Deputy's bizarre death stands out in Oklahoma County history 

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In the 125-year history of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, a total of six deputies have been killed in the line of duty.

Three of those were slain in gunfights, one died in a motorcycle accident and another succumbed to a heart attack while on duty.

The most unusual death however, was the strange case of Deputy Levi A. Ezell.

On August 24, 1914, Deputy Ezell was escorting a 17-year-old bicycle thief named Warren E. Mankin from the Justice of the Peace court back to the Oklahoma County Jail.

The young delinquent already had a rap sheet extending back three years, to when he was arrested for the ignominious-sounding crime of “pigeon theft.”

As he neared adulthood, Mankin was one of the “smoothest criminal operators in Oklahoma City” according to contemporary newspaper accounts.

Accidental shot

As the pair was walking toward the jail near Main Street and Hudson Avenue, Mankin suddenly broke free from the deputy and ran.

Ezell drew his .45-caliber revolver from its holster, but not with the intention of firing it. Instead, he reared back his arm and hurled the large weapon at Mankin, hoping to knock him down with it.

The deputy’s aim was true, and the gun struck Mankin in the back. Unfortunately, it failed to bring down his target or halt the escapee’s flight.

Worse still, tragically, the gun bounced off of Mankin, hit the pavement and discharged a round into the abdomen of its owner, mortally wounding him.

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Saving grace

Ezell was rushed to Post Graduate Hospital at 401 NE Second St., where emergency surgery was performed by J.F. Kuhn and George Hunter.

Unfortunately, their efforts were unsuccessful. Ezell died from internal bleeding at 5:45 p.m.

Warren Mankin’s freedom was short-lived. Ten minutes after the shooting, he was found hiding under a porch by Sheriff Martin Binion and recaptured.

The sheriff initially believed that Mankin himself shot the deputy. Strangely, there even were eyewitnesses at the scene who swore they saw Mankin pick up Ezell’s weapon and fire it at the deputy.

Mankin vehemently protested his innocence but was on his way to being charged with capital murder.

Luckily for him, in the deputy’s final moments of life, he was able to recount to the doctors and Sheriff Binion what had really happened. The dying man insisted the boy wasn’t at fault and told Binion that he shouldn’t be charged.

Fickle fate

The 41-year-old lawman was buried at Fairlawn Cemetery two days later. He left behind a pregnant wife and two young children.

Warren Mankin graduated from stealing pigeons and bicycles to the logical next step: motorized vehicles.

In 1918, he was sentenced to prison for pilfering motorcycles. Two years later, in 1920, he was in the headlines again for yet another escape after being charged with the theft of a car.

The criminal career of Warren Mankin finally came to an end on November 21, 1923. Two days earlier, he had escaped from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and returned to Oklahoma City, where he, predictably, stole another car.

When Oklahoma City Police detectives spotted him in the vehicle near the State Capitol building, Mankin, true to form, tried to flee. However, he was shot during the attempt. The bullet severed his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the waist down.

Mankin was taken to University Hospital, where his condition steadily declined. J.F. Kuhn, one of the doctors who had tried to save the life of Ezell nine years earlier, pronounced him dead Dec. 2, 1923.

Mankin was buried in an unmarked grave in Wylie, Texas, at the age of 26.

Print Headline: Deadly mishap, A shooting in the history of Oklahoma City differs greatly from ones that make headlines today.

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Bobby Dobbs

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