Rooftop gunman, 1951

Raymond Waterfield fires a .45-caliber pistol from the third floor of the Horn Hotel on July 1, 1951. William Calvin, Illinois State Journal & Register staff photographer, took this photo from another rooftop using a telephoto lens. In the process, Waterfield fired two shots at Calvin. (Courtesy State Journal-Register)

Updated with information on the Horn Hotel — ed.

A man fired shots at random from the roof of a Springfield hotel for more than an hour the evening of July 1, 1951. Somehow, no one was injured except the gunman.

Illinois State Journal reporter Fenton Harris wrote that Raymond Waterfield, 39, “terrorized hundreds of Springfield residents” in the incident. However, the gunplay between Waterfield and two dozen police officers, rather than sending people scurrying in fear, actually attracted spectators.

The standoff ended when three officers – Springfield police detectives Eddie Ryan and James McIntyre and officer Harlan Watson – climbed through the hotel skylight to capture a wounded Waterfield.

It was only luck that kept everyone else unwounded. Waterfield had three weapons with him on the roof of the three-story Horn Hotel at 806 E. Adams St. (There were six more inside Waterfield’s room at the hotel.) Police estimated he fired more than 100 rounds from two automatic pistols, one .22-caliber and the other .45-caliber, along with a .22-caliber rifle, Harris wrote.

During the shooting, Waterfield fired into one car, narrowly missing a 13-year-old girl; shot into the tire of a parked automobile; took several “pot shots” at police and pedestrians and shot twice at William Calvin, Illinois State Journal and Register staff photographer, who was photographing the scene.

Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Mari and their daughter, Deanna, 13, all of 2139 Marland Ave., were apparently the first to be shot at by Waterfield. Mari and his wife, Jeanette, said they were driving in their car west on Adams St. when they passed the hotel. Mrs. Mari remarked that someone was shooting firecrackers, after she heard a report.

A moment later Mari said Deanna exlaimed, “No, daddy, it must have been a gun, here is the bullet hole.” Mari said he found a .45 slug buried in the floor of his car, about two inches from his daughter’s feet. The girl was sitting in the back seat.

Passersby reacted with curiosity, not fear, Harris wrote.

Large crowds of people formed along the streets and in spite of police efforts many strolled into easy shooting range of the berserk gunman. Several cars failed to observe police whistles, until police drove cars crosswise to block the streets.

One man, who lives in an apartment across the street from the hotel, stood at a window while two bullets crashed at either side of him.

Waterfield was leaning against a chimney, apparently weakened by loss of blood, when the three officers stormed the roof at 7:30 p.m. He had been shot in the right knee, upper right arm, left chest and left elbow.

Raymond Waterfield in better days (SJ-R)

Waterfield, a truck driver for the Central Illinois Light Co., had been arrested several times before for being drunk and disorderly, and he reportedly had been in a tavern fight earlier the day of the shooting.

However, the only reason he gave police for his outburst was, “I was just mad at everybody – people kept borrowing money from me all day long.”

Waterfield spent several weeks recovering at St. John’s Hospital, followed by months in the Sangamon County Jail. He pleaded guilty in February 1952 to assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to nine additional months at the Vandalia State Penal Farm. What happened to him after that is unknown.

The Horn Hotel

The Horn Hotel, a boarding house-style hotel of about 80 rooms, was on the southeast corner of Eighth and Washington streets. It was known as the Interurban Hotel before Helen Horn took it over in 1942.

In 2021, a parking lot for the Sangamon County Complex occupied the entire block that once included the Horn Hotel.

Police officers

All three officers who captured Raymond Waterfield went on to make their marks in law enforcement and politics.

  • James McIntyre (1906-65) was assistant Springfield police chief when he retired in 1961.
  • Edward “Eddie” Ryan (1908-82) also left the Springfield Police Department as assistant chief. He then was elected to terms as Sangamon County sheriff (1966-70) and circuit clerk (1972-80).
  • Harlan Watson (also 1908-82), a police officer from 1942 until 1969, was a political leader among local African-Americans. Over several decades in politics, he served as a precinct committeeman for both the Democratic and Republican parties and held a number of patronage jobs. Two different State Journal-Register columnists, Al Manning and Ken Watson (no relation), called Harlan Watson “one of the most colorful politicians in Springfield.”

The photographer

William “Big Cal” Calvin (1923-89) got his start in the news business as a newsboy at the state Capitol newsstand. He was no rookie when it came to action photography, having learned the trade while serving with the U.S. Navy in the North Atlantic during World War II. According to his obituary, his wartime photography often was shown on newsreels worldwide. Calvin later served as official photographer for five Illinois governors (Stevenson through Ogilvie) and for the Illinois Senate.

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