Jim Turner (criminal)

James Turner (fl. 1854–1866) was an American criminal figure, pugilist and "slugger" for Tammany Hall. Turner was one of several men under Captain Isaac Rynders who committed voter intimidation and election fraud for Tammany Hall during the 1850s. He and Paudeen McLaughlin were bodyguards to Lew Baker and were present with him when Baker fatally shot William "Bill the Butcher" Poole in the back in 1855.[1][2]

Jim Turner
James Turner
OccupationCriminal and pugilist
Known forTammany Hall "slugger"; involved in the murder of William "Bill the Butcher" Poole.


A Californian-born thug and pugilist, Turner was forced to leave the state by the San Francisco Vigilance Committee in 1854. He eventually surfaced in New York City where he found employment with Captain Isaac Rynders and his Empire Club. In a short time, he became one of the Rynders' most feared "sluggers". In January 1855, Turner and Lew Baker entered Platt's Hall and became involved in a verbal altercation with prizefighter Tom Hyer "calling the fighter vile names". The argument escalated until Turner drew his pistol and shot Hyer in the neck. Hyer fired back but missed, hitting the wall instead. Putting away his weapon, Hyer attacked his assailants and dragged Baker out into the street, but the fight came to an end when a police officer arrived. The fight was broken up, but no charges were brought against the three.[3][4]

On the night of February 25, 1855, Turner and Paudeen McLaughlin accompanied Lew Baker when he entered Stanwix Hall saloon to confront William "Bill the Butcher" Poole over an argument he and John Morrissey had several hours before. Although most accounts claim Baker shot Poole when the two began fighting, another version has Turner and McLaughlin participating in the barroom brawl according to retired police chief George W. Walling. In this version, Turner pulled out a pistol to fire at Poole, using the hollow of his left arm as a rest, but shot himself in the arm with an eight-inch Colt Navy Revolver.[5] While falling to the floor, it was Turner who fired the second shot that hit Poole in the leg. Poole then staggered towards Baker who drew his own revolver and shot him twice then left the bar with Turner and McLaughlin.[6][7] He and McLaughlin were arrested soon after and imprisoned in separate cells in The Tombs. Turner was charged with a number of other men including Baker, McLaughlin, Morrissey, Cornelius Linn, Charles Van Pelt, John Huyler and James Irving among others, but all were eventually acquitted of the murder.[3][4]

On the morning of August 30, 1860, Turner was arrested and charged with assaulting a West Broadway resident, Edward Leonard, beating him so severely that he was hospitalized and confined to a bed. Turner was sent to The Tombs in default of a $500 bail by the presiding magistrate.[8] He was sent to the Workhouse on March 28, 1866, in default of $1,000 bail for his good behavior, after being charged with fighting, using foul language and striking Mary Ann Scott with a hot poker.[9]


  1. ^ Asbury, Herbert. The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the New York Underworld. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928, pp. 85-90; ISBN 1-56025-275-8
  2. ^ English, T.J. Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. (pg. 25); ISBN 0-06-059002-5
  3. ^ a b Sutton, Charles; James B. Mix and Samuel A. Mackeever, ed. The New York Tombs: Its Secrets and Its Mysteries. Being a History of Noted Criminals, with Narratives of Their Crimes. San Francisco: A. Roman & Co., 1874. (pg. 138-144)
  4. ^ a b Duke, Thomas S. Celebrated Criminal Cases of America. San Francisco: James H. Barry Company, 1910. (pg. 593-594)
  5. ^ Monkkonen, Eric H. Murder in New York City. University of California Press, 2001. (pg. 78) ISBN 0-520-22188-5
  6. ^ Walling, George W. Recollections of a New York Chief of Police: An Official Record of Thirty-eight Years as Patrolman, Detective, Captain, Inspector and Chief of the New York Police. New York: Caxton Book Concern, 1887. (pg. 49-51)
  7. ^ Lynch, Denis Tilden. "Boss" Tweed: The Story of a Grim Generation. Piscataway, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2002. (pg. 143-144) ISBN 0-7658-0934-6
  8. ^ "Police Reports.; "Jim Turner" In The Tombs". New York Times. 31 Aug 1860
  9. ^ "A Notorious Character Disposed of -- James Turner". New York Times. 29 Mar 1866

Further readingEdit

  • Beals, Carleton. Brass-knuckle Crusade: The Great Know-Nothing Conspiracy, 1820-1860. New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1960.
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry. Nation Famous New York Murders. New York: G.W. Dillingham Company, 1914.