NOTE – At the end of the original blog, I commented that I didn’t know who had apprehended Carpenter. Well, my buddy, Toby Madrid Jr. pulled back the covers of time and cleared up that mystery. So the ending is changed. And others have contacted me with little bits and pieces, most of which were personal recollections concerning it. I’ve added what they told me in.
This one doesn’t go into the mists of prehistory for. Indeed, I was alive and well when it happened, and one of my classmates was up to his eyeballs in it. So seeing that aren’t a lot of horses in it, and a lot of people who were there are still alive, I’m not exactly sure how this will fit in with old west stuff I’ve done so far.
But it was one of the more interesting things to have happened in Conejos County, and my Bad Guys wouldn’t be complete with out. So here. goes.
On June 19, 1969, just a few days away from the Moon Landing, at around 1:45 in the afternoon, my classmate, who I’ll call Tommy, walked into the La Jara National Bank located in La Jara, Colorado. He was just a kid about ten or eleven years old at the time. His father ran a filling station in town and had sent him to the bank to get change.
The bank serviced most of the farmers and ranchers in the area, and everyone who worked there knew everyone else.
So, when Tommy walked in there were three men were standing there he didn’t know. One of them looked over his shoulder and growled, “Sit down!”
Being a cocky little shit, my classmate told the guy where to go and how to get there.
When the guy turned around, Tommy saw the gun.
He sat down.
My classmate had walked right into the middle of an active bank robbery.
The tellers were already complying with the robbers demands, and were putting the money into two pillow cases.
And this is where things get really interesting.
About fifteen minutes later, at a small airport between La Jara and Sanford, Jose Torres was working on building a feedlot on the site of the old airport. He heard a plane start up, and looking up he saw a small plane attempting to take off. The Pilot and his passengers were having some problems because of the state of disrepair of the runway. He drove over to see if he could help.
When asked if he could help them, one of the occupants of the plane (identified as William H. Carpenter) told Torres that they needed to use the other runway, but it was blocked by construction equipment.
Torres got it cleared, the man returned to the plane, and it began taxing to the other runway.
But the taxiway had been torn up during some construction, and the plane got stuck in the mud. The people in the plane got out and tried to push it out, but couldn’t. From what I understand, Torres was getting ready to bring a tractor over and try to pull the plane out, when they heard the police approaching.
The four men abandoned the plane and ran. One of them was carrying a rifle.
The entire event surprised Torres. Carpenter had seemed like such a nice guy.
Two of the men, armed with a weapon, ran behind the packing plant near the runway. Another ran south across an open field, and the last ran west.
Word had gotten out of the robbery, and when the two men tried to run around behind the packing plant, they were met by an employee named Harry Broyles (the father of another classmate of mine). Now, I know Harry, and he’s one of the most intimidating men I’ve ever met. And Harry was armed. He fired a shot over the men’s head (in law enforcement circles, we call this an “attention getter”). Looking at him, I’m sure they felt he meant business. He ordered them to drop the weapon and what they were carrying, and to put up their hands.
The two men, Donald Lee Schreiner and Charles Mac Von Roeder surrendered. Moments later, State Patrolman Elvin Boss arrived. He ordered the two men to lie down. A search came up with one of the guns used in the robbery, binoculars, and a scabbard for the rifle. The two men also had one of the sacks of money. Officer Boss handcuffed the two, and turned them over to one of the town marshals who had just arrived.
Boss took the sack and evidence and returned to his car. While approaching his car, a local employee gave him another sack full of money. The employee would later testify that he saw one of the two running men drop it, and picked it up. When he looked inside, he saw all the money and realized it had to have come from a robbery.
Boss secured the money in his car, then drove south to pursue one of the men who had run. He drove across the field till he could go no further, then walked another fifty yards where he found James Albert Gonzales hiding. He arrested him and took him to the car.
REVISED TEXT – The suspect who ran west was later identified as Carpenter, and was seen hiding in a large ditch that ran along a back road. Carpenter was spotted by then Sheriff Amos Abeyta and Undersheriff Toby Madrid. He was taken into custody without incident. From what I understand, he was being eaten alive by mosquitos and was happy to get away from them. The mosquitos had done such a good job on him, he requested medical treatment.
From what JR, the son of then Undersheriff Toby Madrid, told me, “Jailing them wasn’t without incident. Von Roeder made threats against the staff.”
Von Roeder yelled that he was going to escape and kill them all. My personal experience tells me that anyone that does that while in custody is full of you know what. But you still take them seriously.
He earned himself a cell in solitary and was watched constantly. For all I know, that’s exactly what he wanted.
Two days later, FBI agents picked up the four bank robbers.
The defendants were arraigned, tried in U. S. Court and convicted.