RESORTS TO MURDER TO WIPE OUT THE DISGRACE OF A SCAR
Vido Opusich Sends Two Bullets Into the Brain of John Petrovich, Who Dies a Few Hours Later at the Hospital.
AFTER harboring murder in his heart for nearly two weeks because he had received a wound that would scar him for life Vido Opusich, a youthful Slavonian fruit packer, wrought his revenge by firing two bullets into the brain of John Petrovich, a waiter, known as "Napoleon," at the corner of Pacific and Stockton streets last evening.
Petrovich died at 3 oclock this morning at the Harbor Hospital.
The crime, as revealed by a note the murderer wrote some time ago, was of a most desperate and premeditated character. It was committed under the eyes of three policemen and so determined did Opusich seem to slay his man that he followed him across the street after wounding him fatally, firing four shots as he went.
At the point where the shooting occurred Opusich had lain in wait for his victim and the first shot was fired from behind, the bullet entering the back of Petrovichs head. The fifth shot in the revolver was probably reserved for his own brain, but Officer A. M. Cayot was too quick for him and wrested the weapon from him before he had another chance to use it.
From what can be learned of the affair the trouble started some time ago. Opusich says it was because of an insult to a woman, Miss Amelia Zipfel, who resides at 1409 Mason street, but this is disputed by the lady herself. The employer of Petrovich claims that the shooter owed him money and this precipitated hostilities and Petrovich himself stated that the whole difficulty arose out of a blow delivered in a spirit of fun.
Two weeks ago Opusich was wounded in the head by Petrovich. The latter struck him with a heavy pitcher, cutting a gash across his forehead that required six stitches to close. This occurred on May 30 and the following day the injured man, angered at the thought that he should have to carry a scar to his grave, wrote this letter, which was found in his room last night:
SAN FRANCISCO, May 31.
I am going to commit suicide to-morrow morning, and if I get a chance to kill Napoleon Ill do it; if not I will kill myself anyway, because I am cut forever on my forehead and I cannot stand it. It seems to me something shameful and that is the thing I die for. Good-by, all friends, good-by forever.
On Petrovichs Trail.
But Opusich did not kill himself on the following day. He evidently reconsidered his decision and resolved to first slay the man who scarred him. Since that time he has dogged his would-be victim from place to place, waiting for the opportunity to commit a crime. Yesterday afternoon he visited several places and inquired for Petrovich, and finally located him in the Dalmatian Saloon, at the corner of Stockton and Pacific streets, partially intoxicated.
The man bent on murder simply put his head inside the door and, jumping back to the sidewalk, waited for Petrovich to come out. In his hand he grasped a 38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver that he had purchased at a Kearny-street store for his fell purpose. In a few minutes the waiter appeared and scarcely has he stepped on the sidewalk when the first shot rang out.
Petrovich wounded, started to run across the street, but the man with murder in his heart followed close, firing two shots as he reached the middle of the street and one on the opposite corner, the last bringing his victim to the ground. Then the police grabbed Opusich and disarmed him.
Officers A. M. Cayot, James Connolly and Sergeant "Scotty" Campbell were all standing but a few yards away when the shooing commenced. The two patrolmen were on blockade duty on Pacific street and Sergeant Campbell was standing on Stockton street. Cayot was the first to reach the man and grab the pistol. All officers in rushing upon the excited assassin were directly in the line of fire and it is a miracle that some of them were not struck by the two bullets that missed Petrovich.
The wounded man had been struck twice, both bullets passing through the back part of his hat and entered his head. One drove in at the base of the brain and lodged in his throat, and the other penetrated the brain. He was hurried to the Harbor Receiving Hospital in an unconscious condition and was treated by Dr. Robinson. He cannot survive. The injured man was employed as a waiter in a restaurant at the corner of Sacramento and Leidesdorff streets and was 45 years of age.
Opusich, who is only 20 years old, presented a sorry spectacle as he was being led from the patrol wagon to the City Prison. With tears streaming down his face, he stood before the desk sergeant and tremblingly answered the questions put to him.
"I was forced to shoot him," he pitifully remarked; "he was determined to kill me and I had to defend myself. About five months ago Miss Zipfel and myself were walking along Broadway when we were assailed by a torrent of abuse that flowed from the lips of the man whom I shot. Knowing the desperate character of the man I paid little attention to his insulting remarks, as I was afraid that he would shoot me if I attempted to call him to account. It was only a short time afterward that he again abused me and threatened to kill me if I continued making love to Miss Zipfel. I told him that I was not afraid of him, when he suddenly struck me across the forehead with a brass measure, inflicting a serious wound.
"Had it not been for a friend who went to my rescue after he had struck me, I am convinced that he would have sent me to the Morgue. Since then I learned that he was making threats against me, even declaring that he would not only make me a subject for the Coroner, but would also riddle Miss Zipfel with bullets.
"Yesterday afternoon I went into a saloon at Pacific and Stockton streets and there met Petrovich. He was under the influence of liquor and as I entered he approached me and in a threatening manner declared that he was going to kill me. I walked out of the place.
"Napoleon, as he is known to his associates, followed me and as I reached the sidewalk he made a rush at me, as if he intended to do me bodily harm. Believing that my life was in danger I drew my revolver and fired four shots at him. Just then a policeman grabbed me and after taking possession of my revolver placed me under arrest. I am sorry that it happened, but I was forced to shoot him, as I considered that my life was in danger."
Opusich wept bitterly at the conclusion of his version of the trouble, and as he seemed to be on the verge of collapsing he was placed in a cell and a watch placed over him. In one of his pockets was found a photograph of a woman over whom the shooting occurred.
Opusich says he and the young woman came here from Dalmatia about five years ago. Their friendship ripened into love, and Miss Zipfel promised to become his wife. Then, he says, "Napoleon" appeared on the scene, and, becoming infatuated with his sweetheart, threatened him; that he fired only to save himself. The injured man had no weapons of any sort on his person.
Letter Proved Story False.
This tearful story proved to be false when the letter expressing the prisoners intentions was found in his pocket. Instead of having been on the defensive, he proves to have been the aggressor and to have tracked the man now dying on a cot in the hospital, since he wrote the lines. Miss Zipfel stated last night that she did not even know Petrovich and remembers of no time when she was insulted. The trouble either started over the restaurant debt or over a misdirected blow while the two men were jesting.
The San Francisco Call, Monday, June 11, 1900, p. 8.