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July 14, 2015

July 14, 1881: Billy the Kid gunned down

On this day in 1881, Pat Garrett shot and killed the notorious outlaw William H. Bonney, known better as Billy the Kid. According to legend, Billy had killed 21 men – one for each year of his life.

Born Henry McCarty, Billy was somehow both a hero and a villain: a devilish murderer who personified the freedom of the Wild West.

In March 1879, Billy accepted a bargain with New Mexico territorial governor Lew Wallace (the same man who wrote Ben-Hur). He would receive immunity for his past crimes in return for testifying against an associate. The district attorney, however, refused to let Billy free, and he had to escape on horseback.

After this, Billy lived mostly on rustling – and this is what Pat Garrett, sheriff of Lincoln County, was charged with stopping. He captured Billy in late 1880, and Billy was sentenced to hang. But he escaped on April 28, 1881, killing both guards, just two weeks before his execution.

Garrett continued his hunt, eventually locating Billy in the town of Fort Sumner. While visiting one home at night, Garrett heard a familiar voice ask, “¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?” He shot at the voice twice, the first one hitting his mark.

For more: This website claims to be the most comprehensive Billy the Kid site on the Net.

Image: the only known reproduction of Billy the Kid, a tintype by Ben Wittick. via The Blonde Coyote

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