Joe Burnett: “the man who killed the man who killed the man who killed Jesse James”.   Leave a comment


In the American old west there were all kinds of crazy cowboys, wranglers, miners, gamblers, gunfighters, outlaws and psychos.  This is one story where every one of these cutthroats met an early demise by gunfire, except Joe Burnett. Joe Burnett was an Oklahoma City policeman. He broke the chain that started with Robert Ford killing Jesse James for the bounty on Jesse’s head.



Jesse Woodson James (September 5, 1847 – April 3, 1882) was an American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death. Some recent scholars place him in the context of regional insurgencies of ex-Confederates following the American Civil War rather than a manifestation of frontier lawlessness or alleged economic justice.

Jesse and his brother Frank James were Confederate guerrillas, or Bushwhackers, during the Civil War. They were accused of participating in atrocities committed against Union soldiers, including the Centralia Massacre. After the war, as members of various gangs of outlaws, they robbed banks, stagecoaches, and trains. Despite popular portrayals of James as an embodiment of Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, there is no evidence that he and his gang shared their loot from the robberies they committed.



Robert Newton “Bob” Ford (December 8, 1861 – June 8, 1892) was an American outlaw best known for killing his gang leader, Jesse James, in 1882. Ford was shot to death by Edward Capehart O’Kelley in Ford’s temporary tent saloon with a shotgun blast to the front upper body. He was first interred in Creede, Colorado, where the saloon was located and where he was killed, but he was later reburied at Richmond Cemetery in Richmond in Ray County, Missouri, with “The man who shot Jesse James” inscribed on his grave marker.



Edward Capehart O’Kelley (October 1, 1857 – January 13, 1904) was the man who murdered Robert Ford, who had killed the famous outlaw Jesse James to receive a bounty. He was the subject of a 1994 book by O’Kelley’s great-great-niece.

Robert Ford befriended outlaw Jesse James in 1882, when he and his brother Charley joined his gang. They lived with James and his family for a time. Ford shot James in the back of the head to collect a state bounty of $5,000. By 1892, he operated a tent saloon in the silver mining camp of Creede, Colorado.

On June 8, 1892, while Ford was preparing to open his saloon, O’Kelley walked into the tent with a shotgun. Ford was turned away from the front entrance. O’Kelley called out, “Hello Bob.” As Ford turned around to see who spoke, O’Kelley fired his shotgun, hitting Ford in the neck and killing him instantly.

O’Kelley never explained why he had shot Ford. It has been alleged that Soapy Smith, the infamous Colorado con man, had convinced O’Kelley he would be a hero for killing the unpopular Ford. Another theory involves the accusation that O’Kelley had stolen Ford’s diamond ring, and the dispute escalated. For the crime, he was given a life sentence which was reduced to 18 years, but he only served about 8 years at Colorado State Penitentiary.

On 13 January 1904, O’Kelley was arrested by a police officer named Bunker. O’Kelley was released and went to his hotel, where he commented to others that the police had better not try to arrest him again. That evening, Officer Joe Burnett was walking his beat on the south side of First Street, in front of the McCord & Collins building. Burnett encountered O’Kelley and greeted him politely. In reply, O’Kelley struck at the lawman and drew a revolver. O’Kelley told Burnett, “You come with me. I’ll arrest you, you son of a bitch!” As O’Kelley struck at the officer again, Burnett grabbed the gun with his left hand.

The two men began to wrestle in a life-and-death struggle. O’Kelley fired his pistol several times, trying to shoot the policeman. At the same time, O’Kelley repeatedly called Burnett foul names, saying he was going to kill him. Burnett called out for help repeatedly. O’Kelley did not hit Burnett with his gunfire, but Burnett did receive powder burns on one ear. Once out of ammunition, O’Kelley used his teeth to bite chunks out of both of the policeman’s ears.

A friend of O’Kelley came to his aid and fired one shot at the policeman, but then lost his nerve and ran away. O’Kelley called out to him to come back, allegedly saying, “We will murder this fellow.”

R. E. Chapin witnessed the fight from the rear of the building on West Main Street and telephoned police headquarters. Chapin heard officer Burnett call out to several men passing by, “I am a police officer, help me!” One of the men replied, “We don’t know whether you are a police officer or not.”

Finally, A. G. Paul, a railroad baggage man, came running from the depot. He grabbed O’Kelley’s hand, thus freeing Burnett’s gun hand. The policeman immediately fired two shots and killed O’Kelley. Thus making him “the man who killed the man who killed the man who killed Jesse James”.

Posted July 30, 2014 by markosun in Uncategorized

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