June 7, 1888
Daybreak finds Cochise County Sheriff Texas John Slaughter, his deputy Burt Alvord, Tesana Lucerio and an unnamed hispanic posse member sneaking up on a camp of suspected train robbers in the Whetstone Mountains west of Tombstone, Arizona.
As the posse crawls into position some 50 yards from a makeshift corral where the outlaws are bedded down, the sheriff yells, “Wake up! And throw up your hands!”
The men, two of them part of the brutal Jack Taylor Gang, jump up from their bedrolls. One man yells, “We will throw up our hands with our guns.”
An outlaw bullet smashes into the tree where Slaughter is taking cover, knocking the bark off the tree close to the sheriff’s ear.
Slaughter orders his men to fire. Guadalupe Robles, still in his bedding, is hit and killed. Two others retrieve their guns and run out of the corral, jumping behind a big boulder. As one of them, Nieves Deron, makes a move from behind the rock, Slaughter cuts loose with his shotgun and brings him down. The other bandit, Guadalupe’s brother Manuel, fires twice as Slaughter yells at his men to go around and flank the bandit. As they do so, Manuel jumps from the cover of the boulder and Slaughter fires again. Manuel goes down, then jumps up, running down a side canyon into the brush.
“Burt,” Slaughter yells at his deputy, “there is another Son-of-a-bitch. Shoot him!” Both Alvord and Slaughter shoot at the fleeing bandit, and he falls on his left side, but recovers and disappears down into the canyon.
Alvord and Lucerio follow him down the canyon, firing about 20 shots.
Slaughter stays at the camp and guards the bodies until Alvord and Lucerio return empty-handed. “He got away,” they tell the sheriff.
Incredibly, Lucerio claims he could not follow the bandit any farther because, as he put it at the subsequent inquest, “I stopped right then, as I had no shoes on either, and nor did the other boy, and I could go no further [sic].”
Aftermath: Odds & Ends
The Jack Taylor Gang robbed a train near Nogales prior to the shoot-out. Texas John Slaughter and lawman Jeff Milton had been tracking the gang for more than a year. The trail of bodies from the gang’s holdups included three train crew members and an engineer. After the shoot-out, Guadalupe Robles and Nieves Deron were both buried in Tombstone’s Boot Hill. Mexican police arrested Taylor in Sonora and killed Manuel Robles in the Sierra Madres.
Slaughter held the sheriff’s office from 1886 to 1890; he was appointed a deputy sheriff in 1895 and held the commission until his death.
A successful rancher, Slaughter owned the 65,000-acre San Bernardino spread stretching from Arizona to Mexico. His father-in-law managed it while Slaughter served as Cochise County sheriff. You can visit the Slaughter Ranch Museum in Douglas.
In 1906 Slaughter won a seat in the territorial assembly, but he did not enjoy it and returned to his ranch after one uncomfortable term. He later became one of the founders of the Bank of Douglas. He died in his sleep, at age 80, on February 15, 1922.
Recommended: The Southwest of John Horton Slaughter by Allen A. Erwin, published by Arthur Clark Co., and That Wicked Little Gringo by Ben T. Traywick, published by Red Marie’s Bookstore.