In January 1880, Las Vegas was firmly in control of a criminal cartel called the Dodge City Gang, which included several men who had migrated to New Mexico from the cowtowns of Kansas, hence the name. Acting in the capacity of lawmen, the Dodge City Gang strictly enforced a rule that no one was to carry arms in the city except them.
On January 22, 1880, four rough-housing cowboys by the names of T.J. House, James West, John Dorsey, and William Randall were parading about town, sneering, laughing, and looking for trouble. Word soon reached Marshal Joe Carson, who, along with Deputy “Mysterious” Dave Mather, found the men at Close and Patterson’s Variety Hall. They refused when Carson demanded that the four men “check” their guns. A wild gunfight ensued, and Carson was killed immediately, while Deputy “Mysterious” Dave Mather killed Randall and dropped West, badly injured. John Dorsey, though wounded, and T.J. House managed to escape.
Two weeks later, House and Dorsey were captured and housed along with the injured James West in the Las Vegas jail to await trial. However, soon, an angry mob broke into the jail, pulled House, Dorsey, and West from their cell, and lynched them.