Line of Duty deaths prevalent in Old West
In the vast history of American
law enforcement, the U.S. Marshals
have been involved in some of the
deadliest episodes on record in
which felonious actions resulted in
multiple officer casualties.
And while none of these can rival
the most costly incident ever - the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on
New York City's World Trade
Center in which 60 officers were
killed - four of the top 22 incidents
involved deaths of deputy marshals.
On April 15, 1872, eight deputy
marshals were shot and killed In
what came to be known as the
Going Snake Massacre, which
occurred in Tahlequah, Indian
[A tract of the Indian Territory
that is now the state of Oklahoma became known as the Oklahoma Territory
in 1889. Oklahoma statehood began in 1907.]
Throughout the American frontier
in the late 1800's, U.S. marshals and
their deputies served as authorities
between the native Indian population
and white settlers who were moving
westward. The marshals generally
enjoyed peaceful relations with the
Indians, but this was not the case
that long-ago April day.
The trouble in this one particular
instance started when a Cherokee
Indian named Proctor shot a white
American man named Kecterson in
the head, seriously wounding him.
Proctor then turned his gun to
Kecterson's wife -- who was a
Cherokee - and killed her.
At that time, Indian courts handled
affairs amongst Indians while
American courts did the same for
white settlers on the frontier. But Kecterson was worried that Proctor
would be acquitted in Cherokee
court and he still wanted justice to
be served. He turned to the local
American government. As a result,
the U.S. commissioner issued an
arrest warrant to the Marshals
Office on condition the Cherokee
court failed to convict Proctor.
Deputy Marshals Jacob Owens
and Joseph Peavy organized a posse
of 10 men. The trial was strategically
moved to the local Cherokee
schoolhouse, which sat above a
prairie clearing -- affording the
Indians a safe location from which
The two lawmen and their temporarily
deputized companions rode
their horses into the clearing in front
of the schoolhouse and then dismounted.
Their intention was to take
seats in the rear of the makeshift
courtroom and await a verdict.
It is unclear if their weapons were
drawn as they approached the
building, but as they walked closer,
several Cherokees exited the front
door and immediately began firing.
The members of the posse had no
place to hide. They fired back as
they retreated to their horses, killing
three Indians and wounding six
others as they went, but they were
Seven possemen were killed on
the spot; Deputy Owens died several
"It was the worst slaughter of
marshals in history," wrote former
agency historian Ted Calhoun in his
book "The Lawmen."
The Cherokee jury acquitted
Proctor the following day.
The above account depicted the
most costly encounter for deputies
and specially deputized posse
members. But there have been others throughout the agency's
- On May I , 1885, Deputy Marshal
Jim Guy, along with possemen
Bill Kirksey, Andy Roff and James
Roff, were killed in Delaware Bend.
Indian Territory, in a shoot-out with
the Pink-Lee Gang;
- In Eufaula. Indian Territory,
Deputy Marshal William Kelly and possemen Mark Kuykendall and
Henry Smith were shot and killed
during a prisoner escape Jan. 17,
And in Ingalls.
- Oklahoma Territory,
a shoot-out with the famed
Doolin-Dalton Gang on Sept. 1,
1893, left Deputy Marshals Ham Hueston and Lafe Shadley. as well
as posse member Dick Speed, dead.