Customs Agent Joseph Russell Sitter

Customs Agent Joseph Russell Sitter

United States Department of the Treasury - United States Customs Service, U.S. Government

End of Watch Monday, May 24, 1915

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Joseph Russell Sitter

Customs Agent Joe Sitter and Private Eugene Hulen, of the Texas Rangers, were shot and killed while attempting to arrest a gang who had previously attacked him and murdered Inspector Jack Howard.

In 1912 Agent Sitter had arrested Francisco "Chico" Cano and members of his gang for horse and mule stealing. On February 10th, 1913, Agent Sitter, Inspector Jack Howard, and a brand inspector again arrested Cano. As they transported him through the rugged mountains in Pilares Canyon, the man's brothers and friends ambushed the three lawmen. Inspector Howard was killed, while Agent Sitter and the brand inspector were wounded.

On May 24th, 1915, Agent Sitter gathered a posse that included a fellow United States Customs Service inspector, along with three Texas Rangers, to capture Cano and his gang. When the posse arrived at Pilares Canyon they could see some stolen horses in the canyon. A disagreement arose amongst the lawmen as to whether it was an ambush. Agent Sitter decided to split the group and enter the canyon. One of the groups started up one side of the canyon when they came under heavy fire and retreated. They could see Agent Sitter and Private Hulen pinned down across the canyon and tried five times unsuccessfully to reach them.

The three officers walked four miles to a ranch and summoned help. The next day a posse arrived and found Agent Sitter and Private Hulen stripped naked, shot scores of times, and their faces unrecognizable from having been beaten with large stones.

Agent Sitter was buried in the Valentine Cemetery in Jeff Davis County. He was survived by his wife and at least six children.

Cano was indicted for the murder of Agent Sitter and Private Hulen but he was never prosecuted. He became a captain in the revolutionary Mexican army. He retired to his ranch in Mexico and died there on August 28th, 1943.

Agent Joe Sitter was a veteran lawman on the Texas-Mexico border. He had served with the United State Customs Service for at least 20 years and had also served with the Texas Rangers for three years.


  • Age 51
  • Tour 28 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Texas
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Never apprehended

ambush, arrest

Most Recent Reflection

View all 14 Reflections

As far as I know I am the youngest (79) surviving grandson of. Joseph R Sitters . Son of Henrietta Sitters.
Throughout my life I have heard the stories told about my grandfather and admired his courage. He passed long before I was born but his deeds will live forever RIP.

Philip L Russo, Captain, (Retired)
Corona Ca. P.D.

January 19, 2021

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