San Diego Hysterical Society



San Diego's Last Firing Squad

by Bart Mitchell


San Diego's Police had always taken care of its own executions in capital cases involving murder, bank robbery and horse thievery.

San Diego's last execution
- A San Diego Police tradition ends with a bang -

On January 1, 1903, a new state law required that all executions be carried out in state penal institutions. By December 1902 San Diego Municipal Jail still had one convict on death-row: Avery Thomas, a horse thief.

The San Diego Police wanted to take care of all "unfinished business" while still under their jurisdiction. Christmas was fast approaching, and it was felt unseemly to have an execution so closely associated with Christmas.

A young clerk working the arraignment desk noted on his calendar that between Christmas and New Year's Eve was Canada's Boxing Day. This police chief Waggoner deemed an appropriate day for the final execution and "boxing" of Thomas. The department's Los Tres Pistoles firing squad delivered the final volley.


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