Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Wyatt Earp: Knight With A Six-Shooter

Wyatt's Revenge

"There is an uneasy feeling among the outlaw element..."

Star news dispatch, March 21, 1882

Over thepast several months, Johnny Ringo, Billy Brocius and the other rustlers had been involved in a series of territorial stage holdups all while Sheriff Behan sat by and did nothing but thwart Wyatts every move to garrot the outlaws. Fatigued, Judge Spicer and other businessmen contacted Acting Territorial Governor George Gasper and Territorial Marshal Crawley Drake for help. They gave Wyatt what he had hoped for: a commission as U.S. Marshal to go after the outlaws full-steam-ahead. Encouraged by the overdue show of justice, both Wells Fargo and the Southern Pacific Railroad agreed to bankroll Wyatts posse and equipment.

John Ringo (Jack Burrows)
John Ringo
(Jack Burrows)

According to Stuart N. Lake, Wyatts biographer, the judge handed Wyatt his commission with a piece of advice: "If I were serving these warrants, Id leave my prisoners in the mesquite where alibis dont count."

Ike Clanton fled to New Mexico; Billy Brocius and Johnny Ringo, the outlaw leaders, went into hiding. Feeling he had been overridden, Behan continued to harass. The night that Wyatt and his posse were about to leave Tombstone, he tried to serve him with an arrest warrant for the murder of Stillwell, a warrant obtained from a naive judge in Tucson. Wyatt pushed him aside and lifted himself into his saddle.

Stop! I told you I want to see you!" Behan commanded.

"Behan," Wyatt said, smiling, "if youre not careful youll see me once too often." The posse Doc Holliday, Warren Earp, Shawn McMasters, "Turkey Creek" Johnson and "Texas Jack" Vermillion laughed and turned their horses behind Wyatts. Ahead of them the great western sky dawned.

The first of their hunt encountered was "Indian Charlie" whom they found hiding at Pete Spences ranch (Spence had already flown). Wyatt forced him into a draw. "More of a chance than you gave Morg," Wyatt declared, before counting to three. The half-breed was no match and Wyatt left him "in the mesquite where alibis" nor Behan couldnt help him.

In the most ridiculous display of Behans justice to date, he put together his own posse which included the two criminals Wyatt wanted most, Brocius and Ringo. It was a game of cat-chases-mouse-chases-cat, resulting in a checkerboard chase throughout Cochise County.

The factions eventually met at Iron Springs in a grove of cottonwoods. Shots were traded and Brocius was severed in half by close range of Wyatts shotgun.

Over the next couple of months, Ringo managed to elude Wyatts posse. But, writes Josie, "in the end Wyatt caught him on the run (near Morse Canyon) and dispatched him with a fast rifle shot."

Wyatt was unable to find the others, such as Pete Spence and Ike Clanton, but within a couple of years all would die performing criminal acts. When Arizona Territory officials began researching Behans record, they found that they were able to build up quite a file against him in no time. He resigned in disgrace in 1882 and left Tombstone.

Unfortunately for Wyatt, he was eventually forced to flee Arizona himself. That Stillwell warrant. He and Doc rode to Colorado where a call for extradition followed. But, after the governor of Colorado consulted with Tombstone office holders for the facts, he flatly refused to turn the men over.

The only part of Arizona that Wyatt missed boarded a train and came to him. And he and Josie never parted again, until the day he died.

 

 

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