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 August 14, 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.