By Deanne Stillman
It is opposed to the backdrop of those competing visions of land and area that Donald Kueck - a desolate tract hermit who enjoyed animals and hated civilization - took his final stand, gunning down liked deputy sheriff Steven Sorensen while he approached his trailer at excessive midday on a sizzling summer time day. because the sound of rifle fireplace echoed around the Mojave, Kueck took off into the wasteland he knew so good, kicking off the largest manhunt in sleek California historical past until eventually he used to be eventually killed in a Wagnerian firestorm below a whole moon as nuns at a close-by convent watched and prayed.
This manhunt was once the topic of a largely praised article via Deanne Stillman, first released in Rolling Stone, a finalist for a PEN heart united states journalism award, and incorporated within the anthology top American Crime Writing 2006. In Desert Reckoning she keeps her barren region beat and makes use of Kueck's tale as some degree of departure to extra discover our dating to put and the wars which are taking part in out on our fatherland. furthermore, Stillman additionally delves into the hidden background of l. a. County, and strains the trails of 2 males on a collision direction which may simply result in the trendy Wild West. Why did an excellent, self-taught rocket scientist who simply desired to be left by myself burst off the rails whilst a cop confirmed up? What function did the California criminal method play during this drama? What occurs to humans whilst the yank dream is stripped away? and what's it like for the boys who're sworn to guard and serve?
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Additional resources for A Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History
For years, law-abiding locals felt they were under siege, as the city and its problems climbed Highway 14 into the desert, an underpatrolled area where if you called a cop, it might take two hours for a black-and-white to arrive. In 2000, the beleaguered town finally got its own resident deputy—Stephen Sorensen, a ten-year veteran of the sheriff’s department. “Resident deputy” meant that you lived where you worked, a gig that was undesirable to some because it involved solitary travel to remote locations on calls involving violent people.
Receiving word of the murder, Sheriff Barton called for volunteers to ride with him to San Juan Capistrano. On the night of January 22, he and six men left Los Angeles and headed south, stopping for breakfast at Refugio, the main house owned by Jose Sepulveda, one of California’s wealthiest dons. Among the vaqueros and servants at the don’s house was Juan Flores’s Indian sweetheart. Leaving their guns in an outbuilding, Sheriff Barton and his men sat down for their morning meal, during which they were warned that Flores was well armed and mounted, with a force of fifty or sixty men, greatly outnumbering the members of county law enforcement.
But Kueck wasn’t finished. We know from witnesses who heard the shots that a second volley of bullets was fired, two more to the side of Sorensen’s chest, and then as he lay mortally wounded, Kueck pumped him with eight more rounds, including one that blasted through an eye and blew his brains out. When it was over, Kueck had raked the deputy’s body with fourteen shells. Unbeknownst to Kueck, he was being watched. After hearing the shots from their home a mile away, Frank Baker’s wife and kids had climbed their lookout tower and now, through a scope, observed Kueck ransacking Sorensen’s Ford.
A Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History by Deanne Stillman