In November 2012, True West discussed the “45 Lawmen You’d Want On Your Side.” Bass Outlaw is one—but he’s later listed as an outlaw. So was he somebody you wanted on your side—or a bad guy you didn’t want to mess with?
Lynn Helbing & Randy Drake
Chino Hills, California / Peoria, Arizona
Bass Outlaw was a tough hombre, but he had trouble with booze—his drinking got him kicked out of the Texas Rangers.
While serving as a deputy U.S. marshal on April 5, 1894, he, not surprisingly, got liquored up in El Paso, Texas. He and Constable John Selman decided to visit a local brothel. Outlaw went into the toilet and apparently dropped his pistol, which went off. The madam blew her police whistle; Outlaw tried to take it from her. When Texas Ranger Joe McKidrict intervened, Outlaw shot and killed him. Then Selman and Outlaw opened fire on each other. Selman’s shot hit Outlaw near the heart, while Outlaw’s bullet barely missed hitting Selman’s head, but the gunpowder blinded him temporarily. Outlaw got off another round, severing an artery in Selman’s leg.
Outlaw expired about four hours later, on a prostitute’s bed in the back of a saloon. Selman’s injuries left him walking with a cane and with impaired eyesight. (That didn’t seem to hurt him much when he killed John Wesley Hardin 16 months later.)
To answer your question, Outlaw was a good lawman to have by your side, but not after he took up drinking.