#12 John P Fennell – Shot by Pugilist

John P Fennell – Shot in the Head by Pugilist Patsy McGee

b. 4/17/1876 San Francisco, CA

m. Josephine V. Rielly

d. 10/29/1944 Stanford Hospital, Palo Alto, CA

son of Patrick Fennell & Margaret Luddy

Intermit Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA – Section U; Area 10; Grave 49

For those of you that don’t know a “Pugilist” is a boxer or prize fighter.  In 1906 San Francisco was just coming out of the “Barbary Coast” era, however gambling along the waterfront was still a common past time as was fighting.

This is a summary of some archive news articles I found while researching my Fennell family in San Francisco.

December 1908 about 8 pm – John P Fennell was walking along Kearney Street in the company of Florence O’Neil, State Assemblyman and John J. Sullivan, a former Police Officer, when Patsy McGee,

approached the men and abusively and struck Mr. O’Neil in the face, Fennell then tried to interfere, however he got shot by McGee.

John Fennell did not know Patsy McGee and told him to “go about his business”, McGee then became abusive and lunged a O’Neil.  Fennell shouted for McGee to stop, took one step toward him when McGee pulled out his revolver and shot twice.  McGee the ran off with O’Neil in hot pursuit of him and followed McGee to the Central Police Station on Kearney Street, where McGee handed the revolver to officers R. G. Skain & McIntosh.  Just as the weapon was passed to the officers O’Neil arrived shouting that Fennell had been shot.

McGee was promptly arrested and Fennell was taken by wagon to St. Francis Hospital.

John Fennell lay in St. Francis Hospital with bullet fractures in his skull; both bullets entered the temple and emerged from the back of the head.  The police brought Patsy Mcgee to the hospital and as poor John lie there on the operating table, he slowly pointed at him as the man the shot him with deliberate attempt of murder. Per the doctors, John Fennell is in critical condition and may die.

On the way to the jail, Patsy McGee stated he was “sorry for the shooting”.  He also stated that he thought the man behind Fennell (who was Sullivan) had a gun and was going to shot Fennell. He stated that he approached with the intention of saving Fennell, however, he was told to “Mind his own business” and O’Neil attacked him first.  He then saw a gun glimmering in Fennell’s hand as Fennell rushed toward him.  McGee later contradicted himself by stating he saw no gun in Fennell’s hand.

Patsy McGee is being detained and the Police have reported he has a bad police record.

McGee pleas self-defense – McGee told Police Officer Skain & McIntosh that Assemblyman elect, Florence O’Neil approached him in a threatening manner and when he heard one of the man yell “give him Strawberries” , he knocked O’Neil down.  Then the other two (John P Fennell & ex-police Officer J. J. Sullivan) began to close in on him.  He then pulled out his revolver and fired two shots.

January 1909 – Patrick McGee, Pugilist was booked yesterday on a charge of assault to murder John P. Fennell.  After being detained in prison since 12/20/1908, when he shot John Fennell, chief deputy of the sheriff’s office, in Kearney St near Post. Although Fennell will not die, he will always now be an invalid.

McGee gets 18 months in County Jail.  McGee’s brother in law Thomas Finn, Sheriff Elect and many friends tried to induce the judge to release McGee on probation.  Judge Cabaniss did not budge on the 18 months in jail for assault with intent to murder John P Fennell, Chief Jailer.


2 thoughts on “#12 John P Fennell – Shot by Pugilist

  1. Cindy November 12, 2014 / 12:20 am

    John P. Fennell is part of my husband’s family but this pugilist story may not be the same John P. Fennell. I know that our John was a pile driver and later owned a saloon. This interesting story needs further research on my part. thanks for the lead.

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