Lincoln County Range War.
If you drive east along I-70 from Las Cruces New Mexico towards St. Augustin Pass for about 15 miles you’ll see a faded historical marker on the side of the road. I suggest you stop. You’ll see the historic marker commemorating western lawman and gunfighter Pat Garrett. Pat was a tough, trained experienced law officer who faced many rough customers over the years. It may be important to note that Pat didn’t die of natural causes.
You’ll have to drive to the Masonic Cemetery located a few miles east of the Mesilla Valley Mall to actually visit Pat’s gravesite. A tall, thin, drink of water, Garrett was so tall that his coffin had to be custom-built then shipped up from El Paso, Texas just to the south of Las Cruces. Pat is interred next to his daughter Ida who died young at only 15 years of age.
Pat Garrett had a lot of jobs over the years. He carried a gun on each of them. The one he’s most noted for (or that which made him notorious, perhaps) was when he shot and killed Henry McCarty.
Pat tracked Henry McCarty for three months. Pat was a Sheriff then and the McCarty boy was a murderer and escaped convict. McCarty had been scheduled for execution for a handful of the 17 murders he was known or suspected to have committed. McCarty though he would avoid the gallows when he turned ‘informant’ and ‘squealed’ on all of his former friends and criminal colleagues.
History doesn’t usually include the fact that prolific killer Henry McCarty ended up a snitch. Nor is history very kind to Pat Garrett for killing Henry McCarty in a dark bedroom where Pat hid deep in the shadows and shot McCarty to death without warning. Some would call that an ambush.
Death of a legend.
Pat killed Henry McCarty in a bedroom on the Maxwell Ranch in New Mexico where McCarty was hiding out with friends. He said he knew better than to give McCarty an even chance. Most of Henry’s friends and certainly Pat Garrett knew Henry by his “sobre nombre,” his ‘street name’ or alias; Billy the Kid.
I’m not going to regale you with stories of the Lincoln County War, although those were fascinating times. Do your homework. Read about how ‘Billy the Kid’ at just 18 years was likely the most wanted fugitive in the western United States during the late 1870s. I am going to tell you about how Pat Garrett died.
In early 1878 Billy the Kid aka William H. Bonney aka Henry McCarty performed a series of revenge killings in and around Lincoln County, New Mexico. Billy worked on the Tunstall Ranch. His boss was killed during an altercation with local Law Enforcement, and Billy went out looking for those responsible.
Billy thought that Sheriff William Brady and Deputy William Morton were wrong when they shot John Tunstall. He called it murder. So, Billy went after the men and during an ambush killed Deputy George Hindman and Sheriff Brady.
For a couple of years, Billy was on the road evading coppers and all manners of traps along the way.
Tired of life on the run and all of the close calls, Billy made a deal with New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace. In exchange for turning ‘state’s evidence’ and testifying against his former friends, Billy would walk free. Not trusting the deal, Billy escaped and was on the run yet again. Found freedom didn’t settle Billy down. He shot Joe Grant after staging a gunfight with Grant only after Billy had surreptitiously emptied Grant’s revolver.
Death of another legend.
Back to Pat Garrett. After killing Billy the Kid, Garrett’s notoriety preceded him wherever he went. Initially, this worked out well. Garrett co-authored a book with Marshall Ashmun “Ash” Upson about Billy (The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid), but money problems followed and Pat was forced to jump from job to job to stay ahead of the bill collectors.
At left, Jesse Brazel, seated center, with his crew. On the right, the reenactment of Brazel’s trial at the Rio Grande Theater in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
During this period, Pat’s son Dudley had leased some land with a partner named Jesse Brazel. Dudley and Jesse signed a 5-year lease on the Bear Canyon Ranch. Dudley was more of a silent partner and Dudley only objected when Brazel started moving hundreds of goats onto the land. When the count reached 1,200 sheep Dudley confronted Brazel. You see, sheep and goats were the bane of western cowboys.
