Deputy Sheriff J. M. Clifton

The Hobbs Flare (Hobbs, NM) of June 19, 1959 carried a column called “News of Yesteryears.” That day, the column quoted an out of print newspaper called the Lovington Tribune from February 26, 1932 and read as follows:

“Deputy sheriff and two men were killed in a gunfight at Crossroads. The late Bob Beverly was sheriff. J. M. Clifton, stationed at Tatum was searching for robbers of Dean Hardware in Lovington and saw two men in a car at Crossroads. He went to question them, and one drew a gun, shot him in the left arm and stomach. After Clifton was shot, he was able to draw his own gun and kill both men. He then drove to Crossroads where he was taken by plane to Lubbock, Texas, dying enroute. The two men were John O’Dell and Walter Carlock. Odell was from Hobbs and Carlock from Oklahoma. Mr and Mrs. Bob Dow of Lovington were returning home from Clovis and came up on the shooting.

Afterwards there was recovered from one of the men a watch belonging to M. P. Elsey of Corpus Christi. The news story went on to say the car was stolen.”

Deputy Clifton had died on February 24. An aircraft had been summoned from Roswell to take him to Lubbock for emergency medical treatment, but the pilot said that the deputy had passed away about forty minutes into the flight near the Texas-New Mexico line. The incident had occurred at the community of Crossroads, about fifteen miles north of Tatum. Deputy Clifton had been badly wounded but an Albuquerque Journal article from the following day had said that he had been able to tell authorities about the incident.

In the 1932 article, the deceased suspects were listed as Walter Carlocke of Healdon, Oklahoma and John O’Dell of Hobbs who were believed to have robbed the Lea County Hardware store. Quoting Lea County Sheriff Bob Beverly, the article continued to say that Carlocke was wanted for robbing a bank at Waurika, Oklahoma and O’Dell was believed to have been an escapee from an Oklahoma penitentiary.

Further details included the account of an unnamed rancher who heard the shooting and ran to the location, finding Clifton barely conscious and the two suspects deceased in their car. The rancher said that Clifton had given him a brief account before he was taken to Tatum, placed in an airplane to be rushed to medical treatment in Lubbock. The suspects were apparently not involved in the hardware store robbery, as no items stolen (firearms, ammunition, knives and other articles valued at between $500 and $700) were found in the vehicle. The search continued for the robbers.

Image credit: findagrave.com

Officer Clifton was about 28 years old when he died. He was survived by his wife and children and was buried in Tatum Cemetery. Some of the account differs from our telling of the story, which is mostly taken from Lea County newspaper articles from 1932, but this is Deputy Clifton’s page on Officer Down Memorial Page.