The History of the Office of Sheriff: Chapter 16
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By Schenectady Sheriff Harry C. Buffardi

© 1998. The History of the Office of Sheriff was published and copyrighted in 1998 by Schenectady County Sheriff Harry C. Buffardi.
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Pat Garrett was born in Alabama on June 5, 1850. In 1869, he went west to seek his future. He was a cowhand in Lancaster, Texas for several years before he became a buffalo hunter on the Southern Plains. . . .

In a fascinating Southern New Mexico Online Magazine story, James W. Hurst details the half-dozen conspiracy theories about the killing of Pat Garrett.

New Mexico Attorney General James M. Hervey put forth one scenario that was published, in keeping with his wishes, long after his death.

Hervey implicated hired gun Jim Miller as the killer for one of the region's leading ranchers W. W. Cox, for whom self-proclaimed shooter Wayne Brazel worked.

Captain Fred Fernoff of the New Mexico Mounted Police also came across information implicating Miller.

George Curry, Territorial Governor at the time, later advanced the theory that Cox himself actually shot Garrett and that Brazel offered to take the blame himself because he was fully confident of an acquittal as long as he had his boss in his corner.

The Garrett family accepted a version of events naming as the shooter one Carl Adamson, who was riding with Pat in the buggy when the two supposedly encountered Brazel on the outskirts road.

Hurst himself holds that the simplest explanation best covers the essential facts: Garrett and Brazel were at odds over the latter's goat grazing and its impact on former's ability to sell his ranch and prevent financial ruin. Pat's threats prompted a pre-emptive strike by Brazel, no match with Pat in a straight draw.

Other web sources include the American Western History Museum and the Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang, a non-profit to "preserve, protect, and promote Billy The Kid/Pat Garrett history."

One day in 1876, Pat found that he also possessed the ability to kill a person. Joe Briscoe, a co-worker in the hide trade, exchanged verbal barbs with Garrett. . . . Briscoe grabbed an axe and attempted to kill Garrett with it. . . . One round from Garrett's gun ended the dispute forever.

Though Pat was never charged with the killing, it did mark the end of his buffalo hunting days. He moved to Fort Sumner, New Mexico and became a gambler. It was here that he would meet a young man who would help shape the legend of his life. His acquaintance, Henry McCarty (a.k.a. William Bonney), who would later be known in infamy as "Billy The Kid", was at this stage of his career known as "Little Casino" because of his slight stature. His associate, Pat Garrett, was known as "Big Casino" because of his 6'4" frame. . . .

After failing in several restaurant and saloon ventures, Pat decided to become a lawman. In 1880, he pinned on a star for the first time as a deputy sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M. Soon he ran for the top slot of sheriff. He easily won the election. His first and greatest assignment was to stop Billy The Kid, without question the most notorious desperado and killer in the Wild West. . . Garrett and his posse first caught up with the Kid near Stinking Springs, N.M and returned him for trial. He was found guilty, and while awaiting his hanging, Billy managed to get hold of a pistol and killed both of his jailers during his escape from the county lock-up.

Garrett tracked the Kid back to Fort Sumner and located the hotel where he was staying. While The Kid was out celebrating with some senioritas, Garrett secreted himself in Billy's hotel room. Hidden in the shadows of the room Garrett awaited the outlaw's return. Garrett describes the scene:

"The Kid must have seen or felt the presence of a person at the head of the bed. He raised quickly his pistol, a self-cocker, within a foot of my breast. Repeating rapidly across the room he cried: Quien es? (Who's that?) . . . . Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside and fired again. The second shot was useless; The Kid fell dead. . . ."

The killing brought Garret instant fame and notoriety. His book, The Authentic Life of Billy The Kid, which was really written by an itinerant newspaperman named Ash Upson, hit the market within fifteen months after Garrett had killed Billy The Kid. Though the story line was exciting, and certainly newsworthy, Garret's life would be a less fortunate series of anticlimaxes. At the end of his term of office in 1882, Pat moved South and began another series of failed business ventures. He took on a short stint as a Texas Ranger that also failed and he resigned after only six months. In 1889, he was defeated in a contest for sheriff of Chavey County, despite all of his fame and prior reputation. In 1897, he accepted an appointment as the sheriff of Dona Ana County, N.M. and he managed to get re-elected on two consecutive occasions. However, he surrendered his badge in 1900 after a series of political disputes.

A few months later Pat was appointed collector of customs in El Paso, Texas. President Theodore Roosevelt, who had read Garret's, or supposedly Garrett's book, was anxious to employ the man who shot the world's most notorious outlaw. . . .

Within five years of his appointment, Garrett fell from presidential grace and finally resigned his position. Again, Garrett failed at business, this time ranching. On February 29, 1908, Garrett was thirty-five hundred dollars in debt and forced to sell his ranch. A tenant farmer on his ranch named Wayne Brazel argued with Garrett over the ranch sale. When Garrett reached for a shotgun, Brazel killed him with a six-shooter. Incredibly, Brazel was acquitted using a self defense excuse. It was a remarkable verdict considering that Pat had been shot in the chest and through the back of the head. Footprints at the crime scene suggested the presence of multiple persons at the time of his death.

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Copyright © 1998, 1999 Harry C. Buffardi ©

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