Tracy had been a hotbed of activity for a number of years for law officers. Two Tracy officers had been shot and killed near the rail yards a few years earlier. Those same conditions existed in 1922 when Sheriff William Riecks hired Edward Brennan as a deputy to assist Southern Pacific Railroad officers in patrolling the Tracy rail yards.
Deputy Brennan was working the graveyard watch with S.P. Officer Eskel “Ed” Sholin during the early morning hours of July 21. The night had been eventful. Earlier, the two officers had responded to the sound of gunshots in the area south of the rail yards.
The first volley rang out at about 1 o’clock that morning. The officers investigated but found nothing. At about 4 0′ clock more shots were heard. Officers checked the shacks on the south side of the tracks but again found nothing. People in Tracy were awakened once again by a number of gunshots fired in rapid succession around 5:00 a.m. Deputy Brennan responded to the camp south of the tracks to investigate.
S.P. Officer Sholin was responding and was about 100 yards away when he saw Deputy Brennan approach two men near the shacks and start talking with them. Sholin could not hear what was being said. He said that Brennan had his hands on his belt and that from his actions he was commanded to put his hands up. Brennan complied, but the two men fired on him. Deputy Brennan fell near the spot where he was hit but managed to fire one shot at his attackers.
Officer Sholin also fired at the fleeing men a number of times, but they got away. One ran westward on Third Street while the other ran south on Central Avenue.
Deputy Brennan had been hit five times. One bullet had struck him in the breast, one lodged in his left leg and three entered his back. He was rushed to the offices of Dr. M. V. Turley in Tracy, gravely wounded. Brennan said nothing after the shooting but smiled at the doctor as he was being placed on a table. He died a moment later.
Tracy officers arrived on the scene and the sheriff was summoned from Stockton. Sheriff Riecks, Deputy Jesse Wheatley, and Deputy District Attorney Morgan Sanborn arrived to assist with the investigation. Local officers posted men to watch every train and guard the roads. The city was combed, but no trace of the pair was found.
Word of the killing of Deputy Brennan was sent to all law enforcement officers. Then, on Monday, July 24, 1922, one of the killers was found. Jesus Gomez, a 23-year-old who worked near Tracy, was taken off of a freight train in Reno, Nevada after officers there found he matched the description of one of the shooters.
While in the office of the police chief in Reno, Gomez signed a confession, stating he had been hired to kill the deputy by a tall man in the Tracy roundhouse who paid him $10.00. They lured Deputy Brennan to an out-of-the-way spot by firing a pistol in the air, and fired six shots at him when his back was turned, Gomez told officers. According to a local newspaper article Gomez “refused flat-footed to say a word as to who the other man was or where he went after the firing.”
Gomez was returned to Stockton by train. He gave officers various tales about his identity but he did not provide an alibi. He was positively identified by Ed Sholin as one of the killers.
Gomez was brought to the scene of the shooting and he pointed out what took place. He told officers that he had used a .32 caliber revolver, which matched the bullets taken from Deputy Brennan’s body.
Following his confession, Gomez was housed in the jail in Stockton. While confined there he began acting’ peculiar for several days. It was thought that he might have been feigning insanity to throw off the authorities. He was seen by several doctors. At one point he noted that one of the sheriff’s deputies looked like Deputy Brennan and he felt the officer’s spirit was following him. His peculiar actions continued, and after repeated examinations, he was deemed insane. Finally, on a motion by District Attorney Van Vranken, murder charges against Gomez were dropped.
Deputy Brennan was buried in an unmarked grave in the Rural Cemetery in Stockton. He was 37 years old and left a wife and one child.
Jesus Gomez was committed to the Clark sanitarium in Stockton. He was never tried for Deputy Brennan’s murder. His fate is unknown.