Robert Olinger - Killer With a Badge
Though Robert "BobĒ
Olinger was a lawman,
he was actually better known as a killer with a penchant for fighting
in range wars.
Born Robert Ameridth Olinger
about 1841, when he was just a boy he moved with his family from
After he grew up he made his way to
In 1876 he was named
marshal of Seven Rivers in Lincoln County,
However, the job was short lived as he was soon fired when he was
suspected of consorting with an
This would be the "normĒ for Olinger, as his love of gambling and
drinking often placed him in bad company.
The first man known
to have been killed by Olinger was a Mexican named Juan Chavez. The
two, who were friends and had no history of violence between them,
poker in the Royal
Seven Rivers. However, when Chavez accused Olinger of cheating, Bob
stood up and leveled his six-shooter at his friendís head. Another
player then tossed the unarmed Chavez and gun and the two exchanged
shots. When the smoke cleared, Chavez lay dead on the floor with a
bullet in his throat. Without remorse, Olinger simply looked at him,
stating "Allís well that endís well," before he strode out the door.
The second man
Olinger killed also involved gambling. When he and a man named John
Hill were playing
poker at Diamond
Lilís casino and dance hall, Olinger quickly won Hillís money.
Afterwards, Hill loudly stated that he had been "hornswoggled,Ē
implying that Olinger had tricked or cheated him. Though initially
Olinger did nothing, when Hill left the
that night, Olinger shot him dead.
In February, 1878, when the
County War erupted, Olinger was right in the midst of it. When the
Dolan-Murphy faction obtained a court order to seize some of John
Tunstall's horses as payment for an outstanding debt, and Tunstall
refused, Lincoln County Sheriff, William Brady, formed a posse to go
after Tunstall. In this group was Bob Olinger, as a Dolan-Murphy
"hired gun.Ē Rather than arresting Tunstall; however, the unarmed man
was killed on February 18, 1878. Although several riders participated
in the murder, only James Dolan and Jacob "Billy" Matthews were
charged with being accessories to murder.
In the end,
Olingerís participation in the
County War would be a fatal mistake, as Tunstall supporter,
Billy the Kid avowed: "I'll get every son-of-a-bitch who helped kill
John if it's the last thing I do."
Seemingly, as time went on, each of Olingerís
killings got a little worse. The next year, when Olinger was playing
poker with a man
named Bob Jones, yet another gambling dispute arose. Jones, who had heard
of Olingerís reputation wisely avoided the killer.
However, Olinger saw a chance to even the
score when he found that Deputy Pierce Jones had a misdemeanor warrant to
serve on Bob Jones. Olinger decided to tag along and when they arrived at
Bob Jones home. Jones was working in the yard while his three children
played and his wife was in the kitchen.
Offering no resistance,
Bob asked the deputy if he could explain to his wife that he would return
as soon as he paid his fine. The deputy agreed and Bob made his way into
the house passing by his hunting gun, which was lying on the porch. Though
Bob Jones made no attempt to pick up the rifle, Olinger drew a pistol and
fired three shots into Bobís back. As Jonesí wife and children stood by
screaming and Deputy Pierce Jones was shocked, Olinger was smug in his belief
that he could claim self-defense for the outright murder.
Deputy Jones quickly
brought murder charges against Olinger, and Lincoln County authorities
issued a warrant for his arrest. Sheriff George Kimball arrested him and
brought him to Lincoln for trial in October, 1879. However, for unknown
reasons, the case was dismissed without going to court.
That very same month,
was elected Sheriff of Lincoln County. Amazingly, Olinger was appointed
his deputy, much to
chagrin. Aware of Olingerís violent tendencies, he would begin to see
them first-hand. On one occasion when the pair when to arrest an armed
promised the fugitive, who had taken cover in a ditch, that he would not
be harmed if he came in. However, as the man came forward with his hands
in the air, Olinger drew his pistol as if to shoot him. The man was saved
who placed himself in between, saying to Olinger: "Put it away, Bob.
Unless you want to try me."
When a price was put on
Billy the Kid's head and
determined to track him down, the swaggering Olinger hoped that it would
be he that might kill the famous
Billy the Kid, along with
Tom Pickett, and Bill
Wilson, were tracked down by
and taken to
Billy was convicted, he was then sent to Lincoln to await his
execution, scheduled for May 13, 1881. Olinger, along with several other
men, were assigned the task of escorting the Kid back to
the way, Olinger constantly tormented
Billy, so much so, that even the other guards had some sympathy for
Billy said to the deputy, "Be careful, Bob, Iím not hung yet.Ē Though
Olinger, no doubt, looked for opportunities to kill the Kid on the way to
Lincoln, the party arrived without incident.
Placed in the county
jail, Olinger continued to taunt
Billy to the point that
told him to "lay off the Kid." On one occasion, the shifty lawman even
went so far as to place a pistol on a table within
Billy's reach, but the Kid was too smart to take the bait.
On April 28th,
out of town on business and
Billy was left in the hands of Deputies
and Olinger. While Olinger took several other prisoners to the Worthy
Hotel a block away for their daily meal,
Billy the Kid. Somehow,
Billy had obtained a pistol and shot
He then stole Olinger's 10-gauge double barrel shotgun and waited for
the deputy by the window in the room he was being held in. Olinger
obliged by running immediately from the hotel upon hearing the shots.
When he was directly
under the window of the courthouse, he heard his prisoner say, "Hello,
Bob." Olinger then looked up and saw the Kid, gun in hand. It was the last
thing he ever saw as
Billy blasted him with his own shotgun killing him instantly.
The bodies of deputies
were placed in a room in the corral behind the courthouse and remained
swore to make
Billy pay, and he did when he killed the infamous
outlaw on July
Hiding behind a badge for much of his life, Olinger was a killer worse than
the likes of most
his own mother would remember him by saying:
"Bob was a murderer
from the cradle, and if there is a hell hereafter then he is there."
of America, updated August, 2015.
Pat Garrett - An Unlucky Lawman
Billy The Kid - Teenage Outlaw
The old courthouse in
now serves as a museum. Photo around 1930
Old West Lawmen
Owner/Editor of Legends of America
sheriffs were in high demand in some of the most lawless settlements as
well as the numerous mining camps that dotted the West. Though the vast
majority of these lawmen were honorable and heroic figures, ironically,
many of them rode both sides of the fence and were known as outlaws as
Old West Lawmen is a collection of stories featuring 57