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Article from Pecos Enterprise Newspaper

Ghost Writer

The story of Sheriff Royal's shooting

PECOS, Monday, June 10, 2002 -- 0. W. Williams, surveyor and one time Pecos County Judge, wrote and filed with the Pecos County Clerk events that led to the murder of Sheriff A. J. Royal. This twelve page document is all that this writer has knowledge of except I talked to a man who had married into the family of Sheriff Royal and he said that there is no truth in the story. Judge Williams was 86 years old when he wrote this article. He also wrote many pamphlets and a book about his surveyor experiences in Texas and New Mexico.

The filed document relates many events that involved Sheriff Royal, all of them to show the character of the Sheriff. An example of the stories took place in 1893. A man was accused of stealing a watermelon from Royal's tenants. The man escaped while he was being taken to jail and ran into a marsh behind the jail. Royal followed shooting at him and when his last shot was fired, they struggled. Royal yelled for help and they secured the prisoner. The man was sentenced to three days in jail and when he was released, Royal and another man took him toward 12 Mile mountain. Royal said that he gave him a thrashing with a horsewhip and told him to never return to Pecos County. Royal said, "He never will."

Sheriff Royal became more aggressive in his intimidating ways and started threatening leading citizens including Judge Williams. While drinking and beating his drinking partner, Royal began cursing and sent word to two Rooney brothers and Mr. Matthews in Koeler's store that he was going to "Wipe them out." Royal later denied sending the message but it was confirmed that the threat was delivered.

Royal went to Koeler's store looking for the Rooney boys. James Rooney, in a small lard room adjoining the saloon, saw Royal pass through a small passage way toward the store with cocked pistol in hand. Finding no one in the store, he turned to go back and was confronted by Jimmie Rooney who was armed with a shotgun. When Royal started to shoot, Rooney fired.

Royal escaped and gathered a few men to surround the store and wanted to burn the store so he could shoot the men as they came out. James Rooney and Matthews surrendered and were taken to J. P. Court for preliminary examination. Royal burst into the court and became abusive and the J.P. adjourned court fearing further trouble. The Rooneys and Matthews, knowing that they could not be guaranteed safety in J. P. court, waved the examination and wished to appear before the grand jury.

Judge Williams noted that Royal had Barney Riggs as his chief aid. He stated that Riggs was understood to be a "bad" man. The West of the Pecos Museum has a plaque on the floor of the saloon designating the spot where Barney Riggs killed William Earheart in 1896.

The majority of the September Grand Jury was composed of Royal's friends. Mr. Williams named the jurist and their relation with Royal and he also believed that the District Attorney was prejudiced toward Royal. The jury issued a bill of indictment on several people opposed to Royal including Williams for not paying an occupation tax when Williams was not practicing law. They billed a man for fornication and not the woman, as she was intimate with Royal's hired "bravo." They indicted the Rooneys who, along with other men, felt that there was no protection of the law against the attempts on their lives.

Royal arrested several men after the grand jury indictments and refused to accept their bail but Judge Williams issued a writ of Habeas Corpus and they were released.

More threats were made on the lives of several men, especially Judge Williams. Rangers knew of these threats and advised Williams and several others that they should arm themselves. Royal was defeated in an election and Mr. Neighbor was installed as sheriff. Royal was indicted in three cases for assault and was the complaining witness in five cases to come before the court. The deputy sheriff had to bring Royal in for trial and it was noticed that he was armed as the form of a pistol could be seen under his vest.

After hearing the last case, Williams went to the clerk's office to read on a point of law. While reading, he heard a voice call "Royal" and then the muffled sound of a gunshot that came from the east door of the courthouse. He thought that Royal had shot some one. He went into the hall and saw a number men near the Sheriff's office but not Royal. In a minute or two, Williams went to the door of the Sheriff s office and there at a desk sat Royal with blood coming from his mouth and his left arm hanging down by the arm of the chair with blood streaming to the floor. There were six or seven buckshot holes in his left shoulder ranging toward the neck.

A man reported that he was sitting next to Royal when he heard him called but he could not identify the voice and all that he could see was the barrel of a shotgun thrust through the door and a glimpse of someone in dark clothes when the shot was fired. A number of the men who had been threatened by Royal were in the courthouse at the time and several of them had put shotguns in the Clerk's vault for their protection. It was thought one of the men under threat from Royal had done the shooting. Williams saw nothing of the acts or positions or situation of any one man or two men to lead him to suspect him or them more than others.






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Last updated: Wednesday, April 04, 2007 09:23 PM

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