by Captain Ernest Denicke.
Ernest Denicke came from a highly respected family, his father being Colonel E. Denicke, a prominent capitalist. Young Denicke was a graduate of the State University and a retired captain of the National Guard. He was a civil engineer by profession. Immediately after the earthquake he donned a khaki uniform of Captain's rank and stationed himself with the soldiers detailed at the water front near East and Lombard streets.
On the afternoon of April 20 Horace Hudson, of the San Francisco Chronicle, and Andrew Sbarboro, the well known capitalist, saw some soldiers in an intoxicated condition at Battery and East streets. They immediately proceeded to the officers' headquarters at East and Lombard streets and reported their observations to Ernest Denicke, who started to return with them to East and Battery streets.
When the trio neared this point, according to the statements of Sbarboro and Hudson, they observed a man carrying some fowls.
Denicke evidently suspected that they were stolen, and he ordered a sailor who was acting as a sentinel to instruct the man to drop the fowls and get out and fight the fire.
The man dropped the fowls and started away, when Denicke is alleged to have ordered the sailor to prod him with a bayonet. The sailor attempted to do so, but the stranger grappled with him, and after disarming the sailor it is claimed he started toward the bay with the rifle.
At that instant Denicke fired several shots at the man, who fell mortally wounded.
The stranger died shortly afterward, and that night Lieutenant Charles Herring, U. S. A., weighted the body with iron and had it thrown into the bay. It was afterward claimed that the fowls were given to this man at the distribution car.
On May 24 Denicke was arrested, and he made a statement substantially as follows:
"I saw the man with the chickens, and believing he had stolen them I ordered the sentry to take them from him, and after he did so the man robbed him of his rifle and turned toward me. I believed that he was about to shoot at me, and as a matter of self-defense I shot him.
"At the time I was under the impression that martial law prevailed, and I had in mind the order to kill all persons caught stealing."
As the body of the unknown was never recovered, Denicke was charged with the murder of John Doe.
Ex-Governor James Budd and Abraham Ruef were engaged by the defense and the preliminary examination began before Police judge Shortall on May 27.
After hearing the evidence the judge dismissed the charge against the defendant. As there was a belief in some quarters that Denicke should be punished, he was again arrested, and Superior Judge Lawlor sat as a committing magistrate.
After hearing the evidence the judge held the defendant to answer before the Superior Court. The trial took place before a jury in Judge Cook's court, and the defendant was found not guilty, on November 28, 1906.
At the time these trials were being conducted the great fire had made the Hall of Justice but a memory of the past, so the sessions of the different courts were held in basements of private buildings, in halls and churches throughout the city.
Judge Cook's court was first held in the basement of Calvary Church, at Washington and Fillmore streets, and later at the Salvation Army Hall, at Fillmore and Post streets, where Seimsen and Dabner, the gaspipe thugs, received their death sentence.
Judge Lawlor's court was held in the magnificent Jewish Synagogue, at California and
Webster streets, where John Byrne, the murderer of Police Officer George O'Connoll, was
sentenced to be hanged.