Frontier Broomfield crime spree — “electrical devices” send man on rampage

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

Although Broomfield has been a “place” since the 1880s, it didn’t incorporate as a town until 1961. In the 1950s, Broomfield citizens contributed enough money to hire two police officers to patrol the new Broomfield Heights neighborhood and outlying farm areas. Dispatch was handled through Longmont, and the officers drove a 1959 Ford with the not-very-reassuring nickname, the “Old Grey Ghost.” According to the P.D.’s website, the first car accident in town occurred at the corner of Emerald and Agate Streets. In the 1960s, Broomfield finally hired its own police chief, Leonard G. Bishop, and Broomfield was on its way to being a proper city.

Before all this, folks who lived here depended on officers from neighboring counties for protection. There probably wasn’t a huge amount of crime, but there was some.  In January of 1909, on an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, Broomfield experienced what was probably its first crime spree.

At that time, a small business district existed in what we now call Old Town – where 120th Avenue intersects with Highway 36 and Hwy 287. Near the business district, a man named Charles Benson lived alone in a cabin.

Little is known about Benson, except that for company he kept a rifle, two revolvers and a pair of objects called “iron Indian clubs.” An Indian club is a heavy club that looks a bit like a long turkey drumstick. Although they were probably invented for knocking people’s brains out, today you can see them being used on YouTube as aerobic implements.

On the night in question, Charles Benson was alone in his cabin, apparently brooding at some length. He concluded that folks in Broomfield were “directing the current from a wireless telegraph instrument on his house,” and making a big racket by tearing the shingles off his roof. (Some of us have probably been feeling that way lately with all this endless wind.)

Anyhow, once Benson convinced himself that the people of Broomfield were “pitted against him” he suddenly decided he’d have to do something about it. He gathered up his collection of weapons and headed out. He wandered around the business district shooting his guns this way and that, in “true western style.” Benson was apparently a bad shot and no one was hurt.

Terrified citizens notified Jefferson County sheriff Allen Heater, who headed over to Broomfield. By the time Heater arrived, Benson had gone back to his cabin. Sheriff Heater went in to arrest the fellow and made a little dance inside the place while Benson swung his Indian clubs at the lawman. Finally, Heater got him packed up and hauled off to jail.

A few days later, Benson had a date in county court, during which several irate Broomfield citizens testified that he was dangerous and shouldn’t be let go. Despite Benson’s protests, he was adjudged insane and sent off to Pueblo.  A Colorado Transcript reporter, apparently with a sense of humor, noted that, “[w]ith the exception of a hallucination that the people were operating electrical devices upon him, Benson appears rational.” (Colorado Transcript, February 4, 1909).

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