The Killing of Dewey Simer
by Kimberly Orr
Originally published in Patchwork: Pieces of Local History, May 1990. A collection of Lemhi County historical happenings compiled from interviews, photos, and archives by Salmon, Idaho high school students.
Billy often used his keen insight, and a little strategy, to prevent crimes from happening. Like most law enforcement officers however, he couldn't be everywhere at once. In his later years, he helped state policeman Dunn inspect three killings that took place in Gibbonsville. It was the night of December 22, 1946, when he was called to investigate an altercation in Gibbonsville.
The night man got a call about 11:00 p.m. He ran over to Billy's to report that a guy had broken loose in Gibbonsville and shot three or four people. Officer Mund, Billy, Sheriff Bob Isley, and state policeman Dunn hurried toward the area. Bob, who had just passed through Gibbonsville, was surprised to hear of the shooting. Everything had seemed quiet and calm when he passed by. He hadn't been in the door five minutes when the four officers stopped to get him.
On the way they stopped at the entrance to the Hughes Creek Ranger station where they had noticed a car parked with its lights on. The car was covered with frost and Billy didn't recognize it. The officers carefully approached the car. Each went to the side door and flung it open. Crouched over in pain on the seat was a man who had a 38 Special by him. Billy asked if he had been shot in the arm.
"Not in the arm, in the guts," he sputtered. Billy then realized that the injured man was Dewey Simer, a local guy he knew well. "I'm sure glad you fellows showed up. I'd sure hate to die alone," he muttered.
Bob Isley jumped in Dewey's car and took him to Goggins Hospital. Bob had a hard time telling if Dewey was drunk or just out of his mind because of the injury. The head nurse could tell he was intoxicated.
"It's hell to love someone and they treat you like this. I guess a guy has to defend himself though," Dewey reportedly told the nurse.
Meanwhile, Dunn and Lewis headed on into Gibbonsville. They stopped at Hunts and learned the shooting had taken place in the Log Cabin Inn. Inside the door, on the floor to the right, was the body of Mr. Cable. Six feet away, on a stretcher, was young Gene Benson. Benson was in bad shape and near death. When he saw Billy come in, he looked up at him and pleaded, "Tell my dad that I haven't been in any drunken brawl, that I was just with Joe." These were his last words.
It didn't take long for Billy to piece the story together. He located six empty cartridges that matched up with Dewey's 38 Special.
Dewey had arrived at the Inn around 8:00 p.m. to drop off some Christmas presents and talk about the dance he was going to play for. Dewey had already had a few drinks before he arrived. Mrs. Shutter was tending the bar and Dewey tried to grab her arm, but she shook him off and turned away.
About that time her son Joe and his friend Bert came in. She asked Joe to try to get some coffee down Dewey. Joe talked to him for awhile and he seemed to get better. Then he went back over to the bar and asked for another drink. Again he was refused. Curly, they called her, felt he'd had enough. She knew he wasn't supposed to be drinking.
The refusal really set Dewey off. He began to cuss and carry on until young Joe told him that was enough of that. "You'd better watch your language, Dewey," Joe said and Benson backed him up.
Dewey was mad and yelled, "Oh, so you think you're tough. I'll show you who's though. I'm tough! I'll kill all of you!" Dewey pulled out his gun. Bud Cable started toward him to grab the gun and Dewey shot him twice. Then he shot Gene. Bert and Curly crawled around the stove into the kitchen. Joe followed behind them. "Get out of her, Mother!" Joe yelled at her.
When Joe went into the kitchen, he grabbed a gun and put a shell into it. Dewey got into the kitchen and was leaning against the cupboard. Joe told Dewey to drop his gun. Shots rang out. Joe had been shot. He ran outside to meet the others. Quickly they left for help. Joe couldn't remember pulling the trigger or if the gun had been fired.
The jury concluded that George Dewey Simer, age 49, died of a pelvic infection introduced by a 22 caliber bullet fired by Joe Shutter in self-defense on the night of December 22, 1946.
Billy Lewis completed 26 successful years as a public servant to the community of Salmon. There never will be another like him. He died on September 4, 1971. He had contributed much to the law enforcement of Salmon. As Harry Neyman said, "Hell, he was the law!"