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ElDorado's Legend Of Marshal Tucker
The Tucker-Parnell Feud
Immediately, a controversy arose over exactly what had happened. One report claimed Mullens had been released from the custody of the lawmen, then got into aconfrontation with Dearing the next day, a confrontation that ended with Dearing shooting Mullens.
But Mat Parnell disputed that version. He claimed he had witnessed Mullens' dying statement that the photographer was still in custody when Dearing shot him and that Tucker had held him while Dearing pulled the trigger. In addition, Mat Parnell swore his brother,Dan had witnessed the shooting and could testify to the truth of Mullens' dying words.
To get to the bottom of the mystery of Mullens' death, the county's legal machinery swung into motion. Within three weeks, a grand jury was convened to consider the circumstances surrounding Mullens' fatl shooting. Testimony began Monday, October6. amoung those subpoenaed were Mat Parnell and his brother Dan. They were ot testify beginning Thursday,October 9.
The Parnells' defenders would claim that those subpoenas were the real cause of the downtown gunfight. Tucker took increasingly desperate steps to keep the Parnells from testifying before the grand jury, the defenders would say. For his part, Tucker would accuse the Parnells of ganging up on him out of anger over Mullens' shooting. Tucker characterized Mat Parnell as the ringleader of the brothers and as "agitator" in bringing on what would later be referred to by so many as" the difficulty."
On Thursday, October 9, as Mat Parnell returned from lunch, Tucker met him on the street corner. The marshal ordered the merchant to halt work on a sidewalk under construction on the east side of the family store. That work had been under way for more than a week. The mayor and town council were aware of it and had raised no objections.
Mat Parnell believed Tucker was trying to provoke him and sidestepped the issue, saying he had nothing to do with the work. He referred Tucker to the contractor involved. Parnell believed that was the only way he escaped" bodily harm" at the time.
Having evaded Tucker, Mat conferred with Dan, who quickly set out ot find the mayor. The mayor denied having given any instructions to halt work on the sidewalk. Dan relayed that information not only to Mat, but also to his brothers, Tom and Walter. Although Tom and Walter had not yet been invoved directly in the growing conflict, that now changed.
As the clocks in town neared 4:30, Tom and Walter crossed the street to the courthouse fence. Tucker appeared inside the courtyard. All three men were armed, though the Parnells kept their pistols concealed. The deadly moment had arrived.
The two brothers each placed a hand on the fence, keeping their other hands in their pockets. As Tucker approached them, Walter told the marshal that, from what he could learn, the lawman was the only person objecting to the construction of the sidewalk near the Parnell store.
Tucker whipped his Colt out of it's holster and pointed it at the two brothers, warning, "Put it down," and "Make a move and I will kill you."
The argument had grown loud enough to draw attention of people all over the east side of the square. As many as 100 may have witnessed part or all of the incident. Many observers made sure to keep a safe distance. Others, some with intentions of becoming involved in the brewing fight themselves, began moving toward the antagonists.
One of those edging closer was yet another Parnell brother, Jim, a slightly built man, especially compared to the much larger Tom. Jim Parnell crossed the street to take a postion to the left of Tucker. Seeing him draw near, Tucker warned,"Hold on. Don't get behind me Jim."
"I'm not going behind you," the other man replied as he came up to the fence. Like his brothers, Jim Parnell was carrying a concealed pistol.
Yet another interested onlooker was Constable Dearing, Tucker's fellow lawman and partner in the recent events that had led to this standoff. Dearing had been sitting on the steps of his own store with a newspaper in his hands when he heard the uproar. He stood up, placing his hand on a post, and watched for a moment. Then, dearing left his store and walked toward the commotion.
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