John Less, 38 years old, was shot and wounded in the early morning hours of October 19, 1923. The shooting occurred at 3rd and Felix streets while he was attempting to capture Charles Hart, an ex-convict who had escaped from officers while they were putting him in the police patrol wagon.
Hart had been drunk and disorderly at the Elm Hotel along with his associate R.V. France, and had been arrested. Officers had searched France and found a .45 caliber automatic pistol in his hip pocket. Hart had also been searched but his gun was not discovered. After Officer Less was shot, a running gun battle occurred between Hart and half a dozen police officers who were chasing him on foot.
Hart evaded capture and an extensive search was conducted. Hart was arrested by St. Joseph detectives and Nodaway County Deputies at a farm house 4 1/2 miles north of Elmo, Missouri just before midnight on October 22, 1923. Hart was armed with a .38 caliber revolver and had a bullet wound in his left leg.
Hart had been paroled on October 8, 1923 from the Nebraska Penitentiary by telling the parole board he had been gassed in the world war. At that time he had admitted to having been arrested in St. Joseph for an attempted killing in 1918. Hart had originally been sentenced for a term of 1 to 10 years for Breaking and Entering. When questioned about why he committed the crime, he stated that he fired to "scare" the officers and did not learn until later that he had hit anyone. For his crime, Hart received a life sentence. Officer Less was survived by a wife and two children.