An Eye For an Eye

Haslett-boysHiding out in the bootheel of Southwestern New Mexico, stage robber Bill Leonard and three cowboys—“rustlers”—are eating dinner in a store with “six-shooters alongside their plates and their rifles lying in their laps.” Leonard is drunk and has been threatening he’s going “to shoot the Haslett boys on sight,” states an anonymous New Mexico correspondent in his June 12, 1881, letter to the Tombstone Daily Epitaph.

Warned of the death threats, brothers Ike and Bill Haslett go on the offensive and approach the store at daybreak. The Hasletts hide in a corral behind the store and wait for their prey to show.

Before long, Leonard rides toward the store on horseback with Harry “the Kid” Head walking by his side. When they are within 50 yards of the store, Ike and Bill jump up and open fire.

“Ike let drive and got Leonard just below the heart,” states our anonymous Epitaph correspondent. As Leonard leans down to use his horse as a shield, Bill “plug[s] the horse” and Leonard falls to the ground.

Before Harry the Kid can pull his gun, “Bill Haslett [shoots] him in the abdomen.” As Harry turns to run, both Hasletts begin “to pop it with him,” putting “six balls in him.”

Both outlaws die a painful death, as Leonard gets his wish from the previous night, when the correspondent overheard him say he “wished somebody would shoot him in the heart and put him out of his misery, as he had two holes in his belly that he got the time he tried to rob the stage at Tombstone.”

Aftermath: Odds & Ends

Wyatt Earp cut a deal with Ike Clanton to bring in the robbers of the Benson stage, who were reported to be Leonard, Crane and Head—Crane is sometimes spelled Crain (see wanted poster at right). If Clanton turned the outlaws over to Earp or lured them to a place where Earp could nab them, it was agreed that Clanton would receive the reward ($1,200 for each outlaw captured) and Earp, the glory. However, Leonard and Head were killed before the scheme could be carried out.

The Haslett brothers didn’t collect the reward either. The third stage robber, James Crane, and his friends—15 or 20 cowboys, according to a local eyewitness—stormed into West McFadden’s saloon and slaughtered the Hasletts and an innocent bystander, emigrant Sigman Biertzhoff, known locally as “Joe.”

After hearing the shooters ride off, locals Nellie and Jim Pender went to the saloon. Jim said he “never saw such a dreadful sight. The place was just running with blood.” Bill Haslett was shot six times in his bowels; Ike, once in the head and innumerable times through his left hand; and Joe, six times in the stomach and once through his ankle.

James “Slim Jim” Crane was killed August 13, 1881, as he camped with Old Man Clanton and others in Guadalupe Canyon on the Arizona-New Mexico line. The attackers, believed to be Mexican militia, were never found, but that’s another Classic Gunfight.

We recommend: The best account of this fight (and details are thin) is in Casey Tefertiller’s Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend.

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