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Frank Loving was a 19-year-old youth at the time of the fight. Although often referred to as being a gunman, that reputation did not develop until after this gunfight. Loving had come to Dodge City from Texas, arriving the year before and settling into the gamblers life of the busy cattle town. He’d married, became friends with Long Branch owner Chalkey Beeson, and become associated with several notable gunmen, gamblers and lawmen of the day, including Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, John “Pie” Allen, as well as Levi Richardson.
Levi Richardson had a tough disposition and was disliked by most, but did get along fairly well with Bat Masterson. He had a reputation as a gunman, despite it being mostly hearsay. In early 1879, Loving quarreled with Richardson, claiming that Richardson was making unwanted and disrespectful advances toward his wife, Mattie Loving. The two threw taunts back and forth for a time, but with nothing more than verbal confrontations until March, when the two became involved in a fist fight on Front Street. After exchanging punches, Richardson exclaimed “I’ll blow the guts out of you, you cockeyed son of a bitch.” Loving, not being armed, simply turned and walked away.
On April 5, 1879, Richardson had evidently had enough. He strode into the Long Branch Saloon, specifically looking for Loving. However, Loving was not there at that time. Richardson then settled into a game of poker, and around 9:00 p.m. Loving strode in. Loving took a seat at a long table, at which point Richardson moved over and sat across from him. The two men could be heard talking low to one another, but what was said could not be understood. Suddenly, Richardson said loudly “You wouldn’t fight anything you damned son of a bitch,” to which Loving said calmly “Try me and see.”
Richardson stood and drew his gun, which prompted Loving to do the same. Both men began firing, with Richardson firing five rounds and Loving firing six. When the shooting stopped, Richardson had been shot in the chest, the side, and the arm. Loving was grazed on the hand by one bullet, but otherwise was uninjured. Town Marshal Charlie Bassett quickly responded, having heard the shots, but his Deputy Marshal Duffey arrived first, taking hold of Richardson, just before he crumpled to the floor. No one else in the saloon was injured, and Loving was arrested per standard procedure in such a case. On April 7, 1879, a coroners inquest ruled the shooting self defense, and Loving was released without charges. The newspaper The Globe later reported “It seemed strange that Loving was not hit, except for a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other.”