Sheriff Pat Garrett (killed Billy the Kid)

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Sheriff Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett, Sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico

Also Known As: "Pat", "Juan Largo", "Big John"
Birthplace: Cusseta, Chambers, AL, United States
Death: February 29, 1908 (57)
Las Cruces, Dona Ana , NM, United States (Justifiable Homicide)
Place of Burial: Las Cruces, Dona Ana, NM, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of John Lumpkin Garrett, II and Elizabeth Ann Garrett
Husband of Juanita Gutierrez and Apolinaria Gutierrez
Father of Ida Garrett; Dudley Poe Garrett; Elizabeth Garrett; Annie Garrett; Patrick Floyd Garrett, Jr and 4 others
Brother of Susan Wilson Garrett; Sarah Martha Garrett; Alfred Jarvis Garrett; Hilary Warren Garrett; Elizabeth Ann Garrett and 3 others

Occupation: Sheriff of Lincoln County New Mexico
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sheriff Pat Garrett (killed Billy the Kid)

Sheriff Pat Garrett, the man who (probably) shot Billy the Kid.

Pat Garrett was raised on a prosperous pre-Civil War plantation in Louisiana, then worked as a cowboy and buffalo hunter before becoming a cop. He had a reputation as a hot-tempered man, and in 1877 he killed a friend in a drunken brawl, but was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Later, while working as a cowpoke, he became friends with Henry McCarty, but soon these two men went their separate ways, literally and figuratively: McCarty killed sheriff William Brady on 1 April 1878 and became famous as "Billy the Kid", and Garrett was briefly a Texas Ranger before coming to Roswell, New Mexico, where he was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 1880.

Motivated by either a love of justice or the $500 bounty on Billy the Kid, Garrett tracked down two of the Kid's cohorts, Charles Bowdre and Tom O'Folliard, and killed them in Stinking Springs, New Mexico. Then he cornered and arrested Billy the Kid, and brought him to trial on charges of murder. After a speedy trial, the eminent outlaw was ordered to hang, but escaped from jail instead, killing two guards in the process.

And so again the dogged Garrett set out after his former friend. Using a mutual acquaintance to arrange a meeting on 14 July 1881, Garrett crouched in a dark room waiting for the outlaw's arrival. As soon as the door opened, Garrett shot Billy the Kid dead without a word. Some hailed him as a hero for ending a famous criminal's life, but others called him a coward for the manner in which he lured and killed the fugitive. Amid these whispers and aspersions, Garrett soon left his job as sheriff.

After a few years as a lawman in another county, Garrett was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to supervise the El Paso office of the Customs Department. Known as a gambler, heavy drinker, and an ornery ol' cuss, he was the frequent subject of complaints for discourteous, unfair, and impolite behavior, so he did not last long in this job either. He then quit law enforcement, and lived on a ranch with his wife and nine children, where he was generally unpopular among the locals.

Unable to make the ranch a profitable concern, he leased it to one Wayne Brazel. Soon, however, Garrett decided that he did not approve of the way Brazel was running the ranch, and began pressuring Brazel to leave the premises. On 29 February 1908, in a heated discussion, Garrett is said to have told Brazel he would get him off the ranch, "one way or another". Garrett then turned his back to his tenant, unzipped his pants and began urinating, and he was shot twice and killed. Brazel claimed self-defense, the trial lasted one day, and the jury deliberated for less than half an hour before finding him not guilty. A huge barbecue was held at another nearby ranch, to celebrate the verdict.

The story of Garrett and Billy the Kid is, of course, classic lore of the American west, and has been frequent fodder for Hollywood movies.

Pat was a tall, thin angular man with prominent cheek bones, 6' 4", came west in 1869, when he was nineteen, to take part in the slaughter of the buffalo on the High Plains of Texas. He left that trade in 1878. The great buffalo herds of the Southern Plains had been decimated. The Comanches had plundered his hunting camp. He moved to Fort Sumner, in eastern New Mexico, where he would marry Elizabeth Garrett’s mother, Apolonaria Gutierrez.

When Pat Garrett was himself gunned down, they had to order a special coffin for him because he was so tall.

Pat and Billy the Kid:

In that summer of 1881, Billy the Kid, hiding out around the hamlet of Fort Sumner in east-central New Mexico, should have known that Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett would try to hunt him down and kill him. The Kid had just broken out of jail in Lincoln, New Mexico, where he had been sent by a judge and jury in Mesilla, New Mexico, to hang for murder. He had shot two deputy sheriffs to death during his escape. He had learned that his notoriety had spread from coast to coast. He surely understood that Garrett would not just forget about him.

