In El Paso on August 19, 1895, did John Selman shoot Hardin in the back of the head, as many believe, or did he shoot him in the face, as Selman swore?

Brendan Murphy

San Leandro, California

That’s still a point of contention. Henry Brown, who was throwing dice with Hardin at the time, said Hardin was shot in the back of the head. Bartender Frank Patterson pretty much agreed.

But other witnesses claimed that Hardin was going for his gun, facing Selman when the fatal shot hit. And, as you say, that was Selman’s story, too.

The postmortem photo of Hardin shows a small hole above his left eye—and it’s small, as an entrance wound would be. But nobody took photos of the hole in the back of his head, so that’s far from conclusive.

An examination of the line the fatal bullet traveled concluded that Selman shot Hardin in the back of the head. The coroner’s report reached the same conclusion.

So take your pick. In any case, Hardin was very dead.

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