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Porterville, CA 93257
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James McKinney's High Life

On Sunday morning, July 27, 1902, James McKinney, an ex-convict, murderer and all round bad man, ran amuck in Porterville, shot five men, one fatally, held up a livery stable for a team and made his escape.

McKinney at the time was employed at the Mint saloon as night manager. About midnight he and Ralph Calderwood, known as "Scotty," proprietor of a saloon and chop house, got together in the Mint saloon. Both had been drinking and McKinney was boisterous. He fired a shot from his revolver at random from the door of the Mint and then adjourned to Scotty's place where more promiscuous shooting was indulged in.

City Marshal John Howell, his deputy, John Willis, Deputy Constable W. L. Tompkins and a railroad employe named Lyons approached for the purpose of arresting McKinney, who began shooting when the officers were within fifteen feet of him. They returned the fire and Willis called, "Jim, stop your shooting." A shot was fired in reply. Attempting to fire again, the gun snapped and Willis remarked, "Come on, boys, he has no more ammunition, we will get him now." McKinney fled, pursued by the officers. Willis, who was in the lead, fired two shots, one of which hit McKinney in the leg. Willis, out of ammunition, continued the chase and got close enough to strike McKinney with his cane. McKinney had reloaded while running and upon being struck, turned and shot Willis, the ball taking effect in the upper lip, knocking him down.

The chase then ceased, but McKinney continued the flight to the house of his mistress, where he procured a shotgun and rifle. Starting to return to town, he encountered William Linn, a gambler, at whom without provocation he discharged a load of buckshot, fatally wounding him. Linn had previously been accidentally shot and slightly wounded in the exchange of shots with the officers. McKinney then went to the Arlington stables, roused the hostlers, and, covering them with his rifle, demanded a team, threatening to kill them if they did not hurry. While the team was being harnessed McKinney fired eight or ten shots towards the main part of town. He then got into the buggy and drove up through town, shooting at every person he saw.

George Barrow, a compositor in the Enterprise office, received a charge in the right arm and in the small of the back, and W. B. West was shot in the right arm and hip. West was slightly, and Barrow very severely wounded. After shooting Barrow and West McKinney drove through the main part of town to the residence of D. B. Mosier, whom he roused. He said, "I have killed four or five men down town and must leave here. I want you to give me all the money you have. Take these keys and you will find in the locker at the safe at the Mint saloon, $100. Tell the Indian, referring to Ed Isham, to give you that money. Tell Ed that I have gone, that they will never take me. Tracy won't be in it with me, I will kill anyone that looks at me."

Mosier gave McKinney all the money he had, about $60. McKinney drove again to Main street and took a parting shot at "Kid" Tatman, but without effect. He drove north then from Porterville, passing through Lindsay, and in the vicinity of Lemon Cove secreted himself near D. McKee's home.

Sheriff Parker was soon on the trail but failed to locate him, as McKinney had numerous friends who assisted him in keeping his whereabouts a secret. In August, and until October, he was seen in the Randsburg district, whence he disappeared to parts unknown, not being heard of until June of 1903, when he was reported in Mexico. Sheriff Collins secured extradition papers and went after him. McKinney, however, escaped and went to Kingman, Arizona, in which vicinity he murdered two men. Fleeing from the scene of these crimes he again appeared in the Randsburg region, being hotly pursued by Sheriff Lavin of Mojave county, Arizona, as well as by Sheriff Collins and ex-Sheriff Overall of this county and sheriff's possees from Kern county. McKinney, evading these, made his way successfully through the Sierras to Kernville and there narrowly escaped being killed by Rankin and McCracken, who recognized him and in a running fight, wounded him.

On April 19, 1903, McKinney was located in a Chinese joss house in Bakersfield. The house was surrounded by a cordon of officers, and Jeff Packard, city marshal, and Will E. Tibbett, special deputy sheriff, were killed in an attempt to enter it. McKinney appeared at the doorway and was shot and instantly killed by deputy sheriff Bert M. Tibbetts.


Source: History of Tulare and Kings Counties, California, Chapter IX - History by Eugene L. Menefee and Fred A. Dodge - Historic Record Company - Los Angeles, California, 1913

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