Below is a retelling of that story as covered over several months by the Rome-Tribune Herald. The information is taken directly from the newspaper’s coverage at the time and includes direct quotes from those stories.
It was first reported in the Rome Tribune Herald on April 30, 1914. Floyd County Sheriff W.G. ‘Bill’ Dunehoo, had shot G.W. ‘Wash’ Smith, a Deputy, on the evening before an election that had both men running opposed.
“G.W. Smith, who was shot through the intestines Monday evening, is doing remarkably well considering the seriousness of his wounds, and his Physicians are greatly encouraged by his condition,” The paper stated.
During the 1914 race for Floyd Co. Sheriff, Dunehoo, thrice elected, faced opposition from J.R. Barron and Wash Smith, candidates for Sheriff and Chief Deputy on the ticket. Both men were already serving under Sheriff Dunehoo, and were friends. The day prior to the election, however, Sheriff Dunehoo had instructed Smith to travel to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to pick up a prisoner.
Smith became incensed by this order because he felt it was simply a ploy to get him out of town, thus impeding his campaign.
He wasn’t about to go quietly.
So, Smith composed a card of announcement, printed and distributed it to potential voters sometime around April 27, 1914 which read:
To the voters of Floyd County
Having just returned from Virginia with a prisoner, and acting under orders of the Sheriff, I am again, on my way to Fort Wayne, Indiana for another prisoner.
As I won’t be able to see you before the election, kindly remember me and my ticket on next Tuesday and make our majority as big as possible. Promising you in return, a good, clean, sober administration,
I am Yours truly, Wash Smith
Smith later testified that the card had apparently provoked Sheriff Dunehoo, causing the altercation at the jail.
“While at the phone in the jail,” Smith recalled, “Mr. Dunehoo came in and said, “Wash, I got your card,” Smith replied, “Did you?” Dunehoo reacted, “You hit below the belt! What in hell did you write that card for, you know that was a lie.”
As he read the card, Dunehoo repeated the word ‘sober’ several times and said, “Wash, I won’t call you a liar, but I will say you are a hypocrite.”
Smith countered, “I might say the same thing about you.”
Dunehoo then cursed Smith, at which time, Smith struck the Sheriff with a clenched fist.
From there, the situation escalated quickly. The sheriff’s 24-year old son Henry, was present during the argument and immediately became involved in the skirmish. As the two men were fighting, Smith lost his service revolver which Henry subsequently retrieved from the floor. Smith somehow
managed to break away and ran out the the jailhouse door but with Henry just behind him, hitting him repeatedly, guns in both hands.
“I tried to get out of range of the guns, and as I ran, Bill (Dunehoo) cried, ‘Run you -----, we’ll get you anyhow,’“ Smith recalled. He was then able to run around the corner of the jail and through the back gate, bracing it shut to prevent the Dunehoo’s exit. Enraged, the sheriff demanded, “Open the gate or I’ll shoot you!”
During the trial, Smith testified that he’d heard a gun fire, and the bullet hit him. Defending himself, Smith then picked up a lath and struck the sheriff hard across his face.
Upon hearing the gunshots, J.R. Barron and several others rushed to the scene and quickly separated the two lawmen.
Smith was transported to the hospital in Rome for treatment for a gunshot to the gut. There was concern for the first couple of days that peritonitis could develop which could possibly prove fatal.
Dunehoo was arrested and jailed for the shooting but was still acting sheriff of Floyd County. He was however, ashamed of his actions and thus, withdrew from the race. J.R. Barron went on to win the election.
Until his term expired, at the end of that year, W.G. ‘Bill’ Dunehoo remained as sheriff of Floyd County.
He maintained he’d never had any intention of picking a fight with Smith, Dunehoo explained, “The witnesses who have told you that I cursed [Smith] must have misunderstood. I didn’t mean for a minute to shoot Wash. After he hit me, I don’t hardly know what happened.”
One week after the shooting, it was reported in the Rome Tribune Herald that Deputy Smith was showing signs his condition was improving. Given the likelyhood that the case would not involve a murder charge, Justice Broach set bail for Henry Dunehoo, who had been charged as an accessory to the shooting, at $5,000. The judge refused however, to do the same for Sheriff Dunehoo but mentioned that he would reconsider should the wounded deputy make a full recovery. It was Dunehoo’s good fortune that Smith’s wounds eventually healed.
On November 1, 1914, the trial of Sheriff Dunehoo took place in the Superior Court of Floyd County, charged with assault with intent to murder. Because the parties involved were all well known in and around the county, 340 candidates
were sifted through before a jury of impartial prospects were finally convened.
Fearing a possible mistrial, finally, after 27 hours behind closed doors, a verdict was reached. Sheriff Dunehoo was convicted of a misdemeanor with the recommendation of mercy.
The Rome Tribune Herald headline of November 8, 1914 announced, “Sheriff Dunehoo found guilty of shooting at another: fined $1,000.00.” Judge A.W. Fite allowed the Sheriff 5 days to pay his fine or spend 12 months behind bars.
He promptly paid the fine, then went on to spend his remaining years as he’d intended, quietly, on his farm with his wife and grandchildren.
As it turns out, he had earlier stated that he’d intended to retire rather than run for the sheriff’s office in 1914 but was encouraged by his friends to run again,
“There are some people in my neighborhood who do not feel safe unless I am in the sheriff’s office... I started this race against my will,” he would later say.