Helping to sort it out in York: Timeline of 1969 race riots, court cases

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This AP photo from June 2001 shows the media besieging the then-York County Courthouse during the trial of defendants in the slaying of Lillie Belle Allen and Henry C. Schaad during race rioting 32 years before. Background posts: For years, York countians part of major court cases and Witman murder among York County’s most notorious crimes and York County educator recounts machete attack on ‘I Survived…’ .

As rioting was rocking the York area 40 years ago today, Lillie Belle Allen died.
The death of this black woman from the South, visiting family in York, came three days after white police officer Henry C. Schaad was shot while on patrol.
Two young people dead. Their slayers did not come to justice for another 30 years.
In some minds, these wrenching events all run together. What happened when?
The following chronology, published in the York Sunday News (7/19/09) is designed to help place events in order:


TIMELINE
July 17, 1969 – The riots began when a black youth, Taka Nii Sweeney, 17, was shot. Fighting between white and black gangs raged through the night.
July 18 – York City Police Officer Henry C. Schaad, 22, was shot while patrolling in one of the city’s two armored trucks. He died Aug. 1.
July 19 – Then-Mayor John L. Snyder declared a state of emergency on July 19. State police were called in to assist York City police in fighting the violence.
July 21 – Lillie Belle Allen, 27, visiting her sister in York from her hometown of Aiken, S.C., was shot and killed on North Newberry Street.
July 22 – National Guard troops rolled into town and Gov. Raymond P. Shafer declared a state of emergency.
July 23 – The violence ebbed.
September 2000 – A grand jury was impaneled to investigate the murders of Schaad and Allen.
April 26, 2001 – The grand jury recommended that 11 people be arrested in connection with Allen’s murder.
Oct. 30 – Two men, Stephen Freeland and Leon Wright, were arrested in connection with Schaad’s murder.
Aug. 14, 2002 – Four men accused in Allen’s killing – Rick Knouse, Clarence “Sonny” Lutzinger, William Ritter and Thomas Smith – entered guilty pleas to lesser charges. Arthur Messersmith later pleaded guilty to felony attempt to kill.
Oct. 19 – Robert Messersmith and Gregory H. Neff were convicted of second-degree murder. Former Mayor Charlie Robertson was acquitted.
Jan. 29, 2003 – Allen’s family filed a civil suit against the city and five former police officers. The city later settled the suit out of court.
March 13, 2003 – Freeland and Wright were convicted of second-degree murder.
Jan. 21, 2004 – Leon Wright’s brother, Michael, was arrested in New Orleans in connection with Schaad’s murder. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was released after serving 86 days in jail.
Source: York Daily Record/Sunday News archives
Related posts:
Images capture hope for racial harmony in York County.
York Charrette or charade?.
York, Pa.: ‘It’s a midsize city with an interesting history’.
*Edited, 12/10/12

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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