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History's Blotter: Truman Assassination Thwarted

Read this month's "History's Blotter" article to learn how Truman's attempted assassins were overpowered by White House Police Officers. 

For a long time, if you entered any police or sheriff’s department in the country, you would be greeted at the front desk by a sergeant presiding over a large bound book. Everyone who came into the station, every call patrolmen answered—it was all documented in that book, called a blotter. The National Law Enforcement Museum has acquired blotters from all across the United States. They are an important part of our collection—teeming with information about day-to-day law enforcement activities and touching on national events as they affected specific agencies. Find below our version of a national blotter: History’s Blotter draws from events in many places and times to present the collective experience of law enforcement in America. Take a look at the entry featured this month (below), and scroll down to explore the History's Blotter archive.

November 1, 1950 | Truman Assassination Thwarted

“Hell, no, I got through two and half years of shooting in Europe without getting hit and I’ll be damned if I was going to get it on Pennsylvania Avenue!”
—Bystander on whether or not he considered jumping into the action at Blair House, 1950

President Harry Truman was napping on the second floor of the Blair House—his temporary executive mansion while the White House was being renovated—when two Puerto Rican nationalists attempted to break through the Secret Service and White House Police security perimeters. Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo approached the building from opposite directions and immediately began firing.

In the intense firefight that followed, about 30 shots were exchanged before Torresola was killed and Collazo wounded. White House Police Officer Leslie Coffelt was mortally wounded by Torresola’s first shots. According to witnesses, a wounded Coffelt steadied himself on the guardhouse and returned fire—shooting and killing Torresola from 10 yards away. Officer Coffelt died a few hours later; two other White House Police Officers were wounded in the fight, but recovered. 

President Truman was typically unflappable and stuck with his schedule for the afternoon. Shortly after the attempt he noted to the press, “A president has to expect these things.”

Caption to photo: Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring stands guard outside the Blair House while Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Collazo lies wounded at his feet.


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