Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Barbershop Shootout in West Davenport

John Hassman’s barbershop at 804 West Second Street in
Davenport, Iowa. Edward Cochran fired the shots that killed
him through the wooden fence.
(The Davenport Democrat and Leader. November 30, 1911)
Edward P. Cochran stopped by John Hassman’s barbershop at 804 West Second Street to ask if he needed another barber. Hassman laughed and said he didn’t look like a barber. Cochran slapped him in the face, then walked away. Hassman picked up a rock and threw it after him.

Cochran scurried off to the Miller Hotel, where he ate breakfast. Before leaving, he stopped in his room and grabbed his gun—a Savage Automatic that held ten shells—nine in the chamber and one in the barrel.

 “When I got around to the back of Hassman’s shop, he came out and grabbed a brick and swore at me,” said Cochran. “I told him to stay where he was and not come any farther towards me with that brick, or I would shoot him.

“When he kept on coming, I pulled out my revolver and shot at him four or five times.” 

The men were separated by a weather-beaten board fence about four feet high, so all they could see was each other’s heads. Hassman had no way of knowing Cochran had a gun until he heard the shot.

Cochran said Hassman fired first.

When he shot back, he fired low so that he would hit the barber in the legs, but the wounds told a different story.[i]

Four out of five bullets hit the mark.

 One shattered Hassman’s right thigh, another struck him in the groin, the third broke the left arm just below the elbow, and the fourth passed through the lungs and killed him.

Hassman, age 54, had lived in Davenport for nine years and run his barbershop at 804 West Second Street for five years. He was a 30-year member of Odd Fellows, and the first member of Prosperity Lodge No. 704 to receive his 25-year veteran jewel. That was in May 1907.[ii]

The court granted Cochran a change of venue to Clinton. The defense tried to get the case thrown out because Hassman’s name was listed as “Fred” in the indictment, rather than “John.” Judge Baker overruled the request. He said state law allowed prosecutors to “amend an indictment where an error in spelling a name had occurred.”[iii]

Edward P. Cochran shot John Hassman
(above) at his barbershop after he refused
to give him a job.(Davenport Democrat
& Leader. September 8, 1911)



Alex Petersen, one of the barbers at Hassman’s shop, testified that Cochran stopped by that morning to ask about a job. When Hassman refused to hire him, Cochran “threatened to blow his brains out.” Hassman told him to go ahead. Cochran slapped him in the face. Then the barber picked up a brick and threw it at Cochran as he left. 

Fred Smeltzer lived on the upper floor of the house next to the barbershop.

“I could not see Hassman from where I stood,” said Smeltzer, “but as soon as I rushed out, I saw him lying against the fence with his head on the ground. He was bleeding terribly from several places.”

“I saw Cochran standing with a gun in his hand. He looked directly at me, and I thought at first, he was going to take a crack at me.”[iv]

 Fred’s mother, Ellen, heard four shots and ran out the door to see what was going on. She watched Cochran fire his final shot into Hassman, then scurry away up the alley. 

 Alex Petersen and Fred Smeltzer carried the wounded man into the barbershop. When Smeltzer asked what happened, Petersen said, “Oh, he shot off his mouth.” He didn’t make it clear if he meant Hassman or Cochran,[v] but we can assume he was talking about Hassman.

 Cochran dashed to and fro searching for a place to hide. He waved his gun at the Wigger family and told them to keep quiet, then he ran up the alley and hid in a barn. Two minutes later, he changed his mind and ran down the street, screaming at a lady he bumped into. 

 Cochran zigzagged on Western Avenue, then raced up and down Third and Fourth Streets. He dropped his revolver in a box behind Ehler’s Grocery Store, then ran down the stairs into the cellar. 

Edward P. Cochran (above) killed John Hassman
after a quarrel at Hassman's West end barbershop.
Witnesses said he was drunk at the time of the
shooting. (Davenport Democrat & Leader. 
September 8, 1911)

Detective John Quinn and Officer William Cannole flushed him out of the dark cellar and drove him away in the police wagon. 

 Cochran made a statement on the ride to the station:

 “I’ll tell you just how it all happened.”

 We “had some words.” Hassman “called me names and said he would get me. I told him there wasn’t anyone who could get me. I went up to my room at 712 1/2 West Third Street and got my automatic out of my dresser drawer. I loaded it to the brim and set out for Hassman.

 “When I got down to the shop, he came out and said he didn’t want me hanging around. He then opened on me, firing one shot. I stood there and pumped five or six shots right into him. “No man can run over me. I was brought up a fighter.”[vi]

Cochran told the police he fought as a prizefighter when he was younger. He soldiered in the Philippines, and his gun didn’t miss. Most recently, he worked as a railroad man for the Union Pacific in Falls City, Nebraska.

Fred Berg of Berg Brothers said Cochran bought the gun there less than an hour before the shooting. Cochran handed him a check and said, “I want that gun.”[vii] That contradicted Cochran’s testimony that he grabbed the gun out of his dresser at his rooming house, but the prosecution let it go.

A jury convicted Edward Cochran of murder in the second degree on December 9, 1911. Judge Barker sentenced him to 35 years in the penitentiary at Fort Madison. 

Cochran died on September 7, 1915, after complications from undergoing an emergency appendectomy at the Fort Madison Prison.[viii] He was 29 years old.



[i] The Davenport Democrat and Leader. September 8, 1911.

[ii] The Daily Times. May 23, 1907.

[iii] The Davenport Democrat and Leader. December 3, 1911.

[iv] The Davenport Democrat and Leader. December 4, 1911.

[v] The Davenport Democrat and Leader. December 3, 1911.

[vi] The Davenport Democrat and Leader. December 3, 1911.

[vii] The Davenport Democrat and Leader. December 4, 1911.

[viii] The Daily Times. June 12, 1915.


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