Although only 21, The Kid – also known as Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim or William Bonney, names reflecting the shards of his fractured family life – had already given a new dimension to the notion of “outlaw.” He had ridden with several gangs, hustled in the regional gaming halls, busted his companions out of imprisonment, stolen horses across the territory, rustled cows in New Mexico and Texas, fought in the infamous Lincoln County War, escaped from several jailhouses, gunned down at least four and possibly as many as ten men, and terrorized people from the Rio Grande to the Pecos River to the High Plains. After his escape from jail in Lincoln, Billy the Kid had fled to Fort Sumner because he had friends there, including many among the Hispanic people, who – like their Spanish ancestors – admired a wild spirit and reckless audacity. Billy knew that he could count on them for a bunk and a meal in their adobe homes and sheep camps. He could rely on them to keep a secret. He thought that he could hang around the community until he could put some money in his pocket and head south for Mexico, beyond the reach of Pat Garrett, according to Robert M. Utley in his book Billy the Kid: A Short and Violent Life. Meanwhile, from newspapers brought to him by his friends, Billy likely followed the media accounts of his breakout from the Lincoln jail. Undoubtedly, he realized that he had fired public interest. From New York to San Francisco, “people waited in fascinated suspense to learn whether the fearless young killer would remain at large,” according to Utley. Billy surely knew, too, that the governor of New Mexico had put a price on his head.

While criminal and murderous instincts lay at his core, Billy also had a certain raffish charisma, particularly among the Hispanics, whose language he spoke fluently. He had not only challenged the authorities. He had scorned danger, mocked death and charmed local daughters. He starred at village fandangos or bailes, where he danced to the polkas, waltzes and schottisches performed by the mariachis playing violins and the traditional convex-back guitars. He knew that many of the Hispanics thought of him as a folk hero.

A contemporary reporter, quoted by Utley, said that Billy, who stood about five feet and eight inches tall and weighed some 140 pounds, had “clear blue eyes, with a rougish [sic] snap about them; light hair and complexion. He is, in all, quite a handsome looking fellow, the only imperfection being two prominent front teeth slightly protruding like a squirrel’s teeth, and he has agreeable and winning ways.” While he moved restlessly around Fort Sumner during that summer of 1881, Billy must have mused over the chronicle of events that brought him to a point where he had to think about leaving the country and heading south. On a cold and snowy day six months earlier, Billy and his gang had been run to ground by Pat Garrett and a posse at a small rock cabin at Stinking Springs, a few miles east of Fort Sumner. Cal Polk, one of Garrett’s posse, remembered that “…Billy cride [sic] out is that you Pat out there. Pat says yes, then Billy says Pat why don’t you come up like a man and give us a fair fite [sic]. Pat said I don’t aim to. Billy says that is what I thought of you, you old long legged son of a bitch…” (The quote appeared in the Angelfire Internet site’s article “Billy the Kid’s Capture at Stinking Springs.) Billy and his gang soon starved out. They surrendered. Under guard by Garrett and his men, Billy and the other prisoners rode by wagon to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where they were met by a boisterous mob. Billy smiled and waved to the crowd, enjoying the attention. In jail, Billy was “cheerful and upbeat,” said a reporter for the Las Vegas Optic, according to the Internet site “Chronology of the Life of Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War, Part 9.”

On December 27, still under guard by Garrett and his men, Billy and the other prisoners boarded a train. It took them to Santa Fe, where they spent three months in jail. While he wrote letters from his cell to the governor of New Mexico, pleading for a pardon, Billy and his fellow gang members did their best to dig a tunnel to freedom. After officials discovered the escape attempt, Billy found himself in solitary, shackled to the floor of a cell as dark as a cave. Near the end of March, Billy and one other gang member, guarded by three deputy U. S. Marshals, including an old enemy, Bob Olinger, boarded a train southward for Mesilla, where they would face trial. Billy endured tormenting by Olinger throughout the trip. On April 9, in a one-story adobe building on the southeast corner of Mesilla’s plaza, Billy stood before the bench, the jury having found him guilty of gunning down Sheriff William Brady in a revenge killing in Lincoln three years earlier. On April 13, Billy heard his sentence: He would be sent to Lincoln, where he would be hanged. On April 16, Billy began the trip, by wagon, to Lincoln, under a seven-man guard, including, again, the hateful Bob Olinger. For the whole five-day trip, Billy, shackled to the floor of his wagon, ignored Olinger’s taunts. Once in Lincoln, Billy came once more under the custody of Pat Garrett, who had him shackled to the floor of his courthouse cell and placed under the guard of Olinger and Deputy James W. Bell. Late in the afternoon 12 days later, Billy watches as Olinger leaves the jail with five other prisoners, heading to the hotel across the street for dinner. Billy asks Bell to take him outside to the privy. On the way back into the courthouse and his cell, Billy, although shackled with hand and leg cuffs, bludgeons Bell with the chains. He seizes the deputy’s pistol, according to Utley. Billy shoots the deputy, leaving him to stagger outside and collapse, dying almost immediately in the arms of a passerby named Godfrey Gauss. Though impeded by his shackles, Billy quickly makes his way upstairs. He raids the armory, taking Olinger’s prized double-barrel shotgun, a brand new firearm. Now Billy stands at an open second-story window like a wolf spider waiting for prey. Within moments, as he anticipated, he sees Olinger pass on the ground below, rushing back from the hotel to the courthouse to investigate the gunfire. Godfrey Gauss shouts, “Bob, the Kid has killed Bell.” Billy looks down on Olinger and says, mockingly, “Hello, Bob.” Startled, Olinger looks up and sees Billy in the window above. He says, “Yes, and he’s killed me, too.” And Billy does. He fires both barrels full into the face and chest of his tormentor, killing him instantly.

