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Blast Sends Men to Cover as One Touches a Match to Gasoline-Soaked Weeds.


Only Two Record Scene Staged for Their Benefit by Hickey, Geoghan and 2 Others.

New York Times,  October 19, 1934

Two police officials and two prosecutors of New York City narrowly escaped being burned yesterday afternoon while doing a good turn for newsreel camera men and newspaper photographers during the ceremonious burning of a field of mariajuana in the rear of a tenement house at 189 Washington Street, Brooklyn.

The police took possession of the plot, almost an acre in size and bearing about half a ton of the narcotic weed, Wednesday afternoon after two detectives of the narcotic squad had raided a room at 17 Concord Street, near by, and arrested two men charged with the sale and possession of the plant.

Yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock Police Emergency Squad 13 under Sergeant George Nadler had finished the work of tearing up the roots of the plants and arranging the brush in several stacks about three feet high and ten feet across, and everything was ready for the ceremony of sending $50,000 worth of the weed, the estimated value of the crop, up in smoke.

Pose Around the Pyre.

Several police officials, District Attorney William F. X. Geoghan of Kings County and United States Attorney Leo Hickey of the Eastern district had come to watch the bonfires, and the photographers asked them to stand around one of the larger stacks as it was set afire.

Following the directions of the photographers, Mr. Geoghan, Mr. Hickey, Fifth Deputy Police Commissioner Martin H. Meaney and Captain Joseph Mooney, commander of the narcotic squad, assembled around the stack.

Mr. Geoghan was told to light the fire. With five newsreel cameras and a dozen hand cameras trained on the scene from the ground and from fire-escapes, he struck a match and lowered it to the base of the stack, which had been saturated with gasoline.

The result was a loud explosion and a blast of fire that rocked the four men back on their heels and so startled the newspaper photographers that only two of them remembered to click their shutters. The four officials jumped out of the way just in time.

Scene is Re-enacted

All were visibly shaken by the experience, but the photographers were not to be denied. As the flames went shooting skyward the photographers tried to reassure their routed subjects, and finally succeeded in persuading Mr. Geoghan to return to the business at hand.

He lighted another match and, advancing warily, set fire to another stack as cameras clicked on all sides.

Members of the emergency squad then went to the task of burning the remainder of the brush, while some of their number stood by with fire extinguishers and two firemen watched from an adjoining roof with a high-pressure hose in their hands.

The field is surrounded on all sides by tenement houses. Windows and fire escapes served as vantage points for the occupants as they watched the show in their back-yard.

The men arrested at the Concord Street address, Nicholas DeCooms, alias Robert Arnold, and Louis Kelly, were held without bail for a hearing next Thursday when arraigned in downtown court for violation of the State Uniform Narcotic Act. Both were held in the Raymond Street Jail.


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