The vigilantes try Hetherington

Thursday July 24th, the day after David Terry had been found guilty of assault on Sterling Hopkins, Joseph Hetherington shot and killed Dr. Andrew Randall in the office of the St. Andrews Hotel at Sansome and Commercial Streets. Born in England and in his mid-thirties, Hetherington had come to California in 1849 or 50 and had considerable wealth. On August 1, 1853 he had a dispute with Dr. John Baldwin over a lot on Greenwich Street. When Hetherington found Baldwin putting up a fence on the property he shot and killed him. Like every other murderer with money in those days he was tried and acquitted. After that he had lent Dr. Randall a large sum of money. Randall owned considerable property in Marin County and either could not or would not pay his debt. Hetherington hounded him often with both insults and threats to shoot.

San Francisco from Rincon Hill in 1856

San Francisco from Rincon Hill in 1856

On the day in question, Baldwin went into the St. Andrews Hotel followed by Hetherington. At the counter Hetherington grabbed Randall by his long beard and yanked him violently five or six feet across the room while cursing at him. Randall drew his pistol, as did Hetherington. Both men fired. While the others in the room sought cover both men fired a second shot. Fortunately, so far, no one was hit. Randall ran behind the counter and crouched down beside a terrified clerk. Hetherington then reached over that counter and shot Randall in the temple. Randall died from his wound on Saturday morning. Captain Isaiah Lees of the city police arrested Hetherington and was on his way to city jail when a party of vigilantes caught up to them, took the prisoner away from Lees and led him to vigilante headquarters.

Port of San Francisco 1850s

Port of San Francisco 1850s

On Saturday, after the executive committee charged Hetherington with the murder and he pled self-defense saying he shot Randall to protect his own life, the trial began. Each side called many witnesses and the trial lasted until half past five the following day when the executive committee returned a verdict of guilty and sentenced him to hang. Two hours later the board of delegates approved the action. Hetherington was told of his fate on Monday morning. That night the committee set the execution for Tuesday afternoon. Hetherington would be hanged at the same time as Philander Brace. When asked why he should not die for his crime Hetherington said he did not know that he had anything to say at the time, but when asked if he wished to see a minister he replied that he would prefer to see his attorney, H. H. Haight.

 

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