The Marshal versus the Sheriff

Jesse Stansel at right

Marshal Jesse Stansel is at right in the image above. Catalog number: 5.22.8

  • In January 1906, Sheriff William Thompson, who had been elected with the support of newspaper editor David Day on an anti-gambling platform, started to tackle the gambling "problem." The city of Durango actually had a lucrative revenue stream from fines paid by gambling houses.
  • Sheriff Thompson raided the El Moro Saloon, found in the notorious "saloon district" on the West 900 block of Main Ave. He found a poker game in progress and a hastily covered roulette wheel which he confiscated.
  • Outside the El Moro, Thompson confronted Marshal Jesse Stansel, a city employee, accusing him of not enforcing the laws against gambling. The two men exchanged insults, pulled their guns and started firing. When the smoke cleared, Sheriff Thompson was dead and Marshal Stansel injured.
  • When the affair came to trial, eyewitness reports conflicted as to what happened. Who pulled his gun first? Who fired first? Were either of the men drunk? The marshal was acquitted.

Learn more about Durango's colorful history in the Law and Disorder exhibit at the Museum.

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