Wyatt Earp History Page

Wyatt Earp

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Did Wyatt Earp Kill Johnny Ringo?

    Today, the most popular claim asserted by writers about who killed Johnny Ringo is that Wyatt Earp did the deed.  However, unpublished accounts of Wyatt's claim did not surface until after the 1920s.  According to Frank Lockwood's book "Pioneer Days in Arizona" (1932), Wyatt told him "in circumstantial detail how he killed John Ringo."   Lockwood wrote that Earp told him that he had killed Ringo and Curly Bill when he left Arizona.  However, Curly Bill, if he was killed by Earp, supposedly died on March 24, 1882, and John Ringo was found dead on July 14, 1882 - over three months apart.  Thus, Wyatt's claim is questionable at best and not believeable at worst.   

    Some writers and historians dispute whether Lockwood was really told by Earp that he had killed Ringo.  Instead, insisting that Wyatt never claimed to have killed Ringo and pointing out that Wyatt Earp even denied that he had killed Ringo when he was interviewed by a reporter in Denver in 1893.  Yet the
"Wyatt Earp killed Johnny Ringo claim" can be found in four separate sources (Forrestine Hooker, John Flood, Frank Lockwood, and Frederick Bechdolt), and each person had contact with Wyatt Earp or stated he told them the story.  For example, in a letter written by Frederick Bechdolt to William Breckenridge, who was a deputy sheriff at Tombstone during 1882, Bechdolt writes:
He [Wyatt] says he stayed in the country after the Tucson killing when he was taking Morgan's body on the train; and that his reason for staying in Arizona was to kill the murderers of Morgan.  This, he says, he did.  He says he got John Ringo, where Ringo's body was found; that he (Earp) and several others, including Texas Jack and Doc Holliday, were riding out on one of a number of expeditions from the Hooker ranch looking for Ringo and Curly Bill; when they encountered Ringo.  While the others stayed in a dry wash to attract Ringo's attention, Earp says he sneaked up behind; called out to Ringo, who tried to throw down on Earp as he turned; and then Earp shot him.
    The account suppled to Bechdolt by Earp is essentially similar to the accounts told to Hooker, Flood, and Lockwood.  Clearly, Wyatt Earp told several people, categorically and without corroboration, that he killed Johnny Ringo.  And the account Earp provided does not match the known details of Ringo's death.

For a more complete discussion of Johnny Ringo and Ringo's death, go to JohnnyRingo.com.

Your host is Steve Gatto, author of The Real Wyatt Earp (Edited by Neil Carmony) (2000), Johnny Ringo (2002), Curly Bill, Tombstone's Most Famous Outlaw (2003).  Steve's latest work, Hurled Into Eternity, The Story of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has not yet been released.

Portions of the text appearing on this site come from the above books.

"bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance proved himself the right man in the right place."  Tombstone Epitaph