A Murderous Shot Fired from Ambush

Philadelphia Inquirer – October 17, 1892

Another Crime Added to the Long List of New Jersey Tragedies.

A Quarrel Between Two Colored Youths Ends in a Killing.

John Hill, in Revenge for Being Beaten, Lays in Wait and Slays Joseph Dotson

The Murderer and Several Witnesses in Jail.

A dark form crouched low among the bushes by the side of a path, another form outlined against the star-lit sky and moving up the path, a blinding flash, a cry, a fall, the sound of retreating footsteps, then silence.

This, in substance, is the story of a murder committed in Camden at an early hour Sunday morning. The story, as unfolded, shows that revenge prompted the killing and that the murder was premeditated and boasted of.

Both the victim and the murderer are young colored men. Joseph Dotson, who fell in the path with a bullet in his brain, was 19 years old, and lived at 780 Kaighn avenue. His slayer, John Hill, is but a year younger. He has no home, and of late has been living at a saloon and free-and-easy on Sycamore street above Seventh, kept by Reed & Derrickson.

Murdered for Revenge.

The murder grew out of a fight in Reed & Derrickson’s place. There is dancing in this place nearly every night in which the young colored people of the neighborhood take part. Fights are frequent occurrence.

Last Thursday night Dotson and a young colored man named James, Alias “Babe” Evans were in the place and Dotson commenced a “buck” dance. Hill, who was acting as floor manager, told him he would have to get a female partner or leave the dancing floor. Dotson refused to do so, and from words they came to blows.

Hill got the worst of it in the fight and was severely beaten by Dotson and Evans. He swore to be revenged on them.

Said He Meant to Kill.

On Saturday night Hill showed a 32-calibre self-acting revolver to a girl named Laura Le Count, in Reed & Derrickson’s place, and said:

“I wasn’t ‘fixed’ the other night when Dotson jumped me, but I am now, and I’m goin’ to kill the _____ _____.”

Dotson was in the place during the evening, but the men did not come together. Hill went out about 1 o’clock Sunday morning. He secreted himself among some bushes by the side of a path in an open lot bordering Sycamore street, a short distance above the saloon. He knew that his enemy would go home that way.

A Shot From the Bushes.

About half-past 1 o’clock Dotson came up the path in company with George Hanson. They were joking with each other, not thinking of danger. Hanson, who is the only eye witness of the tragedy, says Hill rose up from the bushes as Dotson came opposite him and fired full in his enemy’s face.

Hanson saw Dotson fall, and thinking he would be the next victim turned and ran for his life through the bushes.

His cries attracted the attention of colored Policeman Butts. The officer found Dotson lying unconscious in the path, with blood flowing from a bullet wound just over his left eye. A patrol wagon was summoned and the injured man was removed to the Cooper Hospital.

He did not regain consciousness and died within half an hour after being admitted. A subsequent post mortem examination showed that the bullet had passed entirely through the brain and lodged in the back of the skull.

Boasted of His Crime.

After firing the fatal shot the murderer returned to Reed & Derrickson’s place and coolly announced that he had shot Dotson. He boasted of what he had done in carrying out his threat to get square for being whipped by Dotson. He left the place soon afterward, just escaping Lieutenant Foster and Policeman Butts, who were hot on his trail.

Capture of the Murderer.

The murderer made no attempt to leave Camden. He kept under cover in the neighborhood until yesterday afternoon, when he ventured on the street and was picked up by Policeman Peters. He did not deny the shooting, but claimed that Dotson tried to draw a weapon first, and he “got the drop” and fired. The pistol could not be found.

The murderer, although young in years, has a bad reputation and has more than once drawn a pistol in a fight. Two years ago, while bathing in Cooper’s Creek with several small boys, one of the boys was drowned. His companions claimed that Hill held the boy under water until he was dead. The charge, however, was never pressed.

A Former Attempt to Kill.

About three weeks ago during a row in a saloon not far from the scene of the murder, Hill attempted to kill Daniel Hurley, a saloon-keeper, of Seventh and Mount Vernon streets. He fired three shots, one of which slightly wounded Hurley in the cheek.

The police arrested Hanson, who saw the murder, and Ida Fisher and James Evans, who witness the quarrel of Thursday night. They are held as witnesses for the inquest, which will be held in a few days by Coroner Jefferis.

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