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August 25, 1896: Outlaw Bill Doolin Is Killed - Today In Crime History

On this day, August 25, 1896, infamous outlaw William “Bill” Doolin was killed by law enforcement in a burst of shot gun and rifle fire.

William Doolin was born in Arkansas in 1858.  He went west in 1881, finding work in Oklahoma at a ranch owned by Oscar D. Halsell.  Halsell reportedly liked the young Arkansan and taught him to write and do simple arithmetic, eventually made him a ranch foreman.  Doolin worked for other ranchers in the next decade and was widely considered trustworthy and capable.

By the 1890s, however, Doolin had become at least a part-time robber and thief.  For six years, he participated in a several bank and train robberies, sometimes with the infamous Dalton gang. Doolin planned his robberies well, though he was shot several times, the wounds were not serious and he always escaped with the loot.

Doolin’s criminal success brought increased pressure from law enforcement. In 1895, Doolin and several of his cohorts went into hiding.  Doolin made offers to surrender himself in exchange for a light sentence, but his offers were rejected by law enforcement.  In January 1896, lawman Bill Tilghman captured Doolin at Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Outlaw Doolin was at the springs to take in the medicinal waters and was caught by surprise.  Tilghman singlehandedly arrested Doolin without incident. Incarcerated in a Guthrie, Oklahoma jail, while awaiting trial, Doolin escaped on July 5, 1896.

Doolin managed to elude the pursuing posse for almost two months. When law enforcement finally caught up with him in Lawson, Oklahoma, Doolin must have decided he was not going to be captured alive.  Badly outnumbered, Doolin drew his firearm.  A burst of shotgun and rifle fire reportedly instantly killed him on August 25, 1896.  He was 38 years of age at his death. Doolin was buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

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