With the help of friends, Billy frees himself from his shackles. He “borrows” horses. Over the next two weeks, he drifts south along the drainage of the Pecos River, northeast across the High Plains of Texas, then back southwest to his old haunts around Fort Sumner. Now, he looks south toward Mexico. He thinks about freedom from Sheriff Pat Garrett’s pursuit. Garret, who would become a legend in his own right, thought that Billy would surely head south immediately, into Mexico, beyond the reach of the law. Without knowing Billy’s whereabouts, Garrett waited, biding his time. He began to read newspaper accounts and hear rumors of Billy the Kid “sightings” from Mexico to Tombstone, Arizona, to Denver, Colorado, to Austin, Texas. Still Garrett waited, through May, through June, into July. Garrett, an ex-buffalo hunter, had drifted into east central New Mexico in 1878, according to Utley. A lanky young man well over six feet tall, Garrett had swiftly established a reputation as “a tough, resolute fellow, quiet and soft-spoken but not to be trifled with. ‘Coolness, courage, and determination were written on his face,’ noted one who knew him.” Called “Juan Largo,” or “Big John,” by the Hispanics, he, like Billy, danced at local fandangos to the music of the mariachis. He married an Hispanic woman, and after her premature death, he married another Hispanic woman. Garrett had friends of his own in the region. He won his office on a “law and order” platform in the lawless and disorderly Lincoln County.

Near mid-July, Garrett finally got reliable intelligence on Billy’s location. His quarry, he learned, had not run immediately for Mexico, but had holed up somewhere around Fort Sumner. Garrett got ready to pounce. He enlisted two deputies, John W. Poe and Tom “Kip” McKinney. They headed for Fort Sumner. As both The Kid and Garrett certainly knew, Fort Sumner had been the setting for memorable chapters in the history of the Southwestern frontier. During the Civil War, it had served as a concentration camp for the Navajos and Mescalero Apaches, who lost many of their people in the insect-infested fields and fetid waters of the Pecos River valley. It had become the northernmost point on the Pecos River leg of the Goodnight-Loving Trail, which Texas cowmen used to drive tens of thousands of longhorn cattle to markets as far north as Wyoming. After abandonment by the Army in 1868, the fort – the heart of the community – fell into the hands of Lucien B. Maxwell, a cattle baron, and at one time, the largest private landowner in the United States. The former officers’ quarters had been recast as a large and lavish home for the family and servants, much like a Mexican hacienda. The compound passed into the hands of son Pete Maxwell when Lucien died in 1875. Both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett knew the Maxwell family well. Neither knew, however, that, by sheer coincidence, they would converge at the Maxwell place on the warm moonlit night of July 14, 1881. Around 9:00 p.m., said Utley, Billy lounges on the ground with friends in a nearby peach orchard, chatting in Spanish. He wears his customary sombrero, boots, and a dark vest and pants. He rises from the ground, walks out of the orchard, leaps over a fence, and disappears into the Maxwell compound. He either went to the room a friend (or, possibly, to the room of Celsa Gutierrez, Pat Garrett’s sister-in-law) along the old officers’ row. Around 9:00 p. m., Garrett, with Poe and McKinney, appear in the peach orchard, planning to talk in secret with Pete Maxwell, hoping he might know something current about Billy. Garrett and his men keep to the shadows. They see men sitting on the ground. They hear them speaking in Spanish. As they watch quietly, they see in the moonlight someone, who wears a sombrero, boots and dark vest, rise from the ground, walk out of the orchard, leap over a fence and disappear into the compound. Near midnight, they move silently to the southeast corner of the Maxwell house, just outside Pete’s bedroom. Garrett leaves Poe and McKinney on the porch. He enters quietly through the open door into the darkened bedroom to awaken Pete and question him. Near midnight, Billy, having taken off his hat, vest and boots, decides that he wants something to eat. He builds a cook fire. He takes his knife – and, apparently as a precaution, his Colt pistol – and he walks, in his socks, across the compound to cut a piece of meat from the carcass of a freshly killed yearling steer hanging from a rafter above the porch outside Maxwell’s bedroom.

Simultaneously, inside the bedroom, Garrett starts to question Maxwell, who is aggravated about having been awakened. Just outside the bedroom, on the porch, Billy discovers the shadowy figures of Poe and McKinney. “Quien es?” Billy demands, leveling his pistol on Poe. “Who are you?” He moves toward the door to Maxwell’s bedroom, probably thinking instinctively that it would serve as a sanctuary. Garrett and Maxwell hear the anxious voices on the porch. They fall silent. Billy enters the room, his pistol ready. “Who are those fellows outside, Pete?” he asks Maxwell, according to Utley. “That’s him!” Maxwell says to Garrett. Billy, startled, sees the dark form of Garrett. “Quien es?”

