The Robert Charles Riots


4 Cops killed in days long riots.

A police officer’s stop and question of a black man in New Orleans, Louisiana led to multiple deaths in the summer of 1900.  The incident started with a complaint of a suspicious person by a citizen.  The incident escalated beyond anyone’s imagination and before it was over, 28 people, including 4 New Orleans Police Officers were dead. 

On July 23, 1900, 3 police officers were directed by suspicious citizens to two black men sitting on a porch in an all-white neighborhood.  One of these men was Robert Charles, a strong advocate for black rights.  An argument and scuffle ensued. 

The scuffle led to Charles and at least one police officer pulling guns.  A wild shootout ensued where both Charles and at least one police officer suffered non-fatal bullet wounds.  Charles fled the scene, bleeding from the leg.

New Orleans Police quickly identified Robert Charles and officers were dispatched to his residence to apprehend the gunman.  Captain John Day and Patrolman Peter Lamb approached the house and were met by a volley of rifle fire.  Both cops were killed instantly, and Charles again fled the scene of the crime. 

The New Orleans Police Department and many residents of the city were now fully mobilized.  Cops and civilians alike were on the hunt for the cop killer.  The hunt turned into a riotous mob and violence between blacks and whites erupted throughout the city. 

On July 25, 1900, several blacks were killed by white vigilantes.  Scores of injured people on both sides were removed to hospitals with injuries.

On July 27 a tipster alerted police to Robert Charles’ location.  Police entered the house and began a search for the man.  He was hiding underneath the basement stairs.  When the police tried to slap the cuff on, he drew his pistol and shot two more of New Orleans’ Finest dead.  Sgt Gabriel Porteous and Corporal John Lally didn’t make it out of the house alive. 

Police retreated and surrounded the house.  Charles began firing from a window killing members of the mob who had arrived on the scene. 

Another wild gunfight ensued.  After numerous people were killed or injured by Charles’ lethal fusillade, police decided to set fire to the house.  Charles attempted to flee the inferno but died in a hail of bullets at the back door. 

The racial riots that were consuming the city did not end with Charles’ death.  They continued unabated for several days.  The riots became known as the Robert Charles Riots and were amongst the worst in the city’s history.  They resulted in more Jim Crow type laws that further separated the two races. 

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