The Arrests of Billy the Kid
Despite his young age, Billy the Kid managed to be arrested several times throughout his life. He also managed to be arrested for quite a variety of reasons: stealing clothes, horse and saddle theft, and, of course, murder. Yet what makes Billy so unique is that he never managed to stay incarcerated for long. There seems to have been no jail strong enough to contain him, because, through one way or another, he always went free. Though the local jails in the late 1800s were not terribly formidable, and Billy never went to a real prison, the likes of Leavenworth and such, his uncanny knack for escaping or being released from incarceration cannot be denied. Therefore, I have made this section of my page to detail all the known times he managed to be arrested or captured and imprisoned. I have also described how he managed to go free in each circumstance.
- Late Apr. 1875; Silver City, New Mexico Territory---Billy the Kid, at the time only known as Henry McCarty, is arrested by Grant County Sheriff Harvey Whitehill for throwing rocks at some of the local Chinamen and/or for stealing several pounds of butter from a local rancher named Abel L. Webb. Apparently, young Henry has been associating with a local gang of ruffians led by 'Sombrero Jack' Schaefer, who participated in the illegal acts with him. Henry apologizes and promises to never break the law again and Sheriff Whitehill, who only arrested the boy in an attempt to ''scare him straight,'' releases him.
- Sept. 23, 1875; Silver City, New Mexico Territory---Once again, Henry is arrested by Sheriff Whitehill, this time on a charge of stealing clothing from a local Chinese laundry. In actuality, it was Sombrero Jack who stole $200 worth of clothing and blankets from the laundry of Charley Sun and Sam Chung, and then gave Henry the merchandise to hold for him at his home with the Brown family. When Mrs. Sarah Brown discovered the stolen goods, she gave them to Whitehill, who then arrested Henry. Henry is held in jail, but is allowed to walk freely through the corridors and not placed in a cell. On the next day, when he is left unguarded, Henry manages to escape the jail by climbing up the chimney. He then visits his friends, the Truesdell family, who give him money before he flees New Mexico altogether for Arizona.
- Feb. 17, 1877; Globe, Arizona Territory---Kid Antrim, the name Henry McCarty is now going by, is arrested by the local constable on a warrant charging him with stealing a horse from Sgt. Louis Hartman at Camp Thomas. The constable takes Henry to Cedar Springs, where he is thrown in jail. Later in the day, through some unspecified means, Antrim manages to escape.
- Mar. 25, 1877; Hotel de Luna, near Fort Grant, Arizona Territory---Kid Antrim and a rustling friend of his, John Mackie, are arrested by Justice of the Peace Miles Wood as the two eat their breakfast in the hotel. At gunpoint, Wood then walks the two outlaws two-and-a-half miles to Fort Grant, where they are both thrown in the guardhouse. A short time later, the Kid asks his guard to take him out to use the privy, which the guard does. While outside, the Kid allegedly throws a handful of salt in the guard's eyes, yanks his pistol out of his holster, and tries to flee. The blinded guard calls for help, however, and several other guards come running and take down the Kid before he can get very far. Immediately afterwards, he has shackles placed on his ankles and wrists and is thrown back in the guardhouse. That night, a dance is held at the fort and the Kid is left in his cell unguarded. By the time the dance ends, the guards return to the guardhouse to find that the Kid has escaped, shackles and all. The method of his escape is never discovered, but it is believed that one or two local soldiers aided him.
- Nov. 1877; Seven Rivers, New Mexico Territory---Billy Bonney, the alias the Kid is now going by, is arrested by Dick Brewer and thrown in the jail/pit in the town of Lincoln. Brewer works as ranch foreman for John Tunstall, who recently had several horses stolen by the Jessie Evans Gang, which Bonney belongs to. Therefore, after Brewer heard Bonney was at Seven Rivers, he arrested him for aiding the Evans Gang in the theft of Tunstall's horses. However, while in Lincoln's jail, Billy is apparently visited by Tunstall and tells the Englishman that he has no idea where his horses currently are. He goes on to say that he would gladly work for Tunstall on his ranch if he would have him released, which Tunstall does.
- Feb. 20, 1878; Lincoln, New Mexico Territory---Billy, acting as a lawful deputy and accompanied by Constable Atanacio Martinez and Fred Waite, goes to the Murphy-Dolan store in Lincoln with warrants to arrest Sheriff William Brady and several of his men for the murder of John Tunstall. Brady, however, remains defiant and instead arrests Billy, Martinez, and Waite, disarms them, and has them tossed in the jail/pit. While Martinez is released later that night, Billy and Waite remain in the pit for another thirty hours to two days before they are released by a group of outraged Tunstall-partisan citizens.
- Dec. 22, 1878; Lincoln, New Mexico Territory---Allegedly, Billy and friend Tom O'Folliard ride into Lincoln and willing turn themselves over to Sheriff George Kimbrell. Apparently, the duo wishes to partake in a proclamation of amnesty issued by Gov. Lew Wallace, but Billy doesn't know that the amnesty doesn't apply to him due to the fact that he already faces two murder indictments. After being held in Lincoln's jail/pit for a few hours, Billy and Tom lose their nerve and simply walk out and flee Lincoln.
- Mar. 21, 1879; San Patricio, New Mexico Territory---After agreeing to a deal with Gov. Wallace in which Billy will testify against the murderers of lawyer Huston Chapman and in return receive a full pardon, a faux arrest is arranged. On this date, Billy, along with Doc Scurlock, is arrested by Sheriff George Kimbrell and a posse, taken to Lincoln, and once again placed in Lincoln's jail/pit. A few days later though, Billy and Doc are moved to the house of Juan Patron, where they are held from then on. Billy eventually lives up to his end of the bargain and testifies before a grand jury in regards to the Chapman murder, but Wallace does not come through for him. Faced with this, Billy and Doc simply walk out of Patron's in the middle of June 1879.
- Dec. 23, 1880; Stinking Spring, New Mexico Territory---After suffering an ambush by Sheriff-elect Pat Garrett and his posse at Fort Sumner a few nights earlier, Billy and his remaining four Rustlers have taken sanctuary in an abandoned rock house at Stinking Springs. Around dawn, when gang member Charlie Bowdre steps outside to feed the horses, he is also ambushed and mortally wounded by Garrett's posse. For the rest of the day, Billy, Dave Rudabaugh, Billy Wilson, and Tom Pickett remain in the rock house, until their hunger forces them to come out and surrender to Garrett. Afterwards, the prisoners are taken to Santa Fe, and then La Mesilla, where Billy is convicted of the murder of Sheriff William Brady. He is sentenced to death by hanging and taken back to Lincoln. However, in Apr. 1881, he manages to escape and kills his two guards in the process. Thereafter, he flees to Fort Sumner, where he is allegedly killed by Pat Garrett in July of 1881.