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November 1, 1950, Assassins Attempt To Kill President Harry Truman - Today In Crime History

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On this day, November 1, in the year 1950, Puerto Rican nationalists Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo attempted to assassinate President Truman at the Blair House in Washington DC.  While Truman escaped unharmed, U.S. Secret Service officer Leslie Coffelt was killed in an exchange of gunfire.

In November of 1950, the White House was being renovated and President Truman and his family were residing in the nearby Blair House on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Around 2:00 p.m. on November 1, Truman and his wife were upstairs when they heard gunfire coming from the front steps of the house.  Torresola had approached Secret Service officer Leslie Coffelt and shot him three times. While Torresola turned his weapon on another officer, Coffelt killed Torresola with a single shot to the head.  Collazo, who was also shot in the melee, was arrested.   Officer Coffelt died later that day.

Torresola and Collazo were members of the extremist Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, a group fighting for full independence from the United States. The "Independistas," as they were commonly called, targeted Truman despite his support of greater autonomy for the Caribbean country.

Unfazed by the attempt on his life, Truman kept his scheduled appointments that day. "A President has to expect these things," he remarked.  Oscar Collazo was sentenced to death, but in an remarkable act of forgiveness on July 24, 1952, Truman commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Collazo died in 1994.

Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.