“…I jerked my gun and fired,” Garrett would say later, quoted by Utley. Afraid that Garrett may have wounded a lion in the darkness, Garrett and Maxwell scramble out of the room, which falls silent. Garrett says, “…I think I have got him.” They hear nothing. Garrett watches as Maxwell lights a candle and places it in the window of the bedroom to light the interior. Garrett, Poe and McKinney peer through the window, and in the flickering light, they can see a figure sprawled on the floor, motionless. Billy the Kid, with Pat Garret’s bullet lodged in his chest, just above the heart, lies dead. Bereaved Hispanic women gather at the sound of the gunfire. They carry The Kid’s body to a nearby room, laying his body on a bench. They placed “…lighted candles around it according to their ideas of properly conducting a ‘wake’ for the dead,” said Deputy Poe, as quoted by Utley. The afternoon of the next day, the community buried Billy the Kid in the Fort Sumner cemetery, next to two old friends and gang members. Or was it really Billy the Kid they buried that hot July afternoon?

Though the New Mexican newspaper said, "…Sheriff Garrett is the hero of the hour," most people in the area saw him as a villain for having killed a favorite son. Although he had put his life on the line for his community, he lost the next election for sheriff of Lincoln County.

Garrett then turned to ranching and began to write a book about Billy the Kid. Published in 1882, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, the Noted Desperado of the Southwest, didn’t sell well as eight books had already beat him to the press.

In 1884, Garrett ran for New Mexico state senator where he again lost the election. Fed up, Garrett moved his family to Tascosa, Texas where he became captain of the LS Texas Rangers. However, this role would not last long, as Garrett quit within just a few weeks and returned to southeastern New Mexico, this time to Roswell.

In 1890 he ran for sheriff of the newly created Chaves County. However, when he lost, he bitterly left New Mexico once again, living in Uvalde, Texas, where he raised and raced horses for several years.

In 1899, Garrett purchased a ranch in the San Andres Mountains of New Mexico and in October, he was appointed sheriff of Dona Ana County, New Mexico. His family stayed on the ranch while Pat worked in Las Cruces, Mesilla and Dona Ana.

On December 16, 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt, infatuated by gunfighters in the West, appointed Pat Garrett as a United States Customs Collector at El Paso, Texas. However, it was a controversial appointment and when his term was over in 1905, Roosevelt refused to reappoint him. Garrett and his family returned to the ranch only to find Garrett in the midst of financial difficulties due to back taxes and liability for a loan he had co-signed for a friend.

Becoming increasingly morose over the situation, he began to drink and gamble too much. However, still trying to make a living, he started a new horse breeding operation.

To help with his financial problems, Garrett leased part of his land to a man named Wayne Brazel who was to graze cattle upon the land. However, he soon found that Brazel had brought in several thousand goats, which were considered to be even worse than sheep, as far as cattlemen were concerned.

Owing money to many people in the Roswell area, Garrett desperately approached a another rancher named Carl Adamson in January, 1908 to see if he might be interested in buying his ranch. However, when he neared Adamson's home, Carl's wife, Amanda, ordered him from the property at gunpoint.

However, Adamson and Garrett met later and agreed on the sale. But, Brazel refused to break his five year lease unless Garrett bought his goats. Brazel and Garrett made the deal, but soon Brazel wanted even more money. Though angry, Garrett finally agreed to Brazel's terms.

On February 29, 1908, Garrett and Adamson were in a buckboard bound for Las Cruces, where they would meet Brazel to close the deal. On the way, Brazel caught up with them and as words grew heated, Adamson threatened to back out of the purchase. Afterwards, Brazel rode on while Garrett and Adamson continued in the buckboard.

Just miles outside of Las Cruces, they stopped the wagon and while Adamson was relieving himself off the back of the buckboard, three shots rang out. Pat Garrett lay dead. Adamson left his body in the desert and continued on to Las Cruces. Once there, Adamson swore he never saw who shot Garrett and Brazel confessed to the shooting, claiming it was self-defense.

When the body was retrieved, numerous cigarette butts were found off the trail, indicating that someone had been waiting for them. This led to the belief that the shooting was an obvious conspiracy, involving two more people. Allegedly, Brazel took the "fall" for the murder because he was single.

While Garrett's remains lay in the undertaker’s parlor, dozens of gawkers came to see the man who had killed Billy the Kid. On March 5, 1908, he was buried in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Brazel was later tried; however, he was acquitted of the crime.

Controversy still exists over whether Garrett's murder was a conspiracy in order to gain his land or if it was just simply the dispute with an irate Brazel.

UPDATE: 05.23.2017

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – A soft-spoken records and filings supervisor here may have answered one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the Wild West: Who killed the legendary lawman best known for fatally shooting Billy the Kid?

