James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok Kills Two Men During a Street Brawl

While working in Abilene, Hickok and Phil Coe, a saloon owner, had an ongoing dispute that later resulted in a shootout.

Coe had been the business partner of known gunman Ben Thompson, with whom he co-owned the Bulls Head Saloon. On October 5, 1871, Hickok was standing off a crowd during a street brawl, during which time Coe fired two shots. Hickok ordered him to be arrested for firing a pistol within the city limits. Coe explained that he was shooting at a stray dog but suddenly turned his gun on Hickok, who fired first and killed Coe. Hickok caught the glimpse of movement of someone running toward him and quickly fired two shots in reaction, accidentally shooting and killing Abilene Special Deputy Marshal Mike Williams, who was coming to his aid, an event that haunted Hickok for the remainder of his life.

"Phil" Coe was from Texas, ran the "Bull’s Head" a saloon and gambling den, sold whiskey and men’s souls. A vile a character as I ever met for some cause Wild Bill incurred Coe’s hatred and he vowed to secure the death of the Marshall. Not having the courage to do it himself, he one day filled about 200 cowboys with whiskey intending to get them into trouble with Wild Bill, hoping that they would get to shooting and in the melee shoot the marshal. But Coe "reckoned without his host." Wild Bill had learned of the scheme and cornered Coe, had his two pistols drawn on Coe. Just as he pulled the trigger one of the policemen rushed around the corner between Coe and the pistols and both balls entered his body, killing him instantly.”

— Theophilus Little, Mayor of Abilene, Kansas

The marshal demanded that Coe surrender his firearms, as an ordinance prohibited carrying them in the city. But instead of giving over his weapons Coe sent a bullet Hickok's way, to which the marshal returned fire, shooting Coe twice in the stomach. At about the same time, Hickok heard footsteps coming up behind him and turning swiftly; he fired again and killed Deputy Mike Williams, who had been coming to his aid.