News & Events

Date and Time of Release: 10 March 2011

Date and Time of Incident:

Subject: Nomination to the California Peace Officer’s Memorial

Recently the Sonora Police Department nominated Officer John Sheldon to be added to the California Peace Officer’s Memorial as a fallen officer. Officer Sheldon is believed to have been the first officer killed in the line of duty, while serving the City of Sonora in 1855. A copy of the letter appears below.

California Peace Officer’s Memorial Foundation
1700 I Street, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95833-2935

Re: Line-Of-Duty Death Enrollment Form

To whom it may concern;

Please find enclose an application to enroll Officer John Sheldon to the California Peace Officer’s Memorial. Officer Sheldon was the first officer killed in the line of duty with the Sonora Police Department back in 1855.

BACKGROUND: Sonora is one of the oldest Cities in California, being established 1 May 1851. During our research into this matter, we found some conflicting information on occasion. However, we have done our best to locate the most accurate information available regarding Officer Sheldon’s death, by using official documents. Copies of these documents have been attached for your review and consideration of adding Officer Sheldon to the California Peace Officer Memorial.

Officer Sheldon was involved in a shooting, in Sonora, on 15 June 1851, which was covered in a Coroner’s Inquest. It appears Officer Sheldon was assisting the City Marshall at the time, when he shot and killed a Chilean. A statement in the inquest refers to Sheldon as “John Sheldon one of the police.” If John Sheldon was an officer, working for the City of Sonora at the time, he may have been one of the first Police Officers for the City of Sonora. I have attached a copy of this inquest for your review.

During a City meeting on 5 April 1855, John Sheldon was appointed as a Police Officer for the City of Sonora. A copy of the minutes from this meeting showing the appointment is attached. It is unknown if Officer Sheldon had worked for the City in 1851, then his employment was severed for some reason, then he was reappointed again in 1855. But the records clearly indicate he was appointed as an Officer for the City in 1855.

Once again, there are some conflicting dates on Officer Sheldon’s death, as they range from April to May 1855. However, we are basing Officer Sheldon’s death on the Coroner’s Inquest into his death, which is dated 29 April 1855. In this inquest, the coroner refers to being called upon to view Officer Sheldon’s body on that date, at the United States Hotel, where he had died. There is also a local paper article dated 29 April 1855, which refers to the murder of Officer Sheldon. Both of these items have been attached.

It is believed Officer Sheldon’s murder was the result (retaliation) for the shooting that he was involved in during 1881, where he shot and killed a Chilean. There are several articles inferring the correlation between the two incidents. In fact, during the execution, one of the convicted men addressed the crowd and stated, “…Sheldon was a bad man, and had killed a Chileno…”

On the morning of 29 April 1855, at approx. 3:30 am, Officer John Sheldon was attacked (ambushed) while walking his beat in the downtown area of Sonora. Two subjects approached him from behind and fatally stabbed him in the side. The suspects also took Officer Sheldon’s pistol from him during the attack, before fleeing the scene.

Officer Sheldon made his way to the United Stated Hotel and contacted the keeper. The Keeper allowed him inside, where Officer Sheldon collapsed on the floor. Officer Sheldon was able to give an account of what had occurred before dying.

The assailants were identified as two Chilean’s named Banancio Escobar and Jose Sebada. The assailants were tracked by Sheriff P.L. “King” Solomon and were located in Tuttletown. At the time of their arrest, they were in possession of Officer Sheldon’s pistol and Sebada was sharpening a large knife, which was believed to be the murder weapon.

Both Escobar and Sebada were taken into custody and transported back to Sonora to stand trial. Evidence was presented at their trail, which lead to a verdict of “guilty of murder in the first degree.” Both men were sentenced to death. Then on 3 Aug. 1855, both men were executed by hanging, with approx. 4,000 people in attendance.

We of the Sonora Police Department and the City of Sonora believe evidence exists, and was presented; to show that Officer John Sheldon was in fact a law enforcement officer for the City of Sonora; and that Officer Sheldon was performing such duties when he was attacked and murdered in the early morning hours of 29 April 1855.
We also ask that the California Peace Officer’s Memorial Foundation Committee take time to review the attached documents and application supporting our position on Officer Sheldon’s death as being an in the line of duty death. If you so agree, we would like to see Officer John Sheldon’s name added to the honorable roll of Officer’s who have fallen in the line of duty.

If you should have any questions regarding this enrollment application, or if you should need any further information, please feel free to contact me directly. We look forward to hearing from you regarding this application.


Mark Stinson
Chief of Police