Angelica Valenzuela, a clerk for Dona Ana County in southern New Mexico, said she was sifting through boxes of obscure records when she came across a faded document identified as the 1908 coroner's report for the death of Pat Garrett.

Garrett is credited with shooting the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid, whose real name was Henry McCarty, in what some called an ambush at Fort Sumner, N.M. on July 14, 1881.

Valenzuela found the long-sought document when she was carrying out a massive effort to preserve fragile documents spanning from the waning days of the Wild West in the mid-1800s up to the 1960s. That region of the southwest is where lawmen frequently chased outlaws and clashed with renegade Native American tribes such as the Apaches.


“I was with a co-worker going through boxes when I came across coroner’s jury reports,” said Valenzuela. “I said let’s read this one together. And we looked at each other and our eyes got wide and our mouths dropped.”

She said they burst out laughing but then realized the importance of the document.

“We were holding history in our hands,” she said. “It was really exciting.”

They were holding Garrett’s official cause of death and by whom, a subject of great controversy for more than a century.

The handwritten document signed by seven jurors read, in part: “We the undersigned Justices of the Peace and Coroners Jury have attended the investigation of the body of Pat Garrett who was reported dead within the limits of Precinct No. 20, County of Doña Ana, territory of New Mexico on about five miles northeast of the town of Las Cruces and find that the deceased came to his death by gunshot wounds inflicted by one Wayne Brazel.”

Patrick "Pat" Floyd Garrett (June 5, 1850 – February 29, 1908) was an American Old West lawman, bartender, and customs agent who was best known for killing Billy the Kid. He was also the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Early life

Patrick Floyd Garrett was born in Cusseta, Alabama. He grew up on a prosperous Louisiana plantation near Haynesville in northern Claiborne Parish, just below the Arkansas state line. He left home in 1869 and found work as a cowboy in Dallas County, Texas. In 1875, he left to hunt buffalo. In 1878, Garrett shot and killed a fellow hunter who charged at Garrett with a hatchet following a disagreement over buffalo hides. As he lay dying, the hunter brought Garrett to tears upon asking him to forgive him.

Garrett moved to New Mexico and briefly found work as a cowpuncher before quitting to open his own saloon. A tall man, he was referred to by locals as "Juan Largo" or "Long John". In 1879, Garrett married Juanita Gutierrez, who died within a year. In 1880, he married Gutierrez's sister, Apolinaria. The couple had nine children.

Lincoln County War

On November 7, 1880, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico, George Kimbell, resigned with two months left in his term. As Kimbell's successor, the county appointed Garrett, a member of the Republican Party who ran as a Democrat and a gunman of some reputation who had promised to restore law and order. Garrett was charged with tracking down and arresting a friend from his saloon keeping days, Henry McCarty, a jail escapee and Lincoln County War participant who often went by the aliases Henry Antrim and William Harrison Bonney, but is better known as "Billy the Kid".

McCarty was an alleged murderer who had participated in the Lincoln County War. He was said to have killed twenty-one men, one for every year of his life, but the actual total was probably closer to nine. New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace had personally put a US$500 reward on McCarty's capture.

On December 19, 1880, Garrett killed Tom O'Folliard, a member of McCarty's gang, in a shootout on the outskirts of Fort Sumner. On December 23, the sheriff's posse killed Charlie Bowdre, and captured The Kid and his companions at Stinking Springs (near present-day Taiban, New Mexico). Garrett transported the captives to Mesilla, New Mexico, for trial. Though he was convicted, The Kid managed to escape from the Lincoln County jail on April 28, 1881, after killing his guards, J. W. Bell and Bob Olinger.

On July 14, 1881, Garrett visited Fort Sumner to question a friend of The Kid's about the whereabouts of the outlaw. He learned that The Kid was staying with a mutual friend, Pete Maxwell (son of land baron Lucien Maxwell). Around midnight, Garrett went to Maxwell's house. The Kid was asleep in another part of the house but woke up hungry in the middle of the night and entered Maxwell's bedroom where Garrett was standing in the shadows. The Kid did not recognize the man standing in dark. "¿Quién es? (Who is it?) ¿Quién es?" The Kid asked repeatedly. Garrett replied by shooting at The Kid twice, the first shot hitting him above the heart, although the second one missed and struck the mantle behind The Kid. (Some historians have questioned Garrett's account of the shooting, alleging the incident happened differently. They claim that Garrett went into Paulita Maxwell's room and tied her up. The Kid walked into her room, and Garrett ambushed him with a single blast from his Sharps rifle.)

There has been much dispute over the details of the Kid's death that night. The way Garrett allegedly killed McCarty without warning eventually sullied the lawman's reputation. Garrett claimed that Billy the Kid had entered the room armed with a pistol, but no gun was found on his body. Other accounts claim he entered carrying a kitchen knife. There is no hard evidence to support this. Garrett's reputation was also hurt by popular stories that he and Billy had once been friends, and that the shooting was a kind of betrayal, but historians have found no evidence of such a friendship.

