On Wednesday, Feb. 11, 1920, Deputy Sheriff Julian A. Partin, Imperial Co. Sheriff’s Dept., was shot and killed by Fred Lake, a pool hall owner and known gambler, in the dusty streets of Winterhaven, CA. Partin became the first peace officer to die in the war on vice in Imperial County.
In 1920, the community of Winterhaven was located in the midst of the Yuma Indian Reservation across the river from Yuma, Arizona. Winterhaven was a community in transition, changing from a rough, rural community with its share of pool halls, saloons, and bordellos to a more civil community with families, churches and schools. It was the frontier in the last county to join the state and Julian A. Partin was a 19th century man who was going to bring law and order.
Newspaper articles and Imperial County Superior Court documents state that in October of 1919, Sheriff Charles Applestill of Imperial County appointed Julian Abraham Partin to be his Deputy in the remote community of Winterhaven. Newspaper accounts of the shooting of Partin make numerous references to the many complaints about vice activity in Winterhaven made by Partin to Sheriff Applestill. February of 1920 found the Chief of Police and his officer son in the Imperial County Jail pending vice related charges. Partin had his hands full and would give his life for his caring.
The confrontation between Partin and his assailant, Fred Lake, seems inevitable. Lake’s pool hall and gambling establishment as located approximately 200 feet from the Partin resident. Lake’s establishment was the primary focus of Partin’s complaints to Sheriff Applestill. Partin had the manner of a 19th century lawman in that he was not going to be trifled with in matters of honor and duty. When Partin left his home shortly before 9 a.m. on his way to the store he had no way of knowing that Lake had endured all he was going to from this concerned lawman. Lake was waiting down the road with a Browning .32 automatic pistol. When Partin drew near, Lake, pool hall owner and gambler, opened fire on Partin hitting him numerous times and killing him. Word of the shooting reached Partin’s wife and children almost immediately. Partin’s wife and children sat in the dusty street holding the fallen lawman. Lake was arrested, tried by a jury, convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life in prison.
Julian Abraham Partin, aged 38, was born in Meridian, Mississippi on Friday, Nov. 3, 1882. The United States Census of 1910 and 1920 for Imperial County notes Partin’s occupation as that of a farmer. In 1910, Partin resided in Holtville, Imperial County, California, and in 1920 was a resident of Winterhaven. Partin was married and at the time of his death was survived by his wife and eight children.