A gang of bandits might have gotten away with one more heist, if it weren’t for a muddy road north of Polk where their crime spree ended in a shootout.
During the first months of 1927, Ashland and surrounding area had been plagued by pistol-toting bandits. Usually working in pairs, young men would enter a business and demand cash at gunpoint. Victims included Topping Brothers garage, Ray Lindsey’s gas station on Cleveland Avenue, and Rome Raubenolt, who was accosted on the sidewalk as he left his Arch Street grocery store.
On April 11, 1927, four of the bandits held up a jewelry store in Lodi, where they tied up the proprietor and three bystanders before escaping to a waiting car with their loot. As the thieves headed toward Homerville, the alarm reached law enforcement in Ashland and Medina.
The bandits crossed into Ashland County — apparently on County Road 700 — but their car got stuck in the spring mud on the back road. They flagged down a nearby farmer who started to pull them out. Just then, the first pursuers arrived on the scene, and the bandits fled on foot into nearby woods as the posse encircled them.
Closing in on the suspects, Deputy Thomas Easterly twice called on Jack Turney to give himself up, but the bandit turned his gun on the officer, who then shot and killed him.
The other three members of the gang were captured, with two of them injured in the process, and taken to the Ashland County Jail. James McFarland was uninjured, while Robert Arlington suffered a head wound. The third man initially gave his name as James Bowman but later admitted it was Madden. He had 22 pieces of shot in his body, which was removed by Dr. Riebel.
At least three of the robbers were veterans of World War I, including Turney, who had served eleven months overseas as a master wagoner. Thomas Easterly, who shot Turney, was a Lieutenant in the Ohio National Guard when he was deputized by Sheriff Hassinger.
The capture of the Turney gang seemed to solve the mystery behind all of the hold-ups that year. Madden pled guilty, and McFarland and Arlington were found guilty at a jury trial that June. Continuing investigation led to a few more arrests and confessions related to the Ashland County hold-ups.
One of those arrested was Gerald Hinkle of Ashland, the 24-year-old cousin of the Jack Turney, the dead bandit. He was arrested at his cousin’s funeral, where he was serving as a pall bearer.
On April 20, following these events, the county commissioners, city council, and local American Legion men agreed to jointly shoulder the burden of fighting future crime. About fourteen Legion men offered to form an emergency posse in case of need, while the city and county appropriated $400 to purchase weapons. Six high-powered rifles, four automatics, and two shotguns would be acquired. There was some discussion of acquiring tear gas bombs and a small machine gun, but a final decision was put off at that time.
Sarah Kearns, who writes the Ashland Memories column for every other Saturday, works at the Ashland Public Library. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.