Sheriff McKinney was shot and killed as he and his deputies attempted to arrest several squatters.
As a result of the California Gold Rush, several confrontations took place between Sacramento County property owners and squatters during the summer of 1850. Following the funeral of the city assessor, who was killed in a battle with squatters the day before, Sheriff McKinney and twenty deputies rode to Brighton where several squatters had barricaded themselves in a house. As they entered the house gunfire erupted. Sheriff McKinney and two squatters were killed before the other squatters were forced to surrender.
Sheriff McKinney had held the position of Sheriff for only five months and was the county's first elected Sheriff