My “Ayoob Files” continuing series in American Handgunner magazine covers in the current issue the legendary 1884 siege in which Elfego Baca holed up with a pair of revolvers and held off a vengeful gang of cowboys who pumped some 4,000 bullets into the shack where he had taken refuge. Unlikely as it sounds, history shows that’s pretty much how the thing went down.
In researching the shootout, I followed up on Baca’s later life, which included time as an elected county sheriff, and as an attorney. (And a few more gunfights.) It turns out that Baca was an innovative fellow.
In one case, as sheriff he was conducting a murder investigation. Fresh human feces were found near the death scene. He instructed a deputy to collect it and put it in a tin can. Before long, he came upon a likely suspect, who became so nervous during Baca’s interrogation that he felt a sudden urge to relieve himself. Baca allowed him to do so, and then once again ordered a deputy to “can it,” so to speak.
An unusual pattern of chili seeds was present in both fecal samples. There was no DNA testing in those days, of course, but by the standards of the time, Baca’s thinking was positively Sherlockian. Today, it would be seen as crappy evidence in more ways than one and might not meet the standard of a “reasonable degree of scientific certainty,” but back then it was enough to convict the suspect of murder.
Forgive a crude reference from common parlance, but one could say that Sheriff Elfego Baca was certainly a lawman who knew his shit.