1838 Mormon War - Aftermath - Boggs Assassination Attempt

Boggs Assassination Attempt

On May 6, 1842, Boggs was shot in the head at his home three blocks from Temple Lot.(jwha.info 2010) Boggs survived, but Mormons came under immediate suspicion.

Sheriff J.H. Reynolds discovered a revolver at the scene, still loaded with buckshot. He surmised that the perpetrator had fired upon Boggs and lost his firearm in the night when the weapon recoiled due to its unusually large shot. The gun was found to have been stolen from a local shopkeeper, who identified "that hired man of Ward's" as the most likely culprit. Reynolds determined the man in question was Orrin Porter Rockwell, a close associate of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. However, Reynolds was unable to capture Rockwell.

John C. Bennett, a disaffected Mormon, reported that Smith had offered a cash reward to anyone who would assassinate Boggs, and that Smith had admitted to him that Rockwell had done the deed.

Joseph Smith vehemently denied Bennett's account, speculating that Boggs—no longer governor, but campaigning for state senate—was attacked by an election opponent. One historian notes that Governor Boggs was running for election against several violent men, all capable of the deed, and that there was no particular reason to suspect Rockwell of the crime. Other historians are convinced that Rockwell was involved in the shooting.

Whatever the case, the following year Rockwell was arrested, tried, and acquitted of the attempted murder, although most of Boggs' contemporaries remained convinced of his guilt. A grand jury was unable to find sufficient evidence to indict him, convinced in part by his reputation as a deadly gunman and his statement that he "never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!... He's still alive, ain't he?"

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