The following excerpt was extracted from the Leadville Daily Democrat, February 15, 1881.
In 1909 the Miller family suffered a terrible tragedy when their son, Henry, was killed in a firearm accident. The following article from the Herald Democrat elucidates the heartrending account of Henry’s death.
“One of the most unfortunate shootings in Leadville’s history resulted last night in the death of young Henry Miller through the accidental discharge of Merchant Police James McDonell’s revolver while using the weapon as a club in trying to separate two dogs which were fighting in the city jail courtyard. Officier McDonell was taken into custody by Under Sheriff Dwyer and will be held pending the verdict of the coroner’s inquest.
Young Miller lived for possibly thirty minutes after being shot, Drs. Griffith, Boyd and Sullivan working heroically to save the young man’s life, but from the outset his chances of recovery were irretrievably hopeless as the bullet entered the left side of his abdomen, causing a fatal wound.
The boy’s mother presented a pitiful spectacle in the offices of Dr. Griffith, being heartbroken over the sorrowful occurrence.
According to eye witnesses of the affair, Captain Mahnke had arrested “Paddy” O’Connel, a Midland route hostler, who for some time past has been a quaint figure on the streets leading a vicious bulldog by a chain, for making a nuisance of himself on the avenue. O’Connel as usual had his bulldog with him and just as the captain was taking his prisoner through the court ward to the city jail the dog broke loose, attacking “Major” the dog which accompanies Merchant Police McDonell on his nightly rounds.
McDonell who prizes the dog very highly immediately stepped up and tried to prepare the two dogs. Seeing that the bulldog was doing considerable damage to “Major” the officer drew his gun and commenced beating the bulldog on the head in order to force it to let go.
By this time a crowd of some fifty persons had gathered to witness the struggle. Suddenly a shot was heard and Miller, one of the by-standers, staggered back crying “I’m hit.”
Officer MeDonell not realizing that his weapon had been discharged continued beating the dog while several spectators quickly carried Miller to Dr. Griffith’s office across the street where everything known to medical science was done to save his life. McDonell as soon as he learned that his own gun had caused the boy’s fatal wound hurried over to the doctor’s office to offer any assistance which might be needed in administering the young man.
Officer McDonell in a statement issued immediately after the shooting said: “At about twenty minutes to ten, as near as I can judge, I came around the corner of the Topic saloon on Fifth and Harrison avenue. As I reached the front of Baer brothers’ liquor house I saw Captain Mahnke place O’Connell under arrest. O’Connell was leading a bulldog by a chain. The dog slipped its collar just as Captain Mahnke was leading O’Connell down the court yard toward the jail, and grabbed my dog. I tried to separate them as they fought down the courtyard but was unable to do so with my hands. By this time a crowd of perhaps fifty people had gathered in the court. I saw there was no use trying to get the dogs apart without a club and none being handy I drew my revolver and commenced pounding the bulldog on the head with the barrel. Then I heard a shot. I kept pounding away, however, not realizing that it was my weapon which was discharged, thinking it was somebody in the crowd firing to kill one of the dogs. Later I discovered that one shell had been discharged in my revolver. I always keep my gun on an empty and cannot understand how it could have revolved and gone off. As soon as I found out that I had shot the boy I went over to the doctor’s office to see what could be done. The door was locked when I got there preventing me from gaining an entrance. I then called up the sheriff and told him of what had happened. The unfortunate accident has overwhelmed me with grief.
Henry Miller is the 19-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Nathan H. Miller who conduct a clothing store at 321 Harrison avenue, and was born and raised in this city. He was a student at the High school of 1908 and 1909.
Several persons who were within a few feet of Officer McDonell when the shot was fired say that from the flash of his revolver it looked to them as if the gun was discharged as it pointed toward the pavement which would indicate that young Miller was struck by a glancing bullet.
He with his mother had closed their store shortly after half past nine and were walking toward their home when the boy was attracted by the crowd gathering to see the dog fight. He told his mother to walk on ahead and he would stop to see what the trouble was. He then stepped into the courtyard and a few moments later was lying hopelessly wounded.
The weapon with which McDonell was trying to part the dogs is a II Colt’s revolver. The veteran officer is crazed with grief and utterly inconsolable.
The dead boy’s father is at present in Alma and knows nothing of the sad affair. Young Miller also has a brother, Morris Miller in the United States navy.
Mr. McDonell was later released on a $3,000 bond.
The shooting of Henry Miller by Mr. McDonell was ruled an accident and Henry Miller was interred in the Leadville Hebrew Cemetery.