The shooting of sixteen-year-old Lloyd Hobbs by Officer John McInerey failed to make its way into the courts. However, witnesses gave testimony at hearings of the MCCH over a period of two months, allowing some details of the case to be reported in the press – although not as much information as had the case gone to trial, as it was only one topic dealt with at the hearings, and also competed for coverage with the outbursts from the audience that characterized those sessions.
Eleven days after the riot and a few hours before Lloyd Hobbs died, the first session of the Mayor’s Commission heard testimony from Russell Hobbs that his brother had not been looting, but simply been among the crowd on the street, and having run at the approach of police, had been shot in the back. In response, the Commission promised to investigate his death. Around the same time, Hobbs’ father tried to make a complaint against Officer McInerey at the 123rd Precinct, but had to return with the editor of the New York Age, Fred Moore, before police said they would investigate (Moore had made a practice of helping victims of police violence in this way throughout the 1920s.1 At the next hearing a week later, the MCCH heard further testimony from Russell, Hobbs’ father Lawyer, and two witnesses, to the effect that McInerey had not called for Lloyd to halt before shooting him.2 One of witness had contacted Lawyer Hobbs offering to testify; the other was that man’s friend. They had been watching the crowds on 7th Avenue from the corner of 128th Street, having come out to get ice cream for their wives. They stopped when they saw a commotion on the other side of the street, and people running out of the crowd in different directions. Hobbs was the only one of those running who turned into 128th Street.3
The Commission postponed further investigation of the case until the following week, when it heard testimony from Hobbs’ mother Carrie, Officer Materson, (McInerey’s partner), Officer John O’Brien who investigated case, and an officer who claimed to have recorded Lloyd’s deathbed confession. Materson testified that McInerey had shot Hobbs after they saw him stealing from an auto parts store. However, O’Brien had to admit that the goods Hobbs had allegedly stolen were not listed on his arrest blotter, and had not been produced until 10 days after his arrest. And Carrie Hobbs testified that McInerey told her he had shot Lloyd for failing to halt as instructed, not for looting. Later that week the case was presented to a grand jury, with the allegedly stolen goods produced for the first time at the hearing. The grand jury dismissed the case.4
The Mayor’s Commission heard further evidence in mid-May. The Amsterdam News reported that McInerey himself would testify, but he did not. Instead, an additional witness testified Hobbs had no goods in his possession when shot, and had not been called on to halt.5 Officer O’Brien produced the allegedly stolen automobile horn and socket set, but admitted he did not know where they had been for 10 days after Hobbs’ arrest, and that they had not been fingerprinted. After the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Saul Price sought a new indictment based on the inability of police to account for allegedly stolen goods, and the failure to find Hobbs’ fingerprints on them when they were finally examined. The grand jury heard the case on June 15. James Tartar, an ILD attorney identified as an investigator for the commission, testified regarding the time that passed before authorities mentioned the stolen goods, and several witnesses testified that Hobbs had not been carrying anything when McInerey shot him. The grand jury again dismissed the case.
- Stephen Robertson, Shane White, and Stephen Garton, “Harlem in Black and White: Mapping Race and Place in the 1920s,” Journal of Urban History, 39, 5 (2013): 870-871) ↩
- NYA, 4/13/1935. There is no mention of Hobbs in the Amsterdam News story on this session ↩
- Transcript of the MCCH Hearings, E. Franklin Frazier Papers, Howard University ↩
- AN, 6/8/1935, 1; PC, 4/27/1935; AN, 4/27/1935; NYT, 4/21/1935, 4 ↩
- This witness was found by James Tartar of ILD, according to AA, 6/15/1935 ↩