IS CIVIL OR MILITARY LAW
PARAMOUNT IN TEXAS?"August 24th, 1803, Private Fulgham, Company D, and a deputy sheriff of Reeves county, scouting down the Pecos river in search of stolen horses, met a man carrying a pistol. They attempted to arrest him, when he resisted and drew his pistol to shoot private Fulgham fired upon him, killing him instantly."
The above is an extract from a report of the work done by the ranger force, of the work done by the ranger force, published in The Statesman yesterday copied from the adjutant general's report to the governor. It is very unsatisfactory. The inquiry is natural, after reading this item in the report, whether military or civil law is dominant in Texas. It is very evident that this deputy sheriff and private Fulgham of the rangers had no warrant for the arrest of this man who was killed by Fulgham, nor does it appear that this man knew they were officers. It would be interesting to know whether Private Fulgham was ever tried by the civil courts for this killing, for it is homicide of one degree or another. Taking the bare report given to the adjutant general, a jury would in all probability conclude that it was murder in the first degree. It is evident that Private Fulgham had no warrant for the arrest of this wayfarer, and that they demand for his surrender was totally unwarranted. There is no evidence that the man so ruthlessly killed was a malefactor except that in a wild and dangerous country he carried a pistol to protect himself. It is true that carrying a deadly weapon is a violation of the law, but the execution of the law against it should be exercised with prudence. If the same rancor had met half a dozen armed men in some remote cross-roads grocery the probability is that he would not have attempted an arrest, but meeting this lonely traveler in a wild and dangerous country the attempt to make an arbitrary arrest without a warrant was officious. imprudent and a violation of the civil law, for which this ranger private Fulgham ought to have been tried, convicted and punished. He may have been, for all we know. If he was not, and such things are sanctioned, we must say that the ranger force of Texas has outlived in some respects its usefulness and its members ought to be relegated to private life and the civil law be given a chance to be executed in the state.
While Texas is as safe as any other state as sparsely inhabited, no man ought to be interfered with in carrying weapons for his protection in certain sparsely inhabited portions of the state, and none but a reckless prospector would go unarmed in these localities, for it is in some localities absolutely necessary for the protection of life.
The law against carrying deadly weapons is of doubtful consistency, with the constitutional right of every citizen to have and carry arms for self defense, and it is only recognized by sufferance as a police regulation for the protection of the citizens of thickly settled communities, where the officers of the law afford ample protection to the person and property of every citizen.
The case we have called attention to, on its face, is a flagrant abuse of authority by a member of the ranger force of the state, and if this is a usual thing not at all out of the way, and a matter to be reported as recommending the ranger force to the consideration of the legislature for appropriations for its continued support, it is time some investigations were made as to the propriety of continuing the force in this state.
If this ranger who killed this apparently innocent traveler without any good cause has not been tried and convicted for his illegal act, It is high time that the legislature of the state should teach the ranger force the civil law is paramount to military law in Texas.[The Austin Weekly Statesman, Austin, Texas, Thursday, February 7, 1895. Vol. XXIV. Pg. 2]