"Billy the Kid" Takes a Shot at "Buckskin Frank."
The Latter Promptly Replied and the Former Quietly Turned His Toes Up to the Daisies
Statement of Frank Leslie
I was talking with some friends in the Oriental Saloon when Claiborne pushed his way in among us and began using very insulting language. I took him to one side and said, "Billy, don't interfere, those people are friends among themselves and are not talking about politics at all, and don't want you about."
He appeared quite put out and used rather bad and certainly very nasty language towards me. I told him there was no use of his fighting with me, that there was no occasion for it, and leaving him I joined my friends.
He came back again and began using exceedingly abusive language, when I took him by the collar of his coat and led him away, telling him not to get mad, that it was for his own good, that if he acted in that manner he was liable to get in trouble.
He pushed away from me, using very hard language, and as he started away from me, shook a finger at me and said, "That's all right Leslie, I'll get even on you," and went out of the saloon.
In a short time a man came in and said there was a man waiting outside to shoot me, but I didn't pay much attention to it. A few minutes later another man came in looking quite white and said Claiborne was waiting outside with a rifle.
To Shoot Frank Leslie.
I then went out, and as I stepped on the sidewalk, saw about a foot of rifle barrel protruding from the end of the fruit stand. I stepped out in the street and saw it was Claiborne, and said, "Billy, don't shoot, I don't want you to kill me, nor do I want to have to shoot you."
Almost before I finished he raised the gun and shot, and I returned the fire from my pistol, aiming at his breast. As soon as I shot I saw him double up and had my pistol cocked and aimed at him again, when I saw, or thought I saw, another man by him putting his arms around him, and lowered the pistol, and when it was discharged the bullet went in the sidewalk.
After I fired, I advanced upon him, but did not shoot, when he said, "Don't shoot again, I am killed," which I didn't but watched him, with my pistol at full cock, as I didn't know what game he might play to get me off guard.
At that moment Officer Coyle came up and took hold of my pistol hand. I told him to be careful as it was at full cock. I then uncocked it and gave it to him, and said I would go with him. I told him I was sorry; that I might have done more, but I couldn't do less. He then placed me under arrest.
-- end of article
The above article was printed in the Tombstone Epitaph on November 18th, 1882.
After the recent death of William Bonney, the other "Billy the Kid," Billy Claiborne demanded to be called "Billy the Kid".
On November 14, 1882, noted gunfighter Frank Leslie and Billy Claiborne became involved in an argument over Leslie's refusal to accommodate Claiborne by calling him "Billy the Kid." On that day Franklin "Buckskin" Leslie shot the Billy "The Kid" Claiborne dead in the streets of Tombstone, Arizona.
Why the Epitaph waited four days to report the gunfight is a mystery to me.
Leslie's reputation as a mankiller brought him trouble after his drinking companion and fellow gunman John Ringo was found dead in July 1882. It is said that some Tombstone citizens, including Ringo's friend namely Billy "The Kid" Claiborne, were convinced that Leslie had murdered Ringo.
Even though they could not prove it, many took it as fact. And yes, it is believed that Leslie shot Claiborne dead because Billy Claiborne was probably seeking vengeance and the notoriety that would come from shooting a Leslie.
Claiborne unwisely decided to publicly challenge Leslie. He should have used better judgement. Maybe he should have used the same sort of judgement that kept him alive at the OK Corral. Fact is, Billy Claiborne ran away like a frightened rabbit from the scene as the O.K. Corral gunfight was about to start.
While Claiborne was able to say that he was a survivor of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Claiborne's reputation suffered once the story of his running away became known. Later, he tried to claim that he had killed three men who had ridiculed him for running from the fight -- but there was never any evidence of that taking place.
Claiborne should not have tried to clean up his reputation by trying to kill Frank Leslie. That sort of stupidity cost him his life.
And yes, that's just the way I see it.