His excessive drinking and tendency towards gunplay had him constantly at odds with the law. In the spring of 1873, Anderson and several other men were involved in an argument in a Wichita livery stable. The confrontation turned to gunplay within no time, and one of Anderson’s shots went wild, killing an innocent man just passing by. Though Anderson was arrested, he was later released when the death was ruled accidental.
Several months later, on October 27, 1873, Anderson was in “Rowdy Joe” Lowe’s saloon when Edward “Red” Beard, who owned a saloon next door, burst into the bar with his guns blazing. Beard had argued with one of the “ladies” in his saloon when she fled into Lowe’s place. Instead of hitting his intended target, Beard shot one of Lowe’s “girls.” Lowe then grabbed his shotgun and began to fire at Beard, who staggered outside. Anderson, who was standing at the bar, got caught in the crossfire as the bullets were flying, taking a load of buckshot in the eye, permanently blinding him.
Lowe surrendered to Sheriff John Meagher and was brought to trial. He was found not guilty of shooting Beard but was put on trial for shooting William Anderson. However, Joe left town before his second trial.
Anderson spent the rest of his days sitting outside cowtown saloons, with his hat in his hands and begging for coins.