Plenty of battles had been fought over land and water, and authentic cowboys felt that the western US was busy enough with cows meaning there was no room for sheep and goats (which according to ‘real’ cowboys, marred the landscape, eating everything in sight like locusts).
Dudley went to Brazel and found out that Brazel had duped him. Dudley went to his father when he discovered that one of Brazel’s side deals was with a man named Archie Road. ‘Print’ Road and Pat Garrett were on bad terms and Garrett thought of Print Road as a swindler.
Garrett being a lawman decided to take the matter to court, showing his son Dudley how to confront Brazel legally. The court Judge agreed to order the lease broken, but only if legal buyers for the 1,200 goats could be found. That way Brazel and Dudley could split the proceeds equitably and pay off the Bear Canyon Ranch owners. Dudley struck a side deal with a local rancher named Adamson.
Pat Garrett rode out in a wagon to the ranch to meet with Carl Adamson who had agreed to buy the 1,200 goats and decide on a fair price. Upon meeting with Adamson, Pat learned that the deal his son Dudley had broken had fallen through. Adamson had no intention of buying the 1,800 goats that were spread out all over the ranch.
Brazel and Print Road had been lying to Dudley about the goat numbers which were now closer to two thousand than 1,200. Pat Garrett felt like he was being played. Jesse Brazel now knew two things. First, that Pat and Dudley Garrett’s deal had fallen through, and second, that both Pat Garrett now knew that Brazel had lied all along about the actual size of the unruly goat herd – that much larger number of goats had caused the deal to fail.
At some point on the way back to town, as Pat Garrett languidly rode in a horse-drawn wagon with Anderson, talking to the man as he calmly rode along beside him. Suddenly, Jesse Brazel rode up fast on the other side of the wagon and shot Pat Garrett to death without warning. The storied, legendary, fearless trained lawman gunned down in a cowardly ambush over a deal for some goats.
To add insult to injury, Brazel was acquitted when Anderson refused to testify. There are dozens of conspiracy stories about who killed Pat, but it was Brazel and that was confirmed years later in 2017 when a records keeper in Las Cruces, New Mexico found archived documents including the original coroner’s report stating that Jesse Brazel had confessed to shooting Pat Garrett.
Delta County Range War.
This isn’t the only time folks would die over sheep and goat herds purportedly ‘invading’ the west. The Spanish had originally introduced sheep and goats to the United States. By the late 1800’s these animals were over 2 million strong in Colorado. That didn’t set well with cattle ranchers who demanded open range for their herds.
A group calling themselves the Cattle Growers Protective Organization (a loosely strung group of vigilante night riders) decided they would take matters in their own hands and drive the goat and sheepherders from the cattle ranges that stretched from Crested Butte, through Gunnison and on to the most western borders of Colorado.
The old State Bridge over the Gunnison River is underwater now, replaced years ago by what locals call the “Middle Bridge” over the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Rancher H.E. Perkins maintained a sheep camp a mile above the State Bridge. Late one night the Cattle Growers Protective Organization rode onto Perkins’ Ranch and shot or wounded at least 200 head of Perkin’s herd in an effort to drive him out of the valley.
Then in 1915, the Cattle Growers Protective Organization attacked the Oh-Be-Joyful Creek Ranch near Crested Butte, Colorado. Masked nightriders attacked the Oh-Be-Joyful Creek Ranch near Crested Butte, Colorado where masked rider pushed 200 sheep over the cliffs to their deaths.
These incidents were part of a range war between Colorado ranchers that would last thirty years.
In 1917 in Escalante Canyon (you’ll pass the entrance when you are driving on Highway west from Olathe and Delta on the way to Grand Junction, Colorado) a lawman and a self-proclaimed nightrider met their fates at each other’s hands.
Ben Lowe, a member of the Cattle Growers Protective Organization and Brand Inspector Cash Sampson had just had lunch at JW Musser’s Ranch. Lunch was civil. Lowe and Cash Sampson were heading to their respective homes. On the ride through Escalante Canyon, Ben Lowe and Sampson got into a heated verbal argument.
