December 8, 1908 at about 4:00 pm, juvenile court probation officer George Holt was investigating a report of a possible abduction came upon white-bearded street preacher James Sharp also known as "Adam God", at 5th and Main Streets. James Sharp was exhorting a crowd of street loafers and in the company of A.J. Selsor, 72, and a woman and five children from 3 to 14 years of age. Officer Holt's suspicions were reportedly piqued by the manner in which the woman raised money from the crowd and whether it was appropriate for the children to be in her care. When he questioned the woman about the children's identities she told him to mind his own business. James Sharp struck Officer Holt behind the ear with his pistol leaving an ugly wound. Officer Holt being outnumbered set out for the police station and Sharp attempted to shoot him but dropped his pistol. Once he was able to snap his pistol at Officer Holt the cartridge failed to explode. Officer Holt went to the police station and warned the officers of impending trouble. When Officers Dolbow and Stege came out the station in response to the report, religionists were within 50 feet of station and served notice they would preach under the eaves of police station. The officers were not prepared for the volley of bullets meeting them almost at once when they arrived. Officer Dalbow was shot in the chest, abdomen, back and thigh killing him instantly. Lieutenant Stege suffered grazing bullet wound to the chest and a through-and-through wound to his arm reportedly fired by James Sharp's assistant preacher, Louis Pratt, but returned to the fray. Other officers emerged from the station but were hindered in their efforts to return fire for fear of striking the children. Officer Mullane was wounded in the exchange, shot in the back as he hurried into the station for reinforcements. Sergeant Patrick Clark was also shot in the right chest and cut in the eye with a knife when he emerged from the station. A riot call was sounded and police responded from all directions. Officers closed in on Sharp firing as they approached but excercised care not to strike the children. The woman and some of the children escaped to a house boat and Sharp was wounded but also escaped.
The woman took refuge on the porch of a house boat a few feet from the river bank, armed with a shotgun, and said, "come on you fiends." Police came ... she gathered her children, entered a row boat and she rowed to middle of river. Police fired at her striking a 13 year-old child on the boat, Lulu Pratt in the face. Lulu Pratt died that evening at University Hospital. The woman surrendered, identifying herself as Mrs. Pratt, wife of Louis Pratt, companion of James Sharp and mother of the wounded child, Lulu Pratt. Lulu Pratt died that evening at University Hospital. Assistant preacher and companion of James Sharp, Louis Pratt, died of four gunshot wounds sustained in the exchange, three to his leg and one to his brain, at General Hospital on December 10, 1908.
James Sharp was apprehended on 12-11-1908 by Johnson County Sheriff Steed, who followed a farmer's tip and found Sharp hiding in a straw stack on a farm 8 miles northeast of Olathe, Kansas at 4:30 pm. Shorn of his beard, his faith and his bravado, when questioned by Captain Whitsett and Inspector Ryan from 6 to 9:00 pm, Sharp said what he did for the faith was wrong and when the bullet struck his hand he knew his faith was wrong and he ran. He was tried for his crimes and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was paroled after 14 years and moved with his wife, Melissa, to Joplin, Missouri in 1924, where he lived as an eccentric street preacher, claiming to be the father of Jesus Christ, until his death at 89 years of age on March 11, 1946.
A.J. Selsor, 72, of 2412 Benton was struck with stray bullet also died of his injuries at University Hospital. He died as a result of a large caliber ball entering the front of his right side and severed his spine.
Sergeant Patrick Clark, 42, born in England, emigrated to the United States at 15 years of age. He was married with six children. He had responded from the station without a firearm. He survived his wound but lost his eye. Captain Clark testified against James Sharp on the second day of his trial. Sergeant Clark was promoted to captain for his performance in the Adam God riot, also known as the City Hall riot, but was reduced in rank to sergeant due to his impairment and reduced effectiveness during department cost cutting measures in 1911 when 32 other police officers were also laid off.
Officer Mullane was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital where he rallied and physicians hoped he would recover. He succumbed to his injuries on December 10, 1908 bringing the death toll of the Adam God riot to five.
As a result of this tragic loss of life the Board of Police Commissioners reviewed officers access to armament to enable them to respond to an emergency in which they were out-gunned. When it was discovered that officers had difficulty obtaining rifles that were locked up without an easily accessible key they ordered rifles be kept in glass cases in several of the stations and to increase staffing in the station to provide backup for officers on the beat.
Officer Mullane, born in Limerick, Ireland, had been with the
agency for three years, since November 1905. He was eulogized by municipal Judge H.G. Kyle as being the ideal policeman. He also distinguished himself prior to his appointment on the department by diving in a pit filled with dangerous, rushing water during the 1903 flood to save a drowning man. He was survived by his wife of ten years, Hannah; his children, Jack, 7, and a 3-month old baby girl. Services were at Sacred Heart church. Interred: Mount St. Mary's Cemetery.
Officer Dolbow had been with the
agency for three years. He is survived by his wife of seven years and three brothers, George, Henry and Joseph. Interred: Forest Hill Cemetery.
Article by Brent Marchant