Still, at the time, the shooting solidified Garrett's fame as a lawman and gunman, and led to numerous appointments to law enforcement positions, as well as requests that he pursue outlaws in other parts of New Mexico.

After the Lincoln County War

His law enforcement career never achieved any great success following the Lincoln County War, and he mostly used that era in his life as his stepping-stone to higher positions. After finishing out his term as sheriff, Garrett became a rancher and released a book ghostwritten by his friend Ash Upson in 1882 about his experiences with McCarty. However, he lost the next election for Lincoln County sheriff and was never paid the $500 reward for McCarty's capture, since he had killed him. In 1882, he ran for the position of Grant County, New Mexico sheriff, but was defeated by Sheriff Harvey Whitehill. In 1884, he lost an election for the New Mexico State Senate. Later that year, he left New Mexico and helped found and captain a company of Texas Rangers.

He returned to New Mexico briefly in 1885. In October 1889, Garrett ran for Chaves County, New Mexico, sheriff but lost. By this time, his rough disposition was beginning to wear thin with much of the populace, and rumors of his less than admirable killing of Billy The Kid were beginning to affect his popularity. Garrett left New Mexico in 1891 for Uvalde, Texas. He returned to New Mexico in 1896 to investigate the disappearance of Albert Jennings Fountain and Fountain's young son Henry.

Disappearance of Albert Jennings Fountain

In January 1896, Colonel Fountain served as a special prosecutor against men charged with cattle raiding in Lincoln, New Mexico. With his work finished, Fountain left Lincoln with his eight-year-old son Henry. The two did not complete their trip home. On the third day, they disappeared near White Sands.

Fountain's disappearance caused outrage throughout the territory. Further complicating matters was the fact the main suspects in the disappearance were deputy sheriffs William McNew, James Gililland, and Oliver M. Lee. New Mexico's governor saw that outside help was needed, and he called in Pat Garrett. One problem Garrett encountered was the fact that Lee, McNew, and Gililland were very close with powerful former judge, lawyer, and politician Albert B. Fall.

Garrett, who was appointed Doña Ana County sheriff on August 10, 1896, and elected to the post on January 4, 1897, believed that he would never get a fair hearing regarding his evidence while Fall was in control of the courts. Therefore, Garrett waited two full years before presenting his evidence before the court and securing indictments against the suspected men. McNew was quickly arrested, and Lee and Gililland went into hiding.

Garrett's posse caught up with Lee and Gililland on July 12, 1898. One of Garrett's deputies, Kurt Kearney, was killed in the gun battle that followed. Garrett and his posse then retreated, and Gililland and Lee escaped. Lee and Gililland later surrendered, although not to Garrett. Both stood trial and were acquitted. The location of the Fountain bodies remains a mystery.[4]

Final years

On December 20, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt, who became a personal friend of Garrett, appointed him customs collector in El Paso, Texas. Garrett served for five years. However, he was not reappointed, possibly because he had embarrassed Roosevelt by showing up at a San Antonio Rough Riders reunion with a notorious gambler friend named Tom Powers. Garrett had Powers pose in a group photograph with Roosevelt, resulting in bad publicity for the president.[5]

Garrett had been warned about his close association with Powers by friends. Years earlier, Powers had been run out of his home state of Wisconsin for beating his father into a coma. Garrett did not listen, and when his reappointment was denied, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak personally with Roosevelt. He had the bad judgment of taking Powers with him. In that meeting, Roosevelt told Garrett plainly that there would be no reappointment.

Garrett retired to his ranch in New Mexico but was suffering financial difficulties. He owed a large amount in taxes and was found liable for an unpaid loan he had co-signed for a friend. Garrett borrowed heavily to make these payments and started drinking and gambling excessively. He crossed paths regularly with Oliver M. Lee and Lee's corrupt attorney Albert Fall, always finding himself on the opposite end of their illegal land deals and intimidation of local ranchers and citizens.


Garrett's main creditor, a rancher named W. W. Cox, who was brother-in-law to Oliver M. Lee, worked out a deal to repay the debt by using Garrett's quarter horse ranch in the San Andres Mountains slopes as grazing land for one of his partners. There is no deal on record in the courthouse, and no deed from Garrett to Cox. Cox took over the ranch and razed the home. Garrett's son, Pat, Jr., kept the upper ranch with the water until his death. Garrett agreed to the deal, not realizing Jesse Wayne Brazel would be grazing goats rather than cattle on the land. Garrett objected to the goats, feeling their presence lowered the value of his land in the eyes of buyers or other renters. By this time, questions surrounding the manner in which he killed Billy the Kid and Garrett's general demeanor had led to his becoming quite unpopular. He no longer had any local political support, his support from President Roosevelt had been withdrawn, and he had few friends with power.

