Was Tom McLaury Armed?
When the gunfight ended, no gun was found near Tom McLaury or on his body. There is evidence to suggest the Cowboys lied in an effort to have the Earps convicted, but also evidence to support that the Earp faction and Doc Holliday lied to protect themselves from being convicted. At the time, there were two newspapers in Tombstone, the Epitaph and the Nuggett. The Epitaph was pro-Earp, while the Nugget was pro-"Cowboy", and their versions of the testimony during the trial varied greatly. During the Spicer hearing after the gunfight, she reported to the San Diego Union that only two of the Cowboys were armed. Saloon owner Andrew Mehan testified that an hour before the gunfight Tom McLaury had checked his pistol with him at Mehan’s Saloon.
Wyatt Earp testified that Tom McLaury fired one or two rounds at them from behind a horse, and that if he was unarmed he did not know it. In an 1896 interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Earp further claimed that Tom McLaury had shot Morgan Earp from behind the horse. In two of Wyatt Earp's three biographies he indicated that Tom McLaury fired the first shots. However, some historians have suggested that Wyatt Earp's claims about his deeds were often flawed and could not be corroborated.
One eye witness, Mrs. J.C. Colyer, was only a short distance away sitting in a buggy when the shootout took place. Although never called to testify at the subsequent inquest, her account of the shooting was published in the Epitaph a few weeks after the event. In her recount of the events she witnessed she said that it was in fact the Cowboys who fired first, and in that interview she said that one Cowboy used a horse as a barricade, firing from under the horses neck. It has since been confirmed that neither Billy Clanton nor Frank McLaury ever came near a horse during the shootout, so if her statement is to be believed, it could only have been Tom McLaury to which she was referring. She knew none of those involved, and was only in Tombstone to visit her sister, therefore making her an unbiased witness.
Another eye witness, laundryman Peter H. Fellehy, stated that he saw Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday shooting at a man who was using a horse to barricade himself, and once shot the man fell. During that statement, Fellehy claimed the man still held his pistol in his hand. Although he never said he saw him shoot, he does indicate that Tom McLaury was armed.
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