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Blog: The Forgotten Redwood City Showdown – Revisiting the Hoby's Cafe Incident of 1949

Examining the night when a local merchant's actions shook the community

The Times reported that on Jan. 13, 1949, an attack on two deputy sheriffs at a Redwood City cafe occurred. 

Forty-year-old Frank McMahon, a Redwood City merchant and resident living on Devonshire Street, entered Hoby’s Cafe at 2821 El Camino Real late on the night of the 12th with a loaded gun and stated he was there to “shoot it out” with the owner of the cafe, one William H. Knuedeler.

By a horrible coincidence, Knuedeler’s wife, who was present at the time of the incident, was the widow of a Miramar grocer who had been murdered by his landlord in 1947.

In the Hoby’s Cafe incident, where McMahon tried to “pick a fight with customers,” Knuedeler was prepared. When McMahon attempted to rip a bolted pie case off the counter, Knuedeler “pulled an unloaded .45 caliber pistol from beneath the counter and ordered the other man out.” McMahon responded that he was going home to get a deer rifle and would be back “to settle the issue.”

Knuedeler quickly called the sheriff’s office, who sent deputy sheriffs Forrest Paull and Anthony Pinotti to the scene. On the way to the cafe, they intercepted McMahon as he was walking back to the cafe with a 12-gauge shotgun in tow. The deputies took the shotgun from McMahon and found that it was fully loaded and had the safety off. McMahon meant business.

The deputies escorted McMahon back to Hoby’s for the purpose of identification, which Knuedeler quickly provided. This infuriated McMahon, as he attacked both deputies, “kicking Deputy Pinotti in the stomach and head and engaging in fisticuffs with Paull.”

The Times reported that the deputies handcuffed McMahon despite their injuries. McMahon was charged with multiple counts due to the incident: assault and battery, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and displaying a loaded weapon.

On the morning of Jan. 13, a judge set McMahon’s bail at $500 cash ($6,150 in today’s money) or $1,000 bond and the district attorney’s office issued a formal complaint. He pleaded not guilty in late January and waived a jury trial.

On March 3, McMahon was found guilty of three misdemeanor charges: disturbing the peace, assault and resisting arrest. The presiding justice of the peace assessed McMahon a total of only $50 for the assault and resisting arrest charges and issued a suspended sentence on the disturbing the peace count.

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