Sheriff Harry Morse crouched outside the adobe. He had a critical decision to make: he could wait for the fugitive to emerge and take him by surprise or boldly march in and make the arrest. Juan Soto was inside, and the sheriff was not about to let him getaway.
Morse had relentlessly tracked Soto over several months from Alameda County, where Soto killed a man. The outlaw had also raided a Sunol grocery store and shot the clerk to death. The store belonged to Assemblyman Thomas Scott, who demanded justice. Newspapers were calling Juan Soto “The Human Wildcat,” because of his erratic behavior.
And now, fifty miles southeast of Gilroy in the dry and rocky Panoche Mountains, Morse had him cornered. But, how does one take an unpredictable wanted man into custody? Whichever course of action the sheriff chose, he knew he would have a bloody fight. Harry Morse continued to ponder his options until a white mist of fog rolled in, deciding for him.
The Alameda lawman knew the fog would provide Soto with the advantage of giving him cover. Morse asked Sheriff Harris to take the posse and form a perimeter to cut off all means of escape. He and Deputy Winchell entered the adobe to take the wanted man into custody.
The lawmen found the door unlocked. There were at least a dozen men and women in the room when they entered, including a cattle thief by the name of Ambrozío Gonzales, who had recently escaped from Santa Cruz prison. The unfriendly gathering glowered at the two officers when they marched in.
Sitting at the table was Juan Soto, an unusually large man with bushy eyebrows and piercing eyes. The sheriff immediately drew his weapon and told Soto he was under arrest. As Winchell attempted to handcuff the prisoner, nearly everyone in the room aimed a pistol at the deputy. Petrified, Winchell dropped the cuffs, allowing Soto to bolt from the cabin.
Morse managed to put a bullet through the wanted man’s hat as he tried to escape. The sheriff dropped to the ground as shots returned by Soto splintered the adobe’s door frame. Soto was armed with a six-shooter. The sheriff adroitly got back onto his feet to run outside and pull a Henry Rifle from its saddle scabbard.
Meanwhile, the outlaw dashed for his mount hitched on the side of the building. Morse squeezed off a shot, knocking the gun from Juan Soto’s hand. His spooked horse ran off. Soto resorted to making a getaway on foot. Morse again took careful aim, hitting the fugitive 50 feet away in the shoulder.
It was then, Sheriff Harry Morse learned why the newspapers referred to Juan Soto as the Human Wildcat. Hopping mad, Soto whirled around and charged Morse with a bloodcurdling scream.
Harry Morse reloaded, took steady aim, stopping Soto with a single bullet to the brain.
~~~ o0o ~~~
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