Cash had been the Sheriff for Delta County at one time, as well as a US Marshal. He owned property there in Escalante Canyon and the rumor was that he felt that Ben Lowe and his gang of night riders had been responsible for one of the many recent sheep slaughters in the area.
Two years earlier Lowe and Cash had stood across from each other near the Delta County Courthouse. Tempers flared, pistols were drawn, and it would have ended in violence had friends of each not stepped in. Cool heads prevailed.
That argument like this one started when a Law Enforcement professional ‘called out’ a man he thought was a common criminal. There were no calm citizens to step in and stop this fight deep in the steep rock walls of Escalante Canyon.
The coroner speculated that the gunfight may have lasted less than a minute. Lowe was hit in the heart while on horseback then dismounted. Cash jumped from his horse but was hit in the head by rounds fired from Lowe while lying on his back, dying. Both men died a few feet apart and a few feet further still from their horses.
Ironically, their headstones are not much further apart in the Delta, Colorado cemetery. Pundits speculate on what brought the end of the bovine border wars, the most likely excuse was the increased demand of wool clothes US troops for World War I and the dropping price of cattle.
What will kill you?
The two times that you are in the most danger will fit into one of two categories. Moments of sheer terror or moments of sheer boredom. Both of these are the times when you are most likely to make the mistake that gets you killed.
Shelly is the toughest human I know. She was preparing a meal in California when she simply slipped off the stool on which she was perched and impacted with the wood inlaid floor. Wood inlaid over poured cement. Shon Clemons was working a traffic crash on the highway when a drunk driver drove through the barricades and parked on his head. I’ve seen some of the most awful deaths and injuries and their aftermaths. Almost all were at home, classified as accidents, and occurred in the kitchen, bathroom, or garage. No one warns you that starting a lawnmower can prove fatal. Or putting your car battery on a charger.
Steve Parent seemingly died because his timing was bad. Steve Parent went over to his buddy William Garretson’s house. Garretson was the groundskeeper on a beautiful home located at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, California, and was allowed a residence in the guest house.
The property was recently rented by famous 1960’s actress Doris Day’s son and frequented by upcoming stars like Candace Bergen. In fact, on this night, millionaire heiress to the Folger coffee fortune Abigail Folger was at the main house playing piano as Hollywood screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski looked on.
Actress Sharon Tate was there. She was very pregnant, her child’s father and her current lover Roman Polanski, also a screenwriter and director, was out of town. Her former lover and celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring was there, too. Steve McQueen had planned to attend, as had Dennis Wilson from the Beach Boys, but both never made it that night.
Steve Parent is leaving Will Garretson’s place and walks to the electronic security gate to leave. Will Garretson “buzzes” him out. At the precise moment that Steve opens the gate, he’s confronted by Charles Watson. Charles’s friends called him Tex.
Tex Watson, leading a contingent of female Charles Manson followers (all of whom are there to murder Tate, Frykowski, Sebring, and Folger) stabs and shoots Steve Parent to death and then they conduct a murderous rampage inside the home on Cielo Drive.
Neither William Garretson, who was only a short distance away, nor any of the other neighbors heard the commotion. Steve Parent never assumed he would encounter a fight for life situation when leaving a friend’s place and walking to his car within a gated community.
Katie Thyne was a Navy vet. She was highly respected by her peers. She scored her dream job as a Police Officer with the Newport News, Virginia police department in 2018. By all accounts she had an incredible career and was a caring mom, caring for her two-year-old daughter.
On Thursday, January 23, 2020 in the early evening hours, Katie and another officer were investigating a suspicious vehicle. Katie had worked dozens of them, perhaps hundreds. On this night as on many before, it was likely that Katie would contact the driver and based on the offense, take them into custody or issue a violation. On this night the driver, and lone occupant of the vehicle, was Vernon E. Green II.
