|This is the most important moment in the career of Billy the Kid. It is the event that truly catapulted him into the realm of legendary figure in his own lifetime.
During the Lincoln County War (1878-1880) the Kid had fought on the McSween-Tunstall side. The sheriff of Lincoln County was William Brady and he was an avowed enemy of the McSween - Tunstall side. Indeed, he had ordered the "arrest" of the young Englishman, John Tunstall; an event which resulted in the murder of Tunstall.
Seeking revenge, the Kid and several pals hid behind a low adobe wall that ran alongside the town of Lincoln's only street. On April 1, 1878, Brady and 4 deputies were walking down the street when the Kid and his friends rose up from behind the wall and opened fire. Their shots killed Brady and deputy Hindman.
Though 7 or 8 men had fired, when the war ended (and the Kid's side had "lost") the law only went after the Kid. Captured in December, 1880, the Kid was put on trial in Mesilla, NM, for Brady's murder and was found guilty. He was returned under armed guard to the town of Lincoln where he was to await his hanging day.
The new Lincoln County sheriff was Pat Garrett. He had two guards looking after the Kid at all times. One was J. W. Bell and the other was Bob Olinger. Olinger was a bully from Texas who carried a double-barreled Whitney shotgun. He would often taunt the Kid with this fearsome weapon.
Bell, on the other hand, seemed to treat the Kid with kindness.
On April 28, 1881, Olinger took 5 prisoners from the courthouse across the street to the Wortley Hotel for supper.
While he was gone, Bell took the Kid to the outhouse. When the two men returned to the courthouse, the Kid got the drop on Bell and somehow managed to get a pistol. As Bell tried to escape the building, the Kid fired two shots, one of which hit off the wall of the stairwell and pierced Bell causing a fatal wound. Bell staggered out into the back yard behind the courthouse, collapsing into the arms of the startled county cook, Geoffrey Gauss. Gauss laid Bell down and he died immediately.
Olinger heard the shots and jumped up from the hotel's table. Dashing outside, he ran back towards the courthouse. As he approached, he saw Gauss who called out, "The Kid has killed Bell!"
At the very moment Olinger heard a voice speak to him from above. Looking up, he saw his very own Whitney shotgun resting in the deadly hands of Billy. With both barrels pointed at Olinger, the Kid said, "Hello, Bob!" To which Olinger responded, "yeah, and he's killed me, too."
At that moment, Billy fired both barrels and Olinger pitched forward into the dirt, dead.
It was this amazing escape which gained for the Kid the notoriety which would make his name reach the far corners of the world and that is why his obituary appeared in the London Times; he had become world famous, and this escape was the reason.