Ambush in the Acre (Part 2): The Accused

Robert P. Hammond was the kind of guy who, if the Devil were doling out meanness in Hell’s Half Acre, would go through the line twice. And as he went through a second time he probably would punch the guy in front of him and shoot the guy behind him.

Bob Hammond was one mean man.

campbell 1909 cdSaloon owner Hammond, accused of killing police officer W. A. Campbell in 1909 (see Part 1), had himself been a Fort Worth police officer for a few months in 1907-1908, write historians Dr. Richard Selcer and Kevin Foster in Written in Blood (Volume 1).

hammond girl shot 7-23-08 teleThen Bob Hammond turned in his badge and went over to the other side. With a vengeance. He soon had a rap sheet that reads like a Monty Python script: violence of an absurd level. For starters, sometime in early 1908 Will Chadwick sold to Hammond a saloon on East 13th at Jones Street on the fringe of the Acre. The transaction was not amicable. In July 1908 Hammond and Chadwick argued. Hammond debated the issue with the only form of argument he knew: a gun. Hammond shot at Chadwick but missed. But before the smoke cleared, a man and a woman—W. R. Hunt and Sophia Wolfe—and a dog were hit. Hammond was charged with two counts of assault to murder. Clip is from the July 23 Telegram.

hammond panel 2Bob Hammond was often arrested, and although he was often convicted of penny-ante offenses, when it came to the big offenses—assault to murder in the Chadwick case, murder in the Campbell case—Hammond would seem to be Teflon-coated. 

hammond shot by campbell 7-11A year after the Chadwick shooting, on July 10, 1909 it was Hammond’s turn to be shot. As officer Campbell and Hammond passed each other in the Acre, Campbell thought Hammond was about to draw a gun on him and fired at Hammond. Clip is from the July 11 Star-Telegram.

hammond purdy 7-27-09 stBarely out of the hospital after being shot in both legs by officer Campbell, Hammond found time to assault a kindergarten cop (perhaps hitting him with a crutch?). Clip is from the July 27, 1909 Star-Telegram.

hammond my own merits 7-29-9 stTwo days later the Star-Telegram announced that Hammond would be a candidate for sheriff in the 1910 election! The article ticked off candidate Hammond’s recent violent run-ins with the law and then quoted him as saying he was running “strictly on my merits.”

hammond campbell charged 1 8-13-09 stThen, of course, came August 12 and the assassination of police officer Campbell on a sidewalk in the Acre. Hammond was charged with murder. Clip is from the August 13 Star-Telegram.

hammond candidate banner 8-13 stOn August 13 candidate Hammond got some free campaign publicity on page 1: A candidate for sheriff was charged with murdering a police officer. Nosiree, you can’t buy PR like that!

hammond sketch 8-18A preliminary hearing in the Campbell case was held in August. For the state’s case against Hammond, so far, so good. Sketch is from the August 18 Star-Telegram.

hammond continuance 12-10-09 stBut as soon as the state began rounding up witnesses in the case, it hit a brick wall. Or rather a stonewall. Eyewitnesses and others who knew something about the murder of Campbell lived or worked or played in the Acre. They were not eager to be on the witness stand and have their lives exposed to “the law.” Witnesses began disappearing. Suddenly the case that had looked so strong began to falter. The state began asking for continuances.

Hammond was freed on bond. Clip is from the December 10, 1909 Star-Telegram.

hammond dilatory 3-19-10 stIn March 1910 Hammond’s defense accused the state of dragging its feet. In fact, the state dragged its feet so long that the original indictment was quashed. Hammond had to be reindicted. Clip is from the March 19 Star-Telegram.

hammond dynamiting riverWhile free on bond in his murder case in 1910 Bob Hammond, the man who would be sheriff, got busy campaigning: First he was charged with dynamiting the Trinity River while fishing.

hammond dynamiting beat witness 4-22-10

Then Hammond was charged with having a teenaged relative beat up a teenaged witness against Hammond. Clip is from the April 22 Star-Telegram.

hammond nose 4-28-10And then, after being found guilty of blowing up fish and assaulting a teenaged witness, Hammond “pulled the nose” of S. M. Gross, the state’s witness in Hammond’s assault on the fish-dynamiting witness. Ka-ching. Another charge of assault. (Are you getting all this?) Clip is from the April 28, 1910 Star-Telegram.

hammond 2 assault dismissed 5-11-13Meanwhile, back to the more serious charges. In 1913, five years after the wounding of Sophia Wolfe and W. R. Hunt in 1908, charges of assault to murder against Hammond were dropped. Clip is from the May 11 Star-Telegram.

And in 1914, after five years of trying to convict Hammond of murdering officer William “Ad” Campbell in 1909, the state gave up. With only circumstantial evidence—unsupported by today’s DNA, fingerprinting, and other forensics—the state just couldn’t find the witnesses to convict Hammond. The murder charge was dismissed.

Bob Hammond walked.

On the other hand, at least he wasn’t elected sheriff.

The Black Hole of a Red-Light District

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