I knew the workers were anxiously awaiting my arrival to share with them the news in today’s morning Tampa Tribune. I would have to delay drinking my first cup of café con leche until after I read about yesterday’s daring bank robbery attempt. “Read Señor, please read and tell us what happened,” one voice yelled.
I quickly ascended to my reader’s platform and began reading:
Yesterday, September 3, 1921, one of the most daring holdups was attempted in broad daylight here in our city! Three armed bandits stopped a car carrying payroll for a local cigar factory! Luther M. Davis, head bookkeeper and office manager of the E. Regensburg & Sons Cigar Factory in Ybor City, Laureano Torres, manager of both the Ybor and West Tampa Regensburg factories, G. L. Brightwell and Jack Hayes, their Negro chauffeur, were in the company car. They had just drawn $20,900 from the Exchange National Bank and were traveling on Howard Avenue near Benjamin Park, the aviation landing field.
The road was lined by shrub growth on both sides. The men hid in the shrub and could not be seen from the street. The pay car was headed for Regensburg’s West Tampa Cigar Factory at the corner of N. Albany Avenue and Cherry Street. Before the pay car turned off Grand Central Avenue, the chauffeur observed a Ford touring car sitting at the side of the road.
The car proceeded about two blocks on Howard Avenue and was stopped when the parked vehicle backed out of an unpaved street, blocking any traffic. The payroll car stopped, waiting for the other vehicle to start up and clear the road, when several men leaped from the bushes on both sides and opened fire.
None of the men firing from the street shouted a command. But the moment the firing began, the men in the payroll car reached for their arms, and a spectacular pistol battle between the bandits and the occupants of the pay car began. Torres and Brightwell fired their weapons.
In the exchange of gunfire, Hayes was shot in the shoulder. One of the men wearing a handkerchief over his face leaped in front of the pay car and was struck by a bullet from Brightwell’s automatic .45 caliber Army pistol. The bandit was shot in the leg, shattering his bone. The other bandits were frightened when he fell wounded and fled in their car, leaving him behind.
I stopped reading momentarily and looked over my newspaper at the workers. Their eyes were transfixed on me, but their hands were still rolling cigars. I continued reading.
“What happened next, lector? Did they catch them?” yelled one of the cigar makers. “I’m glad that wasn’t the money for our factory because we would surely be delayed in getting paid!” said another. Other workers shook their heads in agreement.
Although wounded, the chauffeur left the scene and drove to the Sheriff’s Department. Deputy Sheriffs Lennon and Stephens found three revolvers at the scene and a rifle lying on the ground. The wounded bandit was apprehended about 150 feet from the crime scene and arrested. During his interrogation, he provided information leading to the arrest of his two accomplices. They were charged with attempted highway robbery and may also be charged with assault with intent to kill.
“I would cut those bandits with my sharp chaveta if they tried to take our money!” yelled a young man. Señora Martinez calmly asked, “What do you think will happen to these three thieves?” I hope, Señora, they will be tried and hopefully sent to prison for a long time.
Well, that is about all the big news from this event. I will keep you posted as we learn more about this developing story. Let me see what else is in the paper today. A smaller headline caught my eye, “Laureano Torres New Head Of Cigar Manufacturers.” I thought, “What a coincidence–Mr. Torres was elected to this very prestigious position, and the next day, he was involved in a shootout in West Tampa! He came close to holding this position for the shortest time in our city’s cigar history!
Note: El Lector is fictional, but the story is based on an actual occurrence. Benjamin Park is where today’s Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory sits at 514 N. Howard Avenue. The Regensburg case was tried in November of 1921, with an amazing “not guilty” verdict being decided on all charges. Col. Hugh C. Macfarlane assisted in the prosecution.
CIGAR CITY MAGAZINE- MAY/JUNE 2007
MARILYN L. FIGUEREDO
Marilyn was Cigar City Magazine's co-owner and managing editor until her passing in 2007. Marilyn was born in 1948 in Tampa, where she lived her entire life and, more specifically, her early childhood in Ybor City. After a successful 30-year career at Delta Air Lines, Marilyn embarked on what became her true passion: reinvigorating the colorful, multicultural history of Ybor City through the lives and personal stories of the families and individuals who made up the uniqueness of this Tampa quarter. She did this primarily through Cigar City Magazine, serving on various committees and organizations, and attending cultural events throughout Tampa. Her work alongside her niece Lisa Figueredo, founder and Publisher, was instrumental in producing Cigar City Magazine.
Marilyn's legacy will live forever throughout the pages of Tampa's first historical magazine–CigarCityMagazine
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