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Looking Back to 1940: Four youths arrested in local crime wave, IRS helps locals file taxes 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of the society’s Vice President Nancy Tweedie and Research Director Jan Cannon.

Excerpts from Wednesday, February 7, 1940, The Paso Robles Journal:

Victims identify amateur bandits

–Two youthful purse-snatchers were caught “red-handed” last night, solving the question of the minor crime wave which has proved frightening and annoying to local citizens.

Mrs. Theresa Pori was walking up Spring street between Eighth and Ninth streets last evening on her way to the theater when a car slowed up behind her. Two unmasked bandits jumped out from behind her, grabbed her purse, containing 30 cents, and started to run away. Mrs. Poli summoned policemen from a telephone in the Pip restaurant.

Looking Back to Paso Robles history

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As the police car drove around the block the two purse-snatchers, later identified as Jesse Smith, 19, and Joe Benevides, 19, made a dash toward the car, mistaking it for their own. The police made the arrest with no resistance from the boys.

Also held by Officers John Rude and Fred Fairbairn were Irvin Smith, 20, and Duke Smith, 17, who were in the bandit car.

Bandits identified

Don Garren, employee of the Southern Pacific Milling Company and Rev. Milo Atkinson, who were held up Monday evening, identified the youths as the “stick-up” artists.

Rev. Atkinson was held up at about 8:30 at the intersection of Oak and Seventeenth streets as he was on his way home, when a young bandit poked a gun in his ribs to impress his demand for the pastor’s wallet. Remaining calm and loquacious, the pastor talked the bandit out of the idea, walked seven blocks to the police station and reported the hold-up.

Garren’s experience about a half hour later, was similar to the pastor’s. When the bandits demanded money from him he simply refused, believing their gun to be only a toy pistol.

Although the escapade netted the youths only 30 cents, felony charges will be filed against them. Arraignment will be made by District Attorney A.H. Brazil in San Luis Obispo today, and a Superior Court trial will follow.

Officers said the two older Smith boys and Benevides have records of minor offenses and reform school sentences dating back for a number of years.

Two more suspects implicated in the local hold-ups were ordered arrested for investigation by District Attorney A.H. Brazil this morning. The are Gregory Nunez, 24, and Raymond Duzo, 28, who were taken to San Luis Obispo for questioning.

Assistance filing income tax reports

For those fortunate enough to need to fill out an income tax report, the Treasury Department is furnishing a deputy in Paso Robles this weekend who will assist anyone in filing their report. If you have difficulty filling in the blanks you will be interested to know that the deputy collector will be found at the city hall three days only, February 8, 9 and 10.

Read previous Looking Back articles

Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.