On Jan. 23, newly appointed Los Angeles County Sheriff James Barton along with Deputies William H. Little, Charles K. Baker, Charles T. Daly and three others set out to capture the notorious Flores/Daniel gang. While traveling through a canyon enroute to San Juan Capistrano to confront the gang, Sheriff Barton and the deputies were ambushed by the gang. Sheriff Barton, as well as, Deputies Little, Baker and Daly were killed instantly. Miraculously the other three deputies managed to escape. Sheriff Barton and Deputies Little, Baker and Daly became the first lawmen in Los Angeles County to lose their lives in the line of duty.
Six times James R. Barton was elected Sheriff of Los Angeles County, serving five consecutive years (1851-55) with a one-year hiatus. Barton refused to run again after a vigilante group lynched his prisoner. Two other men tried unsuccessfully to fill his shoes before Barton took the reins once more. Crime was rampant in Los Angeles, averaging one violent death per day. Barton was intrepid. When informed that the notorious Flores/Daniel gang was looting and pillaging near San Juan Capistrano, he did not hesitate. Barton gathered a few good men, Constables Charles Baker and William Little and deputized citizens Charles Daly, Alfred Hardy and Frank Alexander, and they rode to abort evil. Barton stopped for breakfast at the Sepulveda Rancho and was warned that there were fifty bandits, but trusting right would conquer might, his posse rode on. A single horseman, who fled at sight of them, caused Baker and Little to give chase. Twenty more men came out of hiding and slaughtered them. Seeing this, Barton and the others gave chase. Barton was shot through the heart, and the remaining deputies fled. Daly was overtaken and killed. Hardy and Alexander escaped, returning to Los Angeles to sound the alarm. Within hours, several posses were in pursuit. The deputies’ bodies were recovered, but had been mutilated, fueling anger and grim determination. A relentless search netted many desperadoes. Some were shot on sight and fifty-two others were arrested. Of these, 18 hung.