On an early morning in autumn 1896, outlaw Bill Doolin couldn’t sleep and decided to take a walk. Doolin left his wife and child in her parents’ farmhouse bedroom and stepped onto the main road under the light of a full moon.


Not far from the house in Lawson, Oklahoma, lawman Heck Thomas and four deputies waited in hiding.

When Thomas spotted Doolin, he was puzzled by the outlaw’s sudden appearance. Thomas glanced at his watch and noted the time at about two a.m. 

When the notorious gunman got a few steps closer, Thomas ordered him to halt and throw down the Winchester he carried.

Defiant, Doolin raised his rifle and squeezed off two random shots into the shadows ahead of him.

Thomas aimed and pulled the trigger of his Winchester, returning the gunfire. Another posse member also reacted by emptying his double-barreled shotgun toward Doolin. 

Doolin moaned, staggered back from the force of the blasts, and collapsed. A doctor later counted twenty buckshot wounds in Doolin’s chest and four bullets to the heart. He also determined the ball from Thomas’ Winchester shattered Doolin’s left arm.

Thomas had been tracking Doolin since he received word that the outlaw had possibly used his in-laws’ Payne County home as a hideout.

In January, Doolin found himself behind bars in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, after being arrested by lawman Bill Tilghman at Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

But a few months later, the outlaw staged a daring escape, overpowering guards and leading over a dozen fellow prisoners to freedom.

On the night of his death, Doolin wore the same clothes he wore during his jailbreak but had altered his physical appearance.

A heavy beard covered his face, and he had shed considerable weight, reportedly because of a sickness he contracted while serving jail time.

When the gunman rode into Oklahoma about twelve years earlier, he worked as a cowboy for a while before joining the Dalton GangLater, Doolin organized other gangs of lawbreakers, one of which terrorized the territory for years.

According to historians, Doolin gunned down eight men during his career and staged three train robberies and three bank hold-ups. He died at 38.



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