In 1950, two armed men, Puerto Rican nationalists, walked up the street to Blair House from opposite directions, intent on killing the four guards, and then assassinating the President of the United States—the man they felt was preventing Puerto Rican independence.
The first gunman went up to the guard shack where Officer Lesley Coffelt was on duty. Officer Coffelt was used to people coming up to the booth to ask for directions, and was caught completely off-guard when the gunman suddenly pulled his revolver and shot him four times in the chest, abdomen and leg, mortally wounding him.
The second gunman as this was going on, came up behind a plains clothes guard, and attempted to shoot him in the head, but his gun jammed, and the guard was able to spin around and engage him in a struggle for the gun. The gun went off hitting the guard in the knee, but alerting the other two officers. There was a brief but intense gun fight between the two gunmen, and the last two guards—during the gunfight, one of the guards was badly wounded, and one of the two gunmen was also badly wounded, leaving one guard, and one gunman.
|Harry S. Truman|
But the worst possible thing suddenly happened. The sound of gunfire roused the President from his nap, and he walked to the window of the townhouse and looked at to see what was going on. The bad guy that shot Officer Lesley Coffelt in the guard shack was less than thirty feet away, but his weapon was empty. Possibly seeing his main target, President Harry S. Truman, in plain view in the window, he quickly reloaded. The remaining guard didn’t have a clear shot, and yelled for the President to get down just as the gunman prepared to fire. Suddenly, Officer Coffelt stumbled out of the guard shack, wounded in the chest, abdomen and legs, raised his revolver and fired, killing the gunman instantly. It was the last thing Coffelt did. He collapsed, and died in the hospital a few hours later.
|Bro. Lesley Coffelt|
Died protecting the President
Officer Coffelt was a Mason from Potomac Lodge No. 5, Washington, D.C. and the first Secret Service officer to die protecting a United States President. And of course, the President, Harry S. Truman was also a Mason, and Past Grand Master of Mason in Missouri.
Three days after the assassination attempt, Harry Truman attended the funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, where Officer Coffelt received full military honors, and Masonic Rites. The seven pall bearers were fellow secret service officers, and all seven were Master Masons.
The remaining gunman, Oscar Callazo, recovered from his wounds and was tried and sentenced to death. President Harry S. Truman, not wanting to create a martyr or further complicate the problems with Puerto Rico, commuted that sentence to life imprisonment.