Duels, Gunfights and Shoot-Outs
New Mexico, like all states and territories in the American West, has had its share of violence over the years, particularly between the time of the American Occupation in 1846 and statehood in 1912. It didn't end then, of course, and these pages record violent events that occurred as recently as the beginning of the 20th century's third quarter. Too often, fights resulting in death were nugatory in nature: a dispute over a flock of turkeys, a drunken revelry, one man's personal dislike of another, petty theft. Other fights were far more important: peace officers killed as they performed their duties, criminals shot down as they assaulted society in one way or another. Here are a few examples: - Train robbers outgun lawmen and kill three peace officers in one fight - A deputy sheriff, drunk, picks a fight with the wrong store clerk; shot dead in the street - One gang of cattle thieves attacks another outlaw gang and kills three men in the fight - One man's shooting spree results in the death of a deputy, a judge and two others: lynched - A State Police officer murdered from ambush, for no good reason - A husband and wife go for their guns, and both end up dead. There is nothing glorious or romantic about any of this: violence is ugly and unpleasant in every case. These were real people, sometimes cowardly in their demeanor, sometimes brave, and even heroic. Some died with their boots on; others did not. The common denominator was that more often than not, once the gun smoke cleared away, it became clear that someone was badly wounded, dying, or dead. Violence, it is said, results when attempts at civility have failed, but the fact is that more often than not, the attempt is not made.
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