Flores-Daniel Outlaw Gang
Outlaw gangs are as old as the history of man. In fact the word "thug" (Thugz) can be traced back to around 1200 A.D. to gangs in India. But during the 1800's, Americans became fascinated by outlaw gangs such as the James Gang, Doolin-Dalton Gang, Billy the Kid’s Gang and many others. And throughout history, these gangs have often been glamorized. However, it should not be forgotten they were merely common thugs.
Such was the "Las Manillas" (the Handcuffs) later to become known as the Flores-Daniel Gang (1856-1857.) Led by Juan Flores and Pancho Daniel. This widely feared gang terrorized southern California stealing horses, cattle, and robbing travelers, sometimes killing their victims. Though regarded by white settlers as marauding outlaws, Mexican-Americans hailed them as folk heroes defending their rights and fighting American oppression.
According to Horace Bell, noted Los Angeles Ranger, soldier, lawyer and journalist, Juan Flores was born to a prominent family. He was a dark complexioned fellow of medium height, slim, graceful and about twenty-two years old. Bell described him as having a “…tiger-like walk, always seeming to be in the very act of springing upon his prey. His eyes neither black, grey nor blue, greatly resembling those of the owl—always moving, watchful and wary, and the most cruel and vindictive-looking eyes that were ever set in human head.”
Flores was first arrested in 1855 for horse stealing and imprisoned in San Quentin. However, he escaped in October, 1856 and soon joined up with another outlaw, Pancho Daniel. These two desperados recruited a number of other area Hispanics, including: Anastasio García, Espinoza, Andrés Fontes, Chino Varelas, Faustino García, Juan Cartabo and "One-eyed" Piguinino.
They became a formidable and notorious gang raiding areas of San Luis Obispo and San Juan Capistrano. One of the largest gangs in the state, "los Manilas" terrorized the area for the next two years stealing horses and cattle but also, committed armed robbery and murder.
Somewhere around early January 1857, Flores made plans to rob a wagon traveling from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano. For some reason they missed the wagon somewhere along the road. So, instead the gang ended up instead in San Juan Capistrano where they proceeded to ransack the store of local Russian-Polish merchant Michael Krazewski. Wounding his store assistant and making off with everything they could carry on their two horses, they promised to return the next day.
True to his word, they did return and this time murdered German shopkeeper George Pflugardt and pilfered other stores as well. Los Angeles County Sheriff, James R. Barton, quickly formed a posse to capture the outlaws. And on January 22, 1857, Sheriff Barton and Deputies William H. Little, Charles K. Baker, Charles T. Daly and three others, all armed to the teeth, set out after the Flores-Daniel Gang. The posse headed south.
The following morning the posse stopped for breakfast at Rancho San Joaquin, southwest of present-day Santa Ana. The owner, Don Jose Sepulveda, warned the men they were extremely outnumbered and should get reinforcements before facing their quarry. Unfortunately, they ignored the warning.
After tracking the gang about 12 miles south, they were ambushed in a canyon. They tried to return fire. However, someone at the ranch had removed the ammunition from their weapons. Without firearms, the lawmen scrambled for cover, but Sheriff Barton, Constable Charles Baker, Deputy Charles Daly, and Constable William Little were shot and killed. They became the first lawmen in Los Angeles County to lose their lives in the line of duty. The remaining three managed to escape and report what had happened.
Within two hours, another posse of about 60 men went out after the outlaws. James Thompson, who would later become Los Angeles County's new sheriff, led the posse. They soon found the mutilated bodies of the four officers. With righteous indignation, the posse continued on and managed to arrest 52 of them. In yet another posse, led by General Andres Pico, two of the most notorious gang members were lynched.
Anywhere from fifty to seventy Mexican-Americans were arrested on having affiliations with the Flores-Daniel gang. According to a reputable historian of the time, John Boessenecker, only four were confirmed as actual members of the gang. And between February 1857 and November 1858, eleven other suspected members of the Flores gang were lynched.
After eleven days on the run, Flores was brought in by a 120-man posse with "practically every man, woman and child present in the pueblo" which was estimated to be about 3,000 people. Flores was tried and hanged near the top of Fort Hill, later to be known as present-day downtown Los Angeles, February 14, 1857. Immediately prior to his execution, Flores addressed the crowd from the scaffold, stating "he bore no malice, was dying justly, and that he hoped that those he had wronged would forgive him.”
The trap door was sprung however, the noose was too short. Flores instead died from suffocation instead of a broken neck.
Pancho Daniel, eluded arrest for about a year before being captured. He was hanged on November 30, 1858. In all more than 100 gang members were either captured or killed.