John Baird had been the Deputy Chief for the Riverside Police Department for about one year in 1912. He was known as a very capable officer and had moved up through the ranks very quickly. In fact, when the Chief of Police had passed away from natural causes in December of 1912, Deputy Chief Baird had been named acting chief until a new Chief could be appointed. At 33 years of age, Deputy Chief Baird was on the short list for the position.

On the night of December 14th and the early morning of December 15th, Riverside Police Patrolman Bert Barrett investigated a “disorderly House” (brothel) on 8th street (now University Avenue) where he had found several women and several cases of beer inside the house. Although eight years before Prohibition, Riverside County was a "dry" county and the sales of alcohol was illegal (as was prostitution).

Deputy Chief Baird responded to the house to assist with the investigation but soon noticed an odor of alcohol on Officer Barrett's breath. The Deputy Chief began to reprimand the Officer for drinking on duty when a third Officer intervened and suggested that they continue their conversation at the Chief's office (which was located in the Loring Building at Main and Mission Inn streets).

Back at the office, Deputy Chief Baird reprimanded Officer Barrett once again for drinking on duty. The argument became heated and Officer Barrett called the Deputy Chief a "son of a bitch." Both men came to their feet and squared off as if to fight. Officer William Lucas came between the two men and prevented an almost certain physical altercation. Tempers were cooled and Officer Lucas told both men that he was leaving for home (it was about 12:15a.m. by this point).

Officer Lucas collected his belongings and stepped onto the sidewalk in front of the Police Station on Mission Inn street. As Lucas closed the door, a gunshot rang out from inside the Chief's office. Lucas rushed back into the building and towards the direction of the Chief's office, hearing two more shots as he went. When Lucas opened the door to the back room where he had just left the two arguing men, he saw Officer Barrett standing over Deputy Chief Baird, who was suffering from three gunshot wounds to the head. Barrett was holding a smoking revolver in his hand.

Barrett turned to Officer Lucas and said "I guess I've done it." Lucas replied "I guess you have."

The Deputy Chief was still alive when Lucas entered the room, but he was unable to speak. Officer Lucas immediately called for a doctor while Barrett slowly changed out of his uniform and into his regular clothes. Half an hour after having been shot in the head three times, Deputy Chief Baird died of his injuries on the floor of the Chief's office.

Officer Lucas took custody of Barrett and walked him to the Sheriff's jail to book him for murder. While at the jail, Barrett suddenly produced from his coat the same revolver with which he had shot the Deputy Chief and placed the barrel against his own chest in an apparent suicide attempt. However, a Sheriff's Deputy quickly took the gun away from Barrett and prevented the suicide.

It was unclear why Barrett killed the Deputy Chief over what appeared to be a simple argument. However, the Riverside Daily Press stated "There had long been bad blood between the two men. The older officers resented the placing over them of a man younger in years in the service than themselves, and Baird's nagging habit irritated an exasperated Barrett, particularly when he was in liquor. Barrett admitted last night that that he had been drinking more than usual." All Riverside Police Officers interviewed by the Riverside Daily Press denied that there was any friction or jealousy within the department.

Barrett was eventually charged with Baird's murder and was held to answer. Barrett pled not guilty and later testified that he had shot Baird in self-defense when he thought Baird was reaching for a gun in his coat pocket. Barrett stated that he did not mean to kill the Deputy Chief. However, testimony from Officer Lucas, a doctor and the undertaker all confirmed that Deputy Chief Baird's gun was securely holstered and under a buttoned coat when he was shot. No other weapon had been found on the body.

Barrett's trial lasted four days and his lawyers argued for a charge of manslaughter based on self-defense. However, the judge dismissed the theory of self-defense based on the three shots fired. The jury deliberated for seven hours before rendering a verdict of guilty of manslaughter. A "reliable source" told the Press that the verdict was a compromise because in early deliberations four jurors had voted for 1st degree murder, three had voted for 2nd degree murder, two for manslaughter and three for acquittal.

The judge sentenced Barrett to the maximum of ten years in prison and Sheriff Wilson delivered him to San Quentin the next day via train.

Deputy Chief Baird is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Riverside.

Deputy Chief John Baird

Riverside Police Department Safe In His Arms Memorial