Garrett and a man named Carl Adamson, who was in the process of talks with Garrett to purchase land, rode together heading from Las Cruces, New Mexico in Adamson's wagon. Brazel showed up on horseback along the way. Garrett and Brazel began to argue about the goats grazing on Garrett's land. Garrett is alleged to have leaned forward to pick up a shotgun on the floorboard. Brazel shot him once in the head, and then once more in the stomach as Garrett fell from the wagon. Brazel and Adamson left the body by the side of the road and returned to Las Cruces, alerting Sheriff Felipe Lucero of the killing.


There has occasionally been disagreement about the identity of Pat Garrett's killer. Today, most historians believe Jesse Wayne Brazel, who confessed to the shooting and was tried for first degree murder, did in fact commit the crime. Cox paid his bond and retained Albert B. Fall as his defense attorney. Brazel claimed self defense, claiming that Garrett was armed with a shotgun and was threatening him. Adamson backed up Brazel's story. The jury took less than a half-hour to return a not guilty verdict. Cox hosted a barbecue in celebration of the verdict.

Another alleged suspect in Garrett's death was the outlaw Jim "Killer" Miller, a known killer for hire and cousin of Adamson. Miller was alleged to have been hired by enemies of Garrett, but this is believed to be only a rumor because Adamson was kin to him, and Miller is believed to have been in Oklahoma at the time. Oliver Lee was also alleged to have taken part in a conspiracy to kill Garrett, made up of businessmen and outlaws who disliked the former lawman. However, despite his previous clashes with Garrett, there is no evidence to support the claim.

To date, common belief supports that the death happened as Brazel said it did. Garrett was known to have carried a double-barreled shotgun when he traveled, and he had a fiery temper. Garrett could have reacted violently during his argument with Brazel.

Funeral and burial site

Garrett family burial siteGarrett's body was too tall for any pre-made coffins available, so a special one had to be shipped in from El Paso. His funeral service was held March 5, 1908, and he was laid to rest next to his daughter, Ida, who had preceded him in death eight years earlier.

The site of Garrett's death is now commemorated by a historical marker, which can be visited off of the south of U.S. Route 70, between Las Cruces and the San Augustin Pass. The highway marker is not at the actual spot where Garrett was shot. The location of the shooting was marked by Pat's son Jarvis Garrett in 1938-1940 with a monument of his construction. The monument consists of cement laid around a stone with a cross carved in it. It is believed that the cross is the work of Pat's mother. Scratched in the cement is "P. Garrett" and the date of his killing.

The location of this marker has been a fairly closely kept secret, but is now being made public because the city of Las Cruces is annexing the land where the marker is located. An organization called Friends of Pat Garrett has been formed to ensure that the city preserves the site and marker.

Garrett's grave and the many graves of his descendants can be found in Las Cruces at the Masonic Cemetery.

Portrayals in film

Garrett has been a recurring character in movies and television shows, and has been portrayed on screen by:

Wallace Beery in Billy the Kid (MGM, 1930) Wade Boteler in Billy the Kid Returns (1938) Thomas Mitchell in The Outlaw (United Artists, 1943) Charles Bickford in Four Faces West (They passed this way) (United Artists, 1948) Monte Hale in Outcasts of the Trail (Republic, 1949) Robert Lowery in I Shot Billy the Kid (Lippert, 1950) Frank Wilcox in The Kid from Texas (Universal-International, 1950) Scott Douglas in the NBC-TV series, Omnibus (1952, 1 episode) James Griffith in The Law vs. Billy the Kid (Columbia, 1954) Richard Travis in the syndicated half-hour TV series, Stories of the Century (1954) Keith Richards in the syndicated half-hour TV series, Buffalo Bill Jr. (1955, 1 episode) James Craig in Last of the Desperados (Allied Artists, 1955) John Dehner in The Left Handed Gun (Warner Bros., 1957) Wayne Heffley in the half-hour ABC-TV series, Colt .45 (1957, 1 episode) Bob Duncan in The Parson and the Outlaw (Columbia, 1957) George Montgomery in Badman's Country (Warner Bros., 1958) Rhodes Reason in the half-hour ABC-TV series, Bronco (1958, 1 episode) Walter Sande in the half-hour CBS series, Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958, episode 26, "The Eager Man") Barry Sullivan (1960) in the half-hour NBC-TV series The Tall Man, co-starring Clu Gulager as Billy the Kid Rod Cameron in Le Pistole non discutono (1964) Allen Case in the ABC-TV series, The Time Tunnel (1966, 1 episode) Fausto Tozzi in El Hombre que mató a Billy el Niño (1967) Glenn Corbett in Chisum (Warner Bros., 1970) Rod Cameron in The Last Movie (Universal, 1971) James Coburn in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (MGM, 1973) Patrick Wayne in Young Guns (Fox, 1988) Duncan Regehr in Gore Vidal's Billy the Kid (HBO Films, 1989) William Petersen in Young Guns II (Fox, 1990) Joe Zimmerman in the TV documentary series, Unsolved History (2002, 1 episode) and in the Discovery Channel's cable documentary Discovery Quest: Billy the Kid Unmasked (2004) Michael Pare in Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance (2007) Bruce Greenwood in I'm Not There (2007)

