Wesley Cooksey
Ethnicity African-American
Occupation Laborer
Born ca. 1888

September 5, 1927(1927-09-05) (aged 39)
Evansville, Indiana, United States

Cause of death Shot by police
Spouse(s) Barilella Cooksey
Attack information
Date September 5, 1927
4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Location(s) Evansville, Indiana, United States
Killed 0
Injured 15
Weapon(s) Double-barreled shotgun

Wesley Cooksey was an African-American laborer who wounded 15 people in Evansville, Indiana, United States on September 5, 1927, before being shot dead by police.[1][2]


Cooksey had first been married to a woman named Sylvester in Henderson, Kentucky. After their divorce he married again in 1915. Cooksey had been twice in the Southern Indiana Hospital for the Insane.[3]


Around 4:30 p.m. on September 5, Cooksey had a quarrel with his wife Barilella, after which she sought shelter at the home of Mrs. Scruggs, a next door neighbor. When Mrs. Scruggs approached Cooksey to calm him down he retreated into his two-story frame house at 823 William Street, threatening that he's "going to kill somebody."

Mrs. Scruggs called the police, and officers Ray Lankford and Everett Jones were dispatched to the scene. Officer Jones approached the house alone, and when he didn't receive a reply to his calls, he entered the building, whereupon he was immediately shot at by Cooksey with a double-barreled shotgun. Hit in the knee Jones called his colleague for assistance, but when Lankford got out of the police car he, too, was shot at and hit in the face by a load of buckshot.

More police and ambulances arrived soon thereafter, and sergeant Herb Sullivan, and detectives Schrode and Weierbacher kept Cooksey, who by now had barricaded himself in his home, at bay until the arrival of chief Harry Anderson. Anderson, together with detective chief Edward Sutheimer crept towards the house, and after the former had smashed in a window with an axe, the latter wanted to fire into the building with his revolver and shotgun, but was hit by a shot in the abdomen before he could do so. The two policemen retreated forthwith.

With every available officer already at the scene, a barrage of gunfire began hitting Cooksey's hideout, and tear gas bombs were thrown inside, though with little effect. The 39-year-old continued shooting with his shotgun and a revolver, and managed to hold the 50 police officers at bay for the next couple of hours, wounding another three of them in the process. Eventually it was decided to set his house on fire. For that purpose rags, saturated with gasoline, were tied to broomsticks, ignited and thrown into the building from Mrs. Scruggs home, but failed to have the intended effect.

As night came, a ladder wagon, equipped with a searchlight, was brought to illuminate the scene, which was more and more frequented by a curious crowd. The onlookers ignored all warnings and pushed towards the house, though they quickly retreated behind a police cordon when Cooksey fired several shots that left nine of them wounded. A new attempt was made to set fire to the building, with success this time. Within ten minutes the Cooksey home was burning to the roof and the gunman sought shelter in his cellar for the next half hour.

Police was more and more closing in on the house, and again more than a dozen tear gas bombs were thrown inside. The onlookers followed not far behind, but when the gunman was sighted by an officer the crowd frantically scampered for safety. Eventually, almost four hours after the siege had started, Cooksey dashed out the rear of his home, firing his shotgun with one hand, and carrying a clarinet case with the other. He was immediately cut down by police bullets, and under the cheers of the people his body was dragged out into the street.[3][4][5][6]


Police officers wounded:[3]

  • Traffic Officer George Gamble, shot in the head and shoulder
  • Emergency Officer Everett Jones, shot in the right leg
  • Emergency Officer Ray Lankford, shot in the face and chest
  • Patrolman Alex Lauderdale, shot in hip, calf, and ankle
  • Motorcycle Officer Paul Newhouse, shot in the arm
  • Detective Chief Edward Sutheimer, shot in the abdomen

Harry Anderson, chief of police, was also reportedly wounded by a shot in the hand.[7]

Civilians wounded:[3]

  • Roland Casey
  • Ike Chappel, shot in the hip and arms
  • Grant Davis, shot in the abdomen
  • Butch Hayhurst, shot in the hip and legs
  • Harry Hooker, shot in the scalp and nose
  • Jesse Jenkins, shot in the neck
  • W. F. Kinchell, shot in the thigh and hand
  • Warren McCutchan, shot in the head and leg
  • George Moskos, shot in the face and right shoulder


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