Joseph McKinney, the first elected Sheriff in Sacramento
County government, was the first peace officer slain in the line
of duty in Sacramento County.
Sheriff McKinney, a young man in his early 20's,
lived in the gold rush fever days of the early west — an era burdened
with a myriad of law and order problems. An epidemic known as "squatters
riots" developed throughout the west and Sacramento was no
exception. It was during a confrontation to oust land illegally
seized by squatters that McKinney became Sacramento County's first
law enforcement member to be slain in the line of duty.
Several confrontations took place between Sacramento
government officials and squatters with heavy casualties on both
sides during the summer of 1850. Following the funeral of the City
Assessor who was slain during a battle in a house on Second Street
on April 15, 1850, Sheriff McKinney, who narrowly escaped the barrage
of bullets the day before, rounded up twenty deputies and rode to
Brighton, a settlement several miles outside of Sacramento, where
squatters had barricaded themselves in a house. As the Sheriff and
his deputies entered the house, the Sheriff ordered the armed squatters
to lay down their weapons. A volley of gunfire erupted, killing
the young sheriff who stood in the foreground of the confrontation.
Sheriff McKinney was buried in the Sacramento City
Cemetery following services with full honors at Sutter's Fort.
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