The Joss House Shoot-out - Bakersfield's Own Wild West
In 1903, Bakersfield was the scene of one of the great gun battles of the Wild
West. James McKinney, a notorious and violent outlaw, had fled nearby
Porterville in 1902 after a shooting spree that left one man dead and four
wounded. Several posses tracked the desperado over the next year as he
moved through Mexico and Arizona, killing several more men as he went.

On April 19, 1903, lawmen received a tip that McKinney and two accomplices
were hiding out in a fortified Chinese joss house (temple) in Bakersfield.
A cordon of officers surrounded the house and prepared to arrest him. Kern
County Deputy Sheriff Will Tibbett and City Marshal Jeff Packard called for
McKinney to surrender.

   

As they attempted to enter the building, McKinney opened fire with a shotgun,
killing Tibbett instantly and mortally wounding Packard. Officers returned
fire, and Bert Tibbet, Will’s brother, shot and killed McKinney.

McKinney’s accomplices were smoked out of the joss house by fire, and
later were almost lynched by a mob. The story was so sensational that it
was reported by no less a newspaper than The New York Times.

Officers Tibbet and Packard were solemnly laid to rest in Historic Union
Cemetery (spaces 132-3 and 135-3 respectively). Their graves are forever a
reminder of Bakersfield’s colorful, if sometimes violent, past.