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October 28, 1880 Marshal Fred White Shot By Curly Bill Brocius

Updated: Jun 26

On the night of October 28, 1880, Curly Bill Brocius along with a few other liquored up cowboys started firing their six-shooters in the air at the moon and stars. Town Marshal Fred White, who was nearby heard the shootings and went to investigate. He saw that the shoots were coming from cowboys near the corner of Allen and Sixth Street in a vacant lot (Where the Birdcage Theater was erected in 1881 and still stands today). When Marshal White confronted the cowboys, he let them know they were in violation of a town ordinance and yelled out “I am an officer; now you God-Dammed Son of a Bitch give me that pistol.” When Curly Bill went to hand over his gun, White grabbed barrel first and all of a sudden the pistol went off. The bullet when through Marshal White’s left groin and stopped towards the bottom of his buttocks. White fell to the ground and said “I have been shot!” Deputy Wyatt Earp arrived at the scene just in time to see the gun go off. And without hesitation, hit Curly Bill over the head with the butt of his gun (Buffaloed) knocking Curly Bill to the ground. Wyatt and his brother Morgan with fellow Deputy and friend Fred Dodge, who had arrived shortly after, quickly locked up Curly Bill in jail and carried Marshal White to the Doctors.

Only Known Photograph Of Curly Bill

Fred White was expected to recover from his wounds but his condition would take a turn for the worst. He would die two days later on October 30, 1880. He was 32 years old. As he was dying, he mustard up enough energy to say the shooting was his fault. The gun went off accidently.

Fred White was well-respected and beloved by the citizens of Tombstone and with the news of his death and Curly Bell in custody, rumors began that a lynch mob was starting to form and they were going to rush the jail and string up Curly Bill. Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil, and Dodge stood guard at the jail for Curly Bill’s protection. Wyatt made the decision to take Brocius to Tucson where it would be a safer place to hold him until his trial.

During the trial, Curly Bill Brocius said he felt bad the Fred White was shot and that he actually liked and respected him. He maintained shooting was an accident and the hammer of his gun was half-cocked and the way the Marshal grabbed it made it discharge. This would be demonstrated at the trial with his gun. Wyatt would also testify that he too thought it was an accident. And not to forget that Fred White himself on his deathbed said it was an accident. This testimony and demonstration of the gun would lead to all charges being dropped and Curly Bill Brocius was a free man.

Marshal Fred White

The one thing Brocius could not forget, despite the testimony that Wyatt Earp gave in favor of an accidental shooting, was the fact the Wyatt had pistol whipped him. This incident among others would spark the beginning of a feud between the Earp’s and Cowboys that would eventually lead to one of the most famous shoot-outs in history. Marshal Fred White was laid to rest at Boothill Cemetery



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