As early as 1883, a deputy from Nueces County by the name of P. S. Coy was making a name as one bad hombre with a badge and a gun. Through the next five years he was continuously in the newspaper apprehending one outlaw or another. He soon acquired a reputation of shooting first and asking questions later. The newspaper often praised him for his actions but he did not enjoy such a stellar reputation in the Mexican American community.
The name Coy is part of early Texas history. Santos Coy was an early settler and alcalde of Nacogdoches. Trinidad Coy was a Tejano rancher and a scout for the Alamo defenders. He was also the father of Paulino S. Coy, the same Deputy P.S. Coy who as it turned out was himself a Mexican American.
Some of Deputy Coy’s earliest mentions in the Corpus Christi newspaper was a story about a band of thieves headed by well-known “cut-throat” Faustino Vela who were depredating the neighborhood around Los Olmos. Coy headed a posse in pursuit of the alleged bandits. Vela sent word that he would kill Coy on sight.
Coy had acquired a reputation of killing a number of men reportedly trying to escape. Later in December 1883, Coy killed Esiquiel De Los Santos while executing an arrest warrant. Two Texas Rangers accompanied Coy. The newspaper reported that De Los Santos came out of his house with a pistol in one hand and a Bowie knife in the other. Coy opened fire killing De Los Santos instantly. In a lapse of journalistic objectivity, the newspaper reported that De Los Santos was a desperate character and Coy a proven and efficient officer. “With Coy’s help and that of other deputies,” reported the newspaper, “Sheriff [Pat] Whelan is ridding country of lawless element.”
Coy kept himself busy bringing in alleged bad guys. Fortunately for the bad guys, none tried to escape and the deputy saved the county money on ammo and pauper burials. Early in 1885, Coy went to Cameron County to bring back Guadalupe Longoria who Sheriff Santiago Brito of Cameron County had arrested. Longoria had several indictments pending against him in Nueces County and law enforcement officials believed him to be a member of the Abrigo gang who had escaped after a recent shootout in which authorities shot and killed Abrigo. Longoria supposedly admitted taking horses he stole from Cameron County ranchers to Nueces and Duval Counties where he sold them.
Shortly after his return from Cameron County, Coy was off to San Antonio with Ereneo Carrero, also accused of horse theft. Upon his return from the Alamo city, Coy again made treks for Cameron County to bring back another suspected criminal. Deputy Coy brought Mauricio Abrigo back to Nueces County. He was the brother of the gang leader killed in the shootout mentioned earlier. Mauricio Abrigo was a suspect in the robbery of the Noakes Store in 1874.
Nueces County Sheriff Whelan, meanwhile, brought in two suspected horse thieves that had been operating in the Pena area, in the southern part of the Duval County. The two suspects, Gumesindo G. Fuentes and Juan Salazar, were captured near Carrizo by none other than Deputy Coy.
In August, Coy brought in Porfirio Salazar, also suspected of horse theft. Deputy Coy reportedly caught Salazar on the road near Los Animas heading towards Rio Grande City. He had the horse, saddle and bridle belonging to John Kelly.
Soon Coy’s reputation would reach new levels and even a worse reputation among his paisanos.