Lawman Dan Tucker pushed his chair back from the desk and stood up. He tightened his gun belt, retrieved a double-barrelled shotgun, and left his office to patrol the shadowy streets of Deming, New Mexico. 


Tucker served as city marshal of Shakespeare, New Mexico, but traveled sixty miles to Deming in November 1881 to help deal with a rebellious outlaw gang that had gained the upper hand.

Soon after his arrival, Tucker delivered a strong message that he would not tolerate lawlessness.

Gang members learned firsthand why the visiting lawman’s shooting skills had earned him the nickname Dangerous Dan.

Newspaper reporter C.M. Chase, visiting Deming to report on the new railroad junction, wrote that three outlaws paid for their sins with their lives a few days after Tucker arrived. Two others suffered gunshot wounds.

By the following February, the gang had moved on. And according to a report in the Southwest Sentinel of Silver City at the time: “Everything is quiet in Deming.”

Tucker never ranked in name recognition with some of the more well-known gunmen of the Old West, says historian Leon C. Metz.

He described Tucker as “…a better lawman, and more dangerous than such redoubtable characters as Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok.” 

Born in Canada in 1849, Tucker eventually drifted into Grant County, New Mexico, where Sheriff Harvey Whitehill hired him as a deputy in 1875. 

Three years later, he became Silver City’s first town marshal.

In November 1878, during his first year on the job, Tucker took a bullet during a shootout with outlaw Caprio Rodriguez, who resisted arrest. But when the smoke settled, Rodriguez lay dead in the street.

Two years later, Tucker moved to the rough mining camp of Shakespeare. Within a year, he established law and order by rounding up more than a dozen members of a cowboy gang.

In September, he shot and killed a cattle rustler named Jake Bond. 

A couple of months later, just before leaving for Deming, he put a fatal bullet in a man who rode his horse into a local hotel dining room.

The same month, he arrested outlaws Sandy King andRussian Bill” Tattenbaum.” A band of local vigilantes hanged the two men.

In addition to serving as town marshal, Tucker wore the badges of a Deputy U.S. Marshal, a livestock inspector, and a railway agent.

Bob Alexander, author of Dangerous Dan Tucker: New Mexico’s Deadly Lawman, wrote, “For a time—50 years or so—Silver City set the stage for Wild West drama of the first order, with a cast of colorful players numbering in the hundreds. They were not actors, though, and the set was not a sham…” 

According to various sources, Tucker found himself in the middle of about a dozen gun battles. 

Tucker rarely asked questions of the men he pursued, preferring a shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach. 

Tucker once admitted to the Silver City Enterprise that “in the course of his duty as a deputy sheriff, he has been obliged to kill eight men in this county, besides several in Lincoln and Dona Ana counties.”

He also escorted four others to the gallows.

Tucker once opened a restaurant and saloon in Deming in 1884 but called it quits a year later.

He then went from the kitchen to horseback and accepted an appointment as Deputy U.S. Marshal for the region.

Three years later, Tucker turned in his badge and left for California.

In 1892, Tucker returned to Grant County for a brief visit. 

But, for reasons unknown, the legendary and all-but-forgotten lawman vanished. No one ever saw or heard from him again. 

Where he traveled from Grant County remained a mystery, as did the cause of his death. 


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