Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Arizona ranger killed in cantina – 90 years ago

• Details clash in the tale of Jeff Kidder’s death in a Naco, Son., gunfight.

PAUL L. ALLEN Citizen Staff Writer

Ninety years ago today, one of Arizona’s toughest lawmen died in a Mexican cantina as he faced three Mexicans – two of them policemen – in a dispute over a bar girl.

When the smoke had cleared in Naco, Son., all four lay writhing from gunshot wounds, with Arizona Ranger Jeff Kidder shot in the gut and dying.

Reports of the particulars vary.

One account has the mortally wounded Kidder valiantly trying to make his way to safety across the U.S.-Mexico border 300 yards away, falling, reloading, struggling to his feet again and finally being halted with the bash of a Winchester butt to his head.

The Tucson Citizen’s version, written just after the gunfight, was more subdued, with the ranger and his three assailants wounded on the barroom floor after the affray.

Kidder, a 33-year-old native of South Dakota, had been an Arizona ranger for five years and had come to Naco, Ariz., to re-enlist for another year’s tour with the state’s mounted ranger force.

He was highly regarded in the force, had survived several gunfights and had been promoted to sergeant.

On the April night nine decades ago, he and some friends walked across the border, intending to spend the evening drinking, dancing and enjoying the company of the women there.

Some investigators of the shootout believed Kidder was set up – placed in a vulnerable situation that was staged by one of the policemen, a man with whom Kidder previously ”had words.”

About 1 a.m., Kidder left the saloon and walked to the room of a girl named Chia, a recent arrival from Douglas.

After spending a period of time with her, he left the room – only to discover that a dollar he had in his pocket was missing.

His demand for return of the dollar was met with a slap and a cry for police. She is believed to have told the responding officers that Kidder had struck her.

The Mexican police – Dolores Quias and Thomas Amador – rushed to the scene, along with a third man, Victoriano Amador.

Revolvers were drawn and shooting erupted, with all four men wounded.

Again, accounts vary.

Some indicate that the Mexicans sustained non-life-threatening wounds, but the Citizen reporter was told that two of them were not expected to survive.

One aspect was undisputed: Kidder had suffered .45-caliber wounds in the stomach and intestines and – with the level of medical help available then – would not survive.

His friends located an American doctor and arranged for him to examine the ranger.

There was nothing that could be done to save Kidder, and he died at 6 a.m. the following day.

Fellow Ranger Harry Wheeler, with whom Kidder had participated in dangerous assignments, described Kidder as ”one of the best officers who ever stepped foot in this section of the country. He did not know what fear was.”

It was said that Kidder’s dog, a Chihuahua mix, stayed by his side after the shooting and did its best to keep anyone from approaching its wounded master.

Rangers had intended to adopt it, but it mourned Kidder’s passing and got sick. The dog finally was shipped to California, where the ranger’s body had been sent, so they could be together.

PHOTO CAPTION: Photo courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society

Arizona Ranger Jeff Kidder (right) was described as ”one of the best officers. . . . He did not know what fear was.”

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service