A tragic shooting rocked the small town of Zap, North Dakota, in April of 1941. The shooter, a local farmer and father of eight, was considered a hard-working husband and family man before financial trouble and a minor dispute pushed him over the edge.
Early in 1941, Fred Sinirius was evicted from his farm near Zap by the Bank of North Dakota. The Sinirius family moved to a nearby farmstead, but the elderly farmer later returned to the foreclosed property to remove the home’s storm windows and screens. Sinirius claimed he had purchased them himself, and wanted to use them on his new home. The bank, however, claimed the windows were part of the original property, and therefore belonged to them.
On April 1st, the bank sent field agent Val Wolf from Mandan to collect the windows from Sinirius and return them to the original farmstead. Wolf was met by Deputy Sheriff Joseph Runions at the Sinirius farm. The two men met Mr. Sinirius outside his home and explained the reason behind their visit. Enraged by the intrusion, Sinirius demanded that the men leave his property. He ran inside and emerged with a shotgun, taking aim at Runion and Wolf. He shot at the two men, but, believing the shotgun’s aim inadequate, quickly exchanged it for a rifle. Runion later claimed that the 60-year old Sinerius chased him and Wolf as they ran to their vehicles.
The farmer continued shooting until both men had fallen. Although Sinirius believed them both dead, Runion survived and managed to drag himself to the highway and flag down a passing vehicle. He was rushed to the hospital at Stanton and later transferred to Bismarck’s critical care unit. Mercer County Sheriff Otto Poschadel arrived at the farm and arrested Sinirius later that evening; he offered no resistance and confessed immediately. Deputy Runion lost sight in one eye, and Wolf, a father of four, lost his life to the argument over those storm windows. Sinirius was arraigned for the murder of Wolf and the attempted murder of Runion on this date in 1941.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Dill, Joseph (ed.). 1988 North Dakota: 100 Years: p. 71. The Forum Publishing Company: Fargo, ND.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune. Wednesday (Morning ed.), April 2, 1941; p. 1.