Loathe Thy Neighbor

Red Wagon Murder principles Galloway & Christian

August 30, 1927
Mar Vista

Little Donald Galloway traded his red wagon to neighbor girl Naomi Christian for a bag of butter beans, but he didn’t tell his mother Madge. When she saw Naomi with her boy’s toy, she was steamed—yet another imposition from those terrible Christians, newly arrived Kentucky farm family, outsiders, interlopers. Wasn’t it enough, how they’d caused such a fuss about the pigeon coop, then insisted the Galloways keep back from the common fence? Well, she’d show Naomi Christian… and she snatched that wagon away! (She’d already cooked the beans.)

Naomi’s mama retaliated by relieving the Galloway kids of a tricycle, and the mothers met in the street and came to blows, Mrs. Galloway coming out the winner. Just another day at 3715 Barry Avenue.

When Walter Galloway, 37, came home that night, his wife had a full report on all the neighborly shenanigans. The next evening, the Galloways prepared to pick their kids up from the golf links, but first Galloway went looking for Christian, and when he couldn’t find him, used some raw language to neighbor Mrs. H.K. Cassidy. (He might have used rougher language still, had he known the Cassidys had loaned Thomas Christian a handgun, "for protection.") Mr. Cassidy objected to Galloway’s caddishness, and the two tussled in the Cassidy yard at 4040 East Boulevard.

Galloway lost. Then he rejoined Madge in the car, where upon they saw Thomas Christian, 52, stomping down the block. Galloway said they might as well see what the fellow had to say, maybe straighten everything out. Christian leaned into the car with one foot on the running board and Galloway asked, "So, Old Man Christian, who’s the boss in your house, you or your wife?"

"I’ll show you whose boss!" said Christian. That’s when he showed the gun. "I’ll show you whether I’ll shoot or not! When I shoot, I aim to kill!" And he did. Mrs. Galloway pulled her husband over to her side and bravely scooted under him and to the wheel, closer to the gunman. "Drive, honey, drive," urged Galloway, and she did, to Culver City Hospital. It took him three days to die, but he did today.

They called it the red wagon slaying, and the trial was notable for little Naomi taking the stand and swearing Mrs. Galloway had told her mother that one day she’d wake up a widow, and for the huge grin the defendant wore in the dock until the judge admonished him to knock it off.

In the end, the jury has to decide if Galloway had opened his car door and led Christian to believe he must shoot in self defense. They didn’t buy it. Or maybe they’d just had enough of the whole crazy neighborhood. The sentence: 1 to 10 years in San Quentin, and yet more ammunition for folks who believe you’d have to be nuts to live west of Western.