After the confrontation outside the Loebeck home, rumors
began to fly that a mob would try to seize Brown again. On Sunday,
September 28, a group of youths gathered in south Omaha and began a
march to the Douglas County courthouse. Eventually, thousands of angry
people gathered at the courthouse and by evening, the Omaha police and
city officials inside the courthouse were virtual prisoners. The size of
the crowd was estimated at between 5,000 and 15,000 people. By 8:00 p.m.
the mob had begun firing on the courthouse with guns they looted from
nearby stores. in that exchange of gunfire, one 16-year-old leader of
the mob, and a 34-year-old businessman a block away were killed. By 8:30
the mob had set fire to the building and prevented fire fighters from
extinguishing the flames. Inside, Will Brown moaned to Sheriff Mike
Clark, "I am innocent, I never did it, my God I am innocent."
Mayor Smith had been at the scene for several hours. He
came out of the courthouse and tried to reason with the mob. He asked
them to forget the prisoner and allow the firemen to put out the flames.
At that point, the mayor was knocked down by a blow to his head, and the
next thing he knew, he was on Harney Street. One end of a rope was being
flung over a lamp post. The other end tightened around his neck. That
was the last thing he remembered until he woke up in a hospital where he
remained for several days in serious condition with severe head
Mayor Smith had been rescued, but there are several
versions of how the rescue happened. Some reports say police detectives
were responsible for saving Smith's life. Others give the credit to a
young man named Russell Norgaard. Whatever the true story, the mob lost
interest in Smith and concentrated on getting Brown out of the
Brown ended up in the hands of the crazed mob. He was
beaten into unconsciousness. His clothes were torn off by the time he
reached the building's doors. Then he was dragged to a nearby lamp pole
on the south side of the courthouse at 18th and Harney around 11:00 p.m.
The mob roared when they saw Brown and a rope was placed around his
neck. Brown was hoisted in the air, his body spinning. He was riddled
with bullets. His body was then brought down and tied behind a car and
towed to the intersection of 17th and Dodge. There the body was burned
with fuel taken from nearby red danger lamps and fire truck lanterns.
Later, pieces of the rope used to lynch Brown were sold for 10-cents
each. Finally, Brown's charred body was dragged through the city's