Levy was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1842 of Jewish parents. He was still a
young boy when they immigrated to the United States. When he was old enough,
Levy headed west, where he landed in Pioche,
worked as a miner. However, his life would change on May 30, 1871 when he
witnessed a shooting in the street.
Michael Casey shot a man named Tom Gasson, wounding him severely. Lying on his deathbed, Gasson bequeathed
$5,000 to the man who would avenge his death. At the coroner’s inquest,
Casey said that the killing had been in self-defense. But, Levy testified
that he had seen it happen and that Casey had fired the first shot.
Afterwards, Casey tracked down Levy at a local store
and challenged the unarmed miner to a
Accepting the challenge, Levy rushed off to obtain a weapon and returned a short
while later. In the alley behind the store, the two squared off. Levy called to
Casey, then opened fire, grazing Casey’s skull with his bullet. When Casey dived
at Levy, Jim fired again, hitting his opponent in the neck. As the wounded man
began to fall, Levy hit him over the head with his revolver. In the meantime, a
cohort of Casey’s shot Levy in the jaw before running away. Though terribly
disfigured and losing several teeth, Levy survived and was arrested for Casey’s
murder. However, he was acquitted and released. He also collected on Gasson’s
deathbed bequest of $5,000.
After this affair, Levy gave up mining and decided to make his living as a
professional "regulator” and gambler. For the next decade he traveled from
Arizona -- to
and Tucson. The terrible scarring did nothing for Levy’s already bad temper and
during these years, it is estimated that he survived some sixteen shoot-outs.
One newspaper described him as a "pistolferous gambler." He was
also accused of murder more than once, but was never convicted of any.
On March 9, 1877, the
gunfight occurred when Levy argued with another gambler and
by the name of Charlie Harrison. Gambling in Shingle & Locke's Saloon in
pair began to argue and as it escalated, Harrison, insulted Levy, telling him
that he hated Irishmen. Levy quickly took offense and challenged Harrison to
take it outside. Harrison was known in Cheyenne for his
skills but Levy was not. Most thought that Levy would be shot dead in minutes.
Both the on lookers and Harrison underestimated Levy.
The pair moved outside,
continuing their verbal dispute, moving in front of the Senate Saloon before
finally stopping in front of Frenchy's on Eddy Street. There, they squared off
and as the two pulled their six-guns, Harrison's shot went wild. Levy, on the
other hand, took more careful aim and hit Harrison who fell to the ground.
Though, severely wounded, Harrison was alive and taken to his room at the Dyer's
Hotel. However, a week later, he died. Levy was never convicted, and later
and Wyatt Earp
would use the shootout as an example of how calm deliberation was better than
speed in a gun fight.
Jim Levy met his end on June 5, 1882 in Tucson,
Arizona. It was at the Fashion Saloon that Levy got into an argument with
faro dealer John
Murphy. After the two agreed to a duel, Murphy heard about Levy's shooting
skills and opted to ambush him instead. As Levy was leaving the Palace
Hotel unarmed, he was killed by Murphy and two of his friends.
of America, updated April, 2012.