News & Events

Date and Time of Release: 2 May 2012

Subject: Officer John Sheldon added to Peace Officer Memorials

On Monday, 7 May 2012, Officer John Sheldon will be added to the California Peace Officer Memorial in Sacramento. Then on Wednesday, 16 May 2012, his name will be added to the National Peace Officer Memorial in Washington D.C.

The Sonora Police Department nominated Officer John Sheldon to be added to the California Peace Officer’s Memorial. 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.

Sonora is one of the oldest Cities in California, being established 1 May 1851.
The most accurate information available regarding Officer Sheldon’s death was obtained, by using official documents such as City records, Coroner’s Inquest, and local news articles.

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.

During a City Council meeting on 5 April 1855, John Sheldon was appointed as a Police Officer for the City of Sonora. 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 on 5 April 1855.

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.

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 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 Colt pistol, serial number 3035, from him 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.


A: Journal entry showing John Sheldon being appointed as a Police Officer date 5 April 1855, one page

B: Coroner’s Inquest date 15 June 1851, shooting by Officer Sheldon, one page

C: Coroner’s Inquest date 29 April 1855, regarding the murder of Officer Sheldon, seven pages

D: Daily Alta article regarding the murder of Officer Sheldon, two pages

E: Chronicles of Crime CHISPA showing the murder of Officer Sheldon, one page

F: Entry into CHISPA regarding the murder of Officer Sheldon, one page

G: Coroner’s log showing the shooting Officer Sheldon was involved in, in 1851, one page

H: Coroner’s log showing the murder of Officer Sheldon in 1855, one page

I: Sacramento Daily Union 10 July 1855, regarding sentence of Escobar and Sebada

J: Sacramento Daily Union 6 Aug. 1855, regarding the execution of Escobar and Sebada