Four Lawmen Shot Dead in California


The People of California Say No More

In the 1850’s, the gang “Las Manillas” (the handcuffs) were terrorizing the settlers of Southern California.  The Californio gang started out by stealing horses and cattle from the settlers of the new state and driving them over the border into Mexico. By 1856 the gang had grown to more than 50 members and had committed several armed robberies and homicides.   

In early January 1857, Las Manillas members made several raids on the town of San Juan Capistrano.  Store owners in the town were shot and one was killed.  One evening the gang set up in a bar and drank the night away as the citizens cowered, fearing that the drunken bandits would kill them.  Their actions seemed to go unchecked by the government.

When James Barton, the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, heard about the raids, he was outraged.  He quickly formed a small posse to hunt down the gang members and rode out immediately.  Although he was warned that he needed a larger force, he felt that he had to take action.  The small group, consisting of the Sheriff and six deputies and constables headed south to hunt the perps. 

On January 23, 1957, Barton’s small band met the Las Manillas. In a furious shootout, Sheriff Barton, Deputy Sheriff Charles Daly, Constable Charles Baker, and Constable William Little were killed.  The other members of the posse were able to escape with their lives and make it back to Los Angeles. 

These four men were the first Los Angeles lawmen killed in the line of duty.  The surviving men formed a new group of about 60 men and returned to the scene of the gunfight.  The dead sheriff’s and constable’s bodies were brought back to Los Angeles and given hero’s funerals. 

The deaths of these brave cops meant the end of the Los Manillas gang.  The people of Southern California were outraged at the murders and the gang was hunted down to the last man.  In all 52 gang members were either shot and killed, lynched after capture, or arrested and turned over to the courts.     

Christopher Flanagan
photo By ElHeineken – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


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