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Did any Western lawmen have a reputation for shooting first, and asking questions later, when it came to suspects?

Pete Rizzo
Wichita, Kansas

It was said that Cochise County, Arizona Territory, Sheriff John Slaughter brought more than one bad outlaw in strapped over the back of a horse. Usually, the guy was so unsavory folks were glad to be rid of him. But that was Slaughter’s reputation, not necessarily the normal reality.

In some of the Texas feuds, lawmen (on either side) frequently shot opponents who were “trying to escape.” Usually, there were no witnesses to say otherwise.

Pete Kitchen was not an official lawman, but his ranch south of Tucson was a place that needed patrolling—and Pete enforced his own law. The story goes that he once caught a ruthless murderer and, after several days on the trail, Pete grew weary and needed sleep. He knew if he went to sleep the rascal would pick up a rock and kill him, so he put the outlaw on his horse, tied his hands behind his back, put a noose around his neck, threw it over a tree limb and anchored it to the trunk. Then he went to sleep. He said later, “While I was taking my siesta that horse wandered off to graze and left him hanging there!”

western lawman true west magazine
Apache fighter-pioneer-settler Pete Kitchen’s style of law-enforcement represented Arizona’s transition from lawless frontier to civilization.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.

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