch, he walked to Tobe and York’s barbershop at 614 Central Avenue and got a haircut. He had left his .44 caliber pistol in his desk and was carrying only a 2-shot derringer.

As the sheriff and Young were approaching the intersection of Spring Street and Central Avenue, they spotted Goslee leaving the barbershop. Sheriff Williams called out to Goslee, who then approached the two men. Sheriff Williams refused to shake hands with Goslee and then yelled, "I want to know what you mean by working against me."

Goslee didn’t deny anything and furthermore began to defend Police Chief Toler. Sheriff Williams began to yell at Goslee calling him a liar and a coward. At one point, the sheriff reached in his coat as if to get his pistol; Goslee drew his derringer and leveled it at the sheriff, explaining that he wanted no trouble, but he would defend himself. At that point, Young stepped between the two men and separated them. Sheriff Williams opened his coat to show Goslee that he wasn’t armed.

Sheriff Williams’ son, John, then came out of the City Hall Saloon. According to eye witnesses, John passed a .44 caliber revolver to the sheriff. John also had a second revolver for himself. The sheriff and his son opened fire on Sergeant Goslee, but did not hit him. Goslee returned fire with the 2-shot derringer and escaped unhurt. He went down an alley to the Sumpter House where he awaited the arrival of Chief Toler and another police officer.

Police Chief Toler notified the prosecutor, David Cloud, of the incident. Cloud got statements from witnesses, then from the sheriff and his son. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Sheriff Bob Williams.

Chief Toler suggested to Goslee that he try to meet with the sheriff’s son, John, to help diffuse the situation. Meanwhile, he would meet with the sheriff.

Chief Toler called a private meeting at his home with Goslee, C.W. Fry, Captain Lee Haley and property owners Samuel Stitt and George French. The object of the meeting was to discuss possible methods of lessening the tensions between the Hot Springs Police Department and the Garland County Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Toler contacted Sheriff Williams suggesting a meeting at 5:30 pm. Williams agreed, though it would have to be brief since this was his daughter’s twenty-first birthday celebration.

Sheriff Williams later learned of his son’s meeting with Sergeant Goslee, also scheduled for that evening. The sheriff contacted his brother, Coffee Williams, requesting that he accompany his son John to the meeting with Goslee.

Continued on Page 2

©Copyright 2010 Wilson Jay