100 years ago in Spokane: Dentist confronts gas thief as shortage riles city

Spokane’s gasoline shortage was becoming critical, and it resulted in an action-packed early morning confrontation

Spokane’s gasoline shortage was becoming critical, and it resulted in an action-packed early morning confrontation on a Spokane street.

A Spokane dentist foiled a gasoline thief in “an encounter that would put the ordinary movie thriller to shame,” proclaimed the Spokane Daily Chronicle.

Dr. Charles D. McBean said he was called out for an emergency visit to a patient at an apartment house on Howard Street and Sinto Avenue.

He left his auto in front of the place. After treating the patient, he exited and heard “the rattle of a tin can” and saw a shadowy figure run away from his car toward a neighboring car.

Dr. McBean raced toward the man, who was trying to get a way with a can of gasoline. The dentist and the thief grappled for a while until the thief got the upper hand and knocked the dentist down.

The thief then jumped into the second car and started to roar off. But the dentist sprang to his feet, raced to the back of the car and tore off the metal license plate before the auto disappeared into the distance.

When officers arrived, Dr. McBean handed them the license plate. They discovered that the thief had stolen “seven gallons of the precious liquid” from the dentist’s car.

Police soon traced the plate to a home on Eighth Avenue, where they found Peter Hansen, 20, – presumably smelling of gasoline – and arrested him for larceny.

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