References 1.^ Now known as Cusseta 2.^ New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, Dept. of Cultural Affairs. "Pat Garrett Murder Site Historical Marker". 3.^ Hough, Emerson (1907). The Story of the Outlaw-A Study of the Western Desperado. New York: The Outing Publication Companty. p. 198. 4.^ Recko, Corey, Murder on the White Sands: The Disappearance of Albert and Henry Fountain University of North Texas Press, 2007. Ollie Reed, Jr. of the Albuquerque Tribune, in an article on May 25, 2001, refers to the fact that in 1900, charred bones were found in an unmarked grave in the Sacramento Mountains. The killings may have been carried out by outlaw Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum. Reed quotes Tribune reporter Howard Bryan as saying if Ketchum did the killings he did it for hire, but does not say who may have hired him. Mr. Reed's source for the Ketchum connection is Bryan and Bryan's book "True Tales of the American Southwest" 1998, Clear Light Publishers. Mr. Bryan mentions the bones in an April 22, 1965 Albuquerque Tribune column in which he writes about A.M. Gibson's book "The Life and Death of Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain." 1965 University of Oklahoma Press. 5.^ Pat Garrett- DesertUSA at 6.^ Roswell Web Magazine - the Web Magazine that Showcases Roswell & New Mexico at

In 1873, John Garrett purchased a Louisiana pl antation in Claiborne Parish. Pat went to school and grew up there. "JANUARY 25,1869 - Pat Garrett leaves Louisi ana to become a buffalo hunter in Texas. "1878 - Garrett settles down in Fort Sumn er, New Mexico, after the slaughter of buffaloes became unprofitable, where on January 18, 1880, he marries Apolinaria Gutierrez. The couple had 9 children. See yellow star “1” on map. "JULY 19, 1878 - The Lincoln County, New Me xico, War draws to an end following the Five Days Battle at Lincoln. Billy the Ki d is one of many outlaws still loose and running. While Pat Garrett likely knew Billy th e Kid, saying they were friends is an overstatement. Neither had much in common, except both were expert with guns. (Garrett was not in the Lincoln County War.) "NOVEMBER 2, 1880 - Pat Garrett, a Democrat, is elected sheriff of Lincoln County. He vows to bring the current re ign of lawlessne ss to an end. "DECEMBER 15, 1880 - New Me xico Governor Lew Walla ce, through a newspaper notice, puts a $500 reward on the head of Billy the Kid. "DECEMBER 20-21, 1880 - Pat Garrett and his po sse trap Billy the Kid and others in a one-room rock house at Stinking Springs, near Fort Sumner. the posse mistakenly kills Charlie Bowdre (one of Billy's most loyal friends). The Kid and the others surrender that afternoon. Garrett takes the shackled prisoners by buckboard into Las Vegas, (see yellow star “2” on map) where Garrett has to fight off a mob at the train station before he can move on to the stat e prison at Santa Fe. (The mob was after one of the prisoners, Dave Rudabaugh). The area around Fort Sumner is shown in the photo on the left. "APRIL 15, 1881 - At Mesilla, New Mexico, a judge turn s the Kid over to Sheriff Pat Garrett, after a trial, and orders that he Kid be hanged in Lincoln on May 13. Mesilla is a suburb of Las Cruces. "APRIL l 28, 1881 - While Sheriff Pat Garrett is in White Oaks, N.M., Billy the Ki d escapes the Lincoln jail after killing both his guards, James Bell and Bob Olinger. "JULY 13-14, 1881 - At midnight, Sheriff Pat Garrett shoots Billy the Kid dead at Fort Sumner, N.M., when the Kid walks into Pete Maxwell's darkened bedroom. Garrett was squatting alongside the mattress talking with Maxwell as the Kid entered. the Kid saw Garrett but did not recognize him due to the darkness and the fact that Garrett was sitting or stooped down. The Kid cocked his revolver and hoarsely whispered "Quienes?" ("Who is it?"). Garre tt fires twice, one bullet striking the Kid squarely in the heart. The other shot go es wild. (Some believe that the Kid only carried a knife into Maxwell's room.) "1882 - A book is published entitled "The Au thentic Life of Billy the Kid, the Noted Desperado of the Southwest". Garrett's name is on the cover as author, but Ash Upson, a close friend, newspaperman, and no tary, said he (Upson) wrote every word of it. The book sold poorly, but it was also poorly written. "1890 - Garrett runs for sheriff of newly crea ted Chaves County, N.M. He is defeated and bitterly leaves New Mexico and lives in Ulvalde Co., Texas for some time.

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Sheriff Pat Garrett (killed Billy the Kid)'s Timeline

June 5, 1850
Cusseta, Chambers, AL, United States
NM, United States
NM, United States
November 1887
October 9, 1889
Roswell, Chaves County, New Mexico, United States
NM, United States
February 23, 1896
NM, United States
NM, United States