Little Bits of History

Four Dead in Five Seconds

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 14, 2014
Dallas Stoudenmire

Dallas Stoudenmire

April 14, 1881: A very short gunfight breaks out on El Paso Street in El Paso, Texas. The gunfight was so newsworthy it got its own name. It is called Four Dead in Five Seconds and most of the witnesses state that is the time it took from first to last shot. There are others, in the minority, who claim it may have lasted ten seconds. Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire was responsible for three of the four deaths. He was using twin .44 caliber Colt revolvers during the fracas.

Sanchez and Juarique were tracking stolen cattle and went missing. A posse of 75 heavily armed Mexicans came looking for them, believing them to have tracked the cattle to Johnny Hale’s ranch outside El Paso. Indeed, the bodies of the two men were found close by the Hale ranch as Constable Gus Kermpkau escorted the posse with mayor Solomon Schutz’s permission. A court in El Paso held an inquest. Kermpkau was fluent in Spanish and acted as interpreter. The court found that American cattle russlers, including Hale, were afraid they were being tracked. Two men, Pervey and Fredericks, were accused of the murders of Sanchez and Juarique after the Americans were overhead bragging about it.

A large group of men including Hale and his friend, the former Marshal George Campbell, gathered outside. The two Americans were formally charged at the inquest and the Mexicans left town with their friends bodies. The trial for the murders would be held later. Stoudenmire, a noted gunman, had just started working as Marshal on April 11. He was across the street from the courthouse eating dinner. Constable Krempkau went to the saloon next door to retrieve his guns. Campbell and Hale began to berate him about his translation and accused him of being friendly with the Mexicans. Hale, who was drunk, grabbed one of Campbell’s pistols and shot Krempkau. He slumped backwards and drew his pistol.

Stoudenmire heard the shots and left the restaurant with guns drawn. One warning shot he fired killed an innocent bystander. Hale jumped from behind cover and Stoudenmire shot and killed him instantly. Campbell broke cover and Krempkau shot at him, hitting his arm. As Campbell was trying to retrieve his gun, Stoudenmire whirled and shot him in the stomach. Both Campbell and Krempkau died within minutes. Three days later, James Manning (a friend of Hale and Campbell) convinced a former deputy to assassinate Stoudenmire, but the attempt was unsuccessful. Stoudenmire did manage to kill his attacker. This led to a feud between Manning and Stoudenmire which led to Stoudenmire’s death for which Manning was exonerated by a stacked jury.

Stoudenmire had a checkered background, having used his talents both for and against the law. – Justin McHugh

As the pressure increased, Stoudenmire himself began hitting the booze. His Brother-in-law, Doc Cummings, was killed by the Manning brothers, or one of their retinue. The marshal became surly and more dangerous under the burdens of grief and sourmash whiskey, and an alarmed city administration maneuvered him into resigning. – Skeeter Skelton

Guns are part of the American psyche, aren’t they? This is collateral damage for having a Wild West mentality. It’s intrinsic to the American psyche. It’s never going to change. – Nick Cave

It’s been a great place to get in touch with what people are really thinking. And to make contact with readers and other writers. Egalitarian, wide open, like the Wild West! – Greg Bear

Also on this day: “I’m the King of the World!” – In 1912, RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg.
Westward, Ho! – In 1846, the Donner Party began their trek west.
Black Sunday – In 1935, the dust bowl got a lot dustier.
Too Early for July Fourth – In 1944, the SS Fort Stikine exploded.