Jim Cirillo and son

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In 1999 at the Firearms Academy of Seattle in Washington state was conducted an IDPA match in which several of the stages were based on Jim Cirillo’s gunfights. Jim actually attended and shot this match; so did I. Afterwards I pitched to Denny Hansen, the editor of SWAT magazine, the idea of my doing an article on the match, within which I would also talk about the real-life gunfight that inspired each stage. Since I had known Jim for years, I knew I could interview him for the article. Getting the go-ahead from Denny, I then did my phone interview with Jim, which I recorded simply so I could replay the tape later to make sure I got all my facts correct in the article.

However when writing the article I realized that Jim’s gunfights, which I had intended to be just background to the match article, were so much more interesting that I abandoned the match article idea and simply made it an article on the gunfights themselves. This was a long article, folks, so long that it had to be split in half and run in two succeeding issues, September and October 1999, of SWAT.

Time went by, I received word of Jim’s death, which immensely bummed me out. Jim was just so damn COOL. For a man who, beyond any shadow of a doubt, was one of the few people in the modern age to deserve the term “master gunfighter,” Jim was also an amazingly nice guy, very emotional, very friendly, who, as he put it, “cries at sad movies.” The only guy who, even as I entered my 40s, always called me “kid.” He was also a famous storyteller, with impeccable comedic timing, who loved talking about his adventures with the famous New York City Police Stakeout Unit, and he’d had 30 years to polish his presentations smooth.

I did my articles, that audio tape sat in a box in my closet for the next 11 years, even after Jim left us. And eventually I started thinking about all the people who were never fortunate enough to know Jim, never got to hear him tell his stories, which really are an important piece of Americana, in that wonderful, heavy New Yawk accent of his, never got to enjoy Jim’s sense of humor, his immense warmth, never learned the lessons he had to teach. I took that tape and had it turned into an audio download, and here it is. I talked to Jim’s surviving heir, Jim Cirillo Jr. (shown in the photo above with his Dad) to get his blessing for the project, and offered him a portion of the income as I would have offered Jim Sr. if he was still with us. Jim Jr. was nice enough to give this undertaking his blessing.

By the way, before you listen to this download. I should mention two things.

One, when I conducted this interview Jim had just gotten a new girlfriend, years after the painful death of his wife Mildred, named Violet Jiminez. Violet answered the phone when I called Jim for our scheduled phone interview, which is why at the beginning of the tape I’m teasing him about getting a new girlfriend.

Two, the last gunfight Jim discusses during the interview is one in which he and frequent partner Bill Allard faced, and triumphed over, two armed robbers inside a hotel. I have heard Jim tell this story before, in person, and he had a perfect, funny wind-up to it, but as he was moving toward it, at that point I interrupted to ask a question about something else, and he never got back around to his normal, great ending to the story. So I offer it to you here:

During this stakeout, two armed robbers walked into a hotel lobby, one of them reached under his long coat and pulled out a sawed-off rifle and hit the counter guy right between the eyes. The counter guy went down while the second robber, armed with a handgun, scooted under the counter and was then back there with the counter guy. He tapped the till, then, seeing a drawer with a key hanging out of it, asked the counter guy, who was still on the floor, “Is there more money in there?” The counter guy answered, “No, there’s no money in there.” The bad guy opened the drawer and sure enough there was money in there. He snarled, “Why, you em eff,” and started kicking the counter guy, really putting the boots to him. Jim and Bill at this point didn’t want to come out and engage because if they did they’d have a hostage situation. But as soon as the second bad guy scooted back out under the counter they emerged and fireworks ensued. This is the gunfight where Bill Allard famously went through three guns before it was done.

All that is on the tape. What’s NOT is what happened afterward. Here it is, folks.

After the gunfight was over, Jim went up to the counter guy and asked him, “Why did you tell him there wasn’t money in the register? The key to the drawer was hanging right out of it, you had to know he was going to open it and find the money.”

Counter guy: “Well, after that first guy hit me I was so pissed off, I wasn’t going to do anything to help them.”

Jim (puzzled): “But you just fetched yourself a beating you didn’t have to get.”

Counter guy (grinning): “Yeah, but even as he was kicking me, and I was covering up, I was thinking, ‘Boy, are YOU guys about to get it.’”

And, as occurred to so many other malefactors who ran into Jim Cirillo, just a few seconds later that’s exactly what happened.

-Duane Thomas


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