Column No. 18

The Shootout with the Fraser Brothers Murderer

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

On February 27, 1920 two Mexican bandits, Manuel Garcia and Ezequiel Lara, robbed the Ruby mercantile and brutally murdered the store’s new owners, brothers John and Alexander Fraser. The bandits quickly fled over the border (only five miles to the south) and escaped into Mexico.

County Ranger Oliver Parmer reported the initial results of the search for the murderers of the Fraser brothers:

In the months that followed, the investigation went on with Santa Cruz County Sheriff Earhart flooding the country with circulars describing the post office killings. Many suspects were rounded up by able officers, but no charges were made.

On March 11th, Mexican authorities stated that they wanted both Garcia and Lara in Mexico for crimes committed there. In fact, both fugitives were renegades from the Mexican federal army. Mexican authorities declared that they, “will never give up the hunt until both bandits . . are captured and executed.”

In October, there was a break in the manhunt. Officers learned that Garcia had re-crossed the international border from Mexico (perhaps driven across the border by zealous Mexican search efforts). Lawmen tracked Garcia to the ranch of a Mexican, named Bojorques, two miles west of Twin Buttes (about eight miles northwest of today’s Green Valley).

Lara’s mother lived in Twin Buttes. Garcia and Lara had both worked at the Twin Buttes mine before the Fraser brother murders, so that was one of the areas that authorities kept an eye on. Garcia must not have realized that he had been identified as one of the Fraser brothers killers. (Note: Garcia had long been a fugitive from justice. He was also wanted for the murder of a customer during a bank robbery on December 9, 1916 in Buckeye, Arizona, a few miles west of Phoenix.)

On October 12, 1920, officials assigned Pima County Deputy Sheriffs George McLure and George Holloway to make the arrest. The Tucson Citizen reported what happened:

They arrived at the ranch about eight o’clock and found the man they wanted in the corral.

Garcia submitted quietly but asked permission to go into the small adobe shack and change his trousers.

He went in ahead of McLure who was more or less blinded by the darkness of the house and did not see that Garcia darted for the bed and drew from the pillow a heavy revolver until Garcia whirled and fired point blank at McLure, who was close by his side. [McLure was wounded seriously, the bullet going in his right side, through his intestines and almost exiting in the region of the spine.] After he [Garcia] fired he struck McLure down with the butt of the gun.

George Holloway was in the house at the sound of the shot with his hand on his revolver ready to draw. As he ran in, the Mexican met him with the butt of his revolver. He struck Holloway on the shoulder as Holloway instinctively ducked. As he struck, the revolver bounced out of the Mexican’s hand and he grasped Holloway by both arms to prevent him from drawing. Together they wrestled over the body of McLure, who recovering raised on his elbow. Holloway shouted to him to shoot and then, believing he was getting the better of it told him not to shoot. Finally Holloway got hold of the Mexican by the topknot and putting all his strength, yanked him forward. The Mexican released Holloway’s gun arm and backed away, his head down. He jerked loose and staggered back. As he did so, both McLure and Holloway fired. One bullet hit him on each side the chest and he fell dead.

For a few days there were fears that Deputy McLure would not survive the shootout. But, McLure did indeed recover. Two weeks after the incident he answered a letter of concern from murder victim John Fraser’s widow, Ines Fraser:

I received your appreciated letter this morning and will say that I am very near recovery only a little weak. . . I am very glad that Garcia has run his race and will bother no one else. To say that he was cruel puts it mildly.

You may rest assured that if Lara is heard of in this country that the sheriff’s office here will do all in its power to capture or kill him. . .

Ezequiel Lara never did come back to the United States, at least not long enough to be caught. On June 11, 1921, the Nogales Herald reported that:

Ezequiel Lara, a Mexican on whose head there has been placed a bounty by the sheriff of Santa Cruz County, for the killing of the Frazier Fraser brothers of Ruby Arizona has at last been apprehended on June 7 and is at this time incarcerated at Ures, Sonora, Mexico, awaiting trial for the killing of a Chinese merchant.

On September 1, 1921, the Nogales Herald reported Lara’s final fate:

Ezequiel Lara, leader of the two bandits wanted for the killing of the Fraser brothers at Ruby, Arizona, February 27, of last year, is in jail at Hermosillo, Sonora about 170 miles south of the border, according to word brought here today . . it is alleged, [Lara] killed a Chinaman at Ures, Sonora. He was captured, escaped, and was recaptured four days ago . .

Though he was not put away for the murders of the Fraser brothers, Lara’s imprisonment in Mexico effectively ended that crime saga.

But another, even more brutal crime, was about to take place at the same Ruby mercantile.

(Sources: Oliver Parmer and Kathleen O’Donnell, “How We Trapped the Deadly Border Bandits,” Startling Detective Adventures, 1936; Nogales Herald; Arizona Republican; Tucson Citizen; Fraser family records)

Los Alamos shack In happier times, Ines Fraser and children pose for John Fraser on the front porch of their shack at the Los Alamos mine. Circa 1911 (Photo from Fraser family records)

Next time: The Ruby Mercantile – The Second Robbery

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