May 16, 1929: Lake City mob lynches grocer after wife shoots chief
OK, we draw eight lessons from this bizarre story about a grocer lynched by a Lake City mob after a conflict with the police chief leads to the chief''s shooting and the grocer's wife being shot to death.
But first, the details. The conflict begins with Chief John F. Baker telling N.G. Romey, owner of a grocery and fish market, to remove his "rubbish" from the sidewalk, according to an Associated Press story in the Miami News.
Romey agrees to "take some of his produce from boxes on the sidewalk inside the store." But shortly afterward, Romey telephones the chief and says he returned the produce to the sidewalk and the chief would have to "come back and try to make me move it again."
Lesson one: Don't summon the police back to continue an argument after you've already done what they told you to do and the police leave.
Lesson two: Don't tell the police to "make me." Because they can, one way or another.
The chief returns to the store and naturally another argument ensues. Mrs. Romey joins in and allegedly "procured a pistol and fired three shots at Baker, one of which broke his shoulder blade."
Lesson three: Don't shoot the police.
Chief Baker opens fire on the grocer's wife and hits her five times. She dies in the hospital about midnight. The grocer is arrested and placed in jail.
Then at around 4 a.m., a mob enters the jail, breaks the locks and bars and takes him away. Romey's bullet-riddled body is found on a highway two miles south of Lake City.
Sheriff "Babe" Douglas says he has "no idea" who or how many were in the mob.
Lesson four: "Lynching" doesn't always refer to hanging. The dictionary defines lynching as an "illegal kill" by a mob, usually by hanging.
Lesson five: Don't shoot the police. Seriously. Don't. Shoot. The. Police.
Lesson six: There's always more to the story than gets reported in the news media. The Romeys, it turns out, were one of two Syrian immigrant families living in Lake City at the time, but their nationality wasn't mentioned in this story.
Lesson seven: Locks on jail cells apparently weren't very strong back in the day.
Lesson eight: Florida could be -- and still is -- a rough place for people who think they can fight authority. Authority always wins.
Read the story in the Miami News: Florida Grocer Lynched After Fight With Cop
Read another take on the story from the book Whitewashed: America's Invisible Middle Eastern Minority