Vernon had a choice that night. I bet he rethinks his options often from a jail cell. On this night just a few short months ago, Vernon decided to flee the scene, rather than face the consequences.
This hadn’t happened to Katie before. Sure, vehicles had fled from her, perps had fled from her on foot, but no one had chosen to drive away from her as she was between the driver’s door and some obstructions that made it hard for her to move freely.
Katie now had a split second to make a life or death decision, stay with the vehicle and hope the driver stops, or, let go of the vehicle and possibly be crushed by it. Then, while she was still thinking, Physics complicated the equation. Vernon Green lost control of his vehicle after dragging Katie alongside then under it. When Vernon’s vehicle finally came to rest, he fled on foot, leaving Katie stuck between the car door and a tree. EMS and her fellow officers did the best they could at the scene. Katie was transported to nearby Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, but to no avail. Katie, the Navy vet and Newport News Police officer, was dead.
There are consequences to the choices we make and those we don’t. Subject Matter Experts consider training for unlikely storylines. They anticipate those situations that will make you scratch your head specifically because you don’t anticipate them. The job of a SME or a training firm is to conduct a cognitive task analysis, determine those KSA³ (Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes, Aptitudes and Abilities) that your personnel and organization will likely encounter, then purpose build the training solutions to meet the needs you know of AND ANTICIPATE THOSE YOU DON’T.
While you may not be able to control the actions of a scared citizen behind the wheel of a 3,351-pound vehicle who doesn’t want to go to jail – you can consider their options. This leads to planning training for the real event. Knowing when to continue a pursuit and when not to. When to run after a vehicle and when to let go. In the moment, confusion, fog of war – you won’t have time to consider your options. If you are well-trained, you are much more likely to respond in the manner in which you were trained.
Case in point.
I’ll offer a final example for today. The Detroit News carried a story early this morning where a Detroit Police SUV (complete with photos and vids) drove through a group of protesters sending some people flying in the air. The news media described the protestors as “largely peaceful”.
Peaceful protestors? The First Amendment of the US Constitution states that;
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Based on that language, LARGELY PEACEFUL doesn’t cut the mustard. The protesters surrounded the police vehicle, jumped on the hood aggressively and, by the accounts of the officers inside, the officers feared for their lives. The driver then accelerated in order to flee the scene stop the attack, preventing the officers from being assaulted or killed by the protesters.
The right of a citizen to peacefully 1) parade and gather or 2) demonstrate support or opposition of public policy or 3) express one’s views, is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble. Citizens have the right to parade or gather PEACEFULLY to support or oppose public policy. Citizens have the absolute right to peacefully express their views and to peaceably assemble. They DO NOT have the right to forcibly menace, threaten, and assault or attack ANYONE.
This was a preventable situation where the police could have been trained to avoid certain situations that represented higher likelihoods of dangerous encounters with civilian protestors. The PIO public information officers could have been trained to educate the public on exactly how to conduct a peaceful assembly and give the protestors examples of what would constitute illegality. The trained officers could have predicted what dangerous situations might occur should an assembly become dangerous.
I will conclude by reminding you that your safety and security is largely your responsibility. If you are in a position of leadership within an agency – training is a much cheaper alternative than paying for a cop’s funeral, a lawsuit for excessive use of force or the bill for having to rebuild a police station burned to the ground by an angry mob.
Pat Garrett died because he let his guard down in a moment of mental boredom (ironically, so did Billy the Kid).
- Cash Sampson and Ben Lowe died because neither ever anticipated a heated argument after lunch while on a horseback ride would turn into a point-blank shootout.
- Steve Parent and Katie Thyne died because they walked into situations each of them had encountered many times before. The difference was that this time they didn’t sense the danger or see the cues that the events were about to spin wildly out of their control.
- Tomorrow, two Detroit police officers are going to lose their jobs because they took a right turn instead of a left turn and no one taught them how to de-escalate or mitigate a situation before it occurs.
Training changes behavior.