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Three Black Beans – The Attempted Murder of Charles Albertson

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson regarding the time he served in the New York City Police Department.

On Christmas Eve 1882, in one of the worst dives in New York at 12 Grand Street, kept by the notorious negro outlaw Bob Sprigs, a drawing was held. A large number of white beans among which there were three black ones, were placed in a hat and John Soule, Jeff Sanders and a tall light complexioned negro known as “Big Yellow,” who had so many aliases that I doubt whether he knew his own name or not, drew the three black beans. The object of this drawing was to select three men to go over two blocks to Thompson Street and kill Albertson who had been a thorn in the side of the gang for nearly four years.

I came out on post at midnight, it was a cold snowy and sleety night. Thompson Street which was my post was all dug up at Broome Street as a new sewer was being built of brick, and at this point there was a large pile of brick stored on the sidewalk for this purpose. As I came up the street the three Negroes started a sham fight to lure me over. As I came nearer, “Yellow” sprang towards me, met my club and went down in a heap. Sanders was next but he was so close that when I hit him he did not fall and we clinched. I had him down when Soule hit me in the head with a brick opening my scalp five inches. I let go of Sanders and followed Soule up Broome Street overtaking him at or near Sullivan Street one block away. I drew my revolver as I ran and when I came near Soule I shouted, “Stop or I will shoot!” He stopped and when I came near, he jumped and grabbed my revolver hand with both of his and forced it up. I pushed down as hard as I could, as I was getting weak and my eyes were full of blood, and let her go. I shot off the point of his Piccadilly collar and a piece out of his neck uncovering the jugular vein so that the throbbing could be seen.

This was the only man I ever tried to kill. I would have finished Soule but other policemen arrived before I could finish him. There were many times during my years of service when I would have been justified in taking a human life, but I am sure that I feel better for not having done so. I walked to the station but it seemed to me there was a vacancy in my stomach the size of a bushel basket. I was ordered to bed by police surgeon Cooke, but was able to arraign my prisoners in court the next morning. Soule was held for trial, indicted, tried and convicted in General Sessions and sentenced to five years by Recorder Smythe. Soule killed patrolman Walsh, many years before, within three hundred feet of where he assaulted me. Struck him in the head with a shovel. He was tried and sentenced to seven and one half years within ten days after the crime was committed.

A few days after Walsh died, they brought Soule down and tried him again and convicted him on a charge of murder. The courts declared the last conviction illegal, alleging that a man’s liberty could not be twice placed in jeopardy for one crime. Soule served out his term and was released. I did not see or hear of him for a long time, then I was requested to come to the Tombs Prison to identify a prisoner. It was Soule who was wanted in Philadelphia for murder. He was convicted and sentenced for life having killed a negro woman whom he was living with.

I never saw Yellow again. He left the city for good. Many years after I heard that he had been killed while committing a crime in Baltimore. I heard from time to time that Sanders was in the city but he had committed no serious crimes although he had been delegated to assist in killing a policeman and used his best efforts to fulfill his part of that duty. About 1896 or 1897, I was in temporary command of Mercer Street Station when two Negroes were brought in to the station who must have been carving each other for some time as they were cut or stabbed in more than a score of places. When I asked one of them his name he said in a surly manner, “You ought to know me.” I replied, perhaps I should but that is not surprising as your mother would not know you now. He said, “It may interest you to know that I am Jeff Sanders.” The two charged each other with felonious assault. They were sent away for a long term. They were partners in a gambling joint in Thompson Street. I never saw Sanders again.

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