Ben Thompson was born in England in 1842, and he owned the famous "Bull's Head Saloon" in Abilene, with partner Bill Coe who was killed by Wild Bill Hickok.
The problem that caused the shooting was about a bull's private parts, shown in the picture of the bull above the saloon. Some townsfolk found it in bad taste, and wanted the parts removed, but when Thompson and Coe refused, Wild Bill Hickok hired some men to paint the offending parts. Coe became upset and this led to the fatal showdown with Hickok.
Thompson was a gambler who drank a lot, and spent a quite a bit of time getting his brother Billy out of various trouble, usually after Billy had killed someone. Thompson's death may have been a revenge killing, because Thompson had killed Jack Harris, part owner of the Vaudeville Theater and Gambling Saloon in San Antonio in July of 1882. Harris had attempted to shoot Thompson through a window with a shotgun, but missed and Thompson hit Harris instead and he died later that night. Thompson went back to his home in Austin Texas and resigned as marshal.
Almost two years later in March 1884 Thompson had met up with King Fisher in Austin and the two of them decided to catch the train back to San Antonio to see a play and Fisher was on his way to Uvalde, Texas where he was a deputy sheriff. After the play the two of them went over to the Variety Theater where Thompson had killed Harris, and ran into his two partners, Joe Foster and Billy Simms. Thompson and Fisher had been drinking heavily and in an upstairs box were Simms, Foster, Thompson, Fisher, and bouncer Jacob Coy. The subject of the Harris came up and Fisher wanted to leave, but Thompson pushed on, and then slapped Foster and put a pistol in his mouth. Very suddenly shooting broke out and Thompson and Fisher were killed. Fisher had never drawn his gun, and Thompson had only shot once, but their bodies had 9 and 13 wounds respectively. It was believed that some shots were fired by a gambler named Canada Bill and a bartender named McLaughlin and a Harry Tremaine who were in the next box, and that they were alerted by Foster.