Federal Prohibition Agent Stafford E. Beckett

Federal Prohibition Agent Stafford E. Beckett

United States Department of the Treasury - Internal Revenue Service - Prohibition Unit, U.S. Government

End of Watch Monday, March 21, 1921

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Stafford E. Beckett

Federal Prohibition Agent Stafford Beckett and Narcotics Inspector Arch Wood were shot and killed near El Paso, Texas, while raiding a still with seven other agents.

Federal officers received a tip that a load of 23 cases of liquor was to be sent across the border to a hog ranch in the lower valley about five miles from El Paso. On the night of March 21, 1921, agents approached the ranch and stopped a car driven by the ranch owner's father father, but found no liquor. The agents and the driver went to the ranch house in their cars.

The father started for the house, but came back for his gun. The officers let him get his shotgun out of his car. They started towards the house with father in the lead when a volley of shots rang out. Agents Beckett and Wood were mortally wounded. The remaining officers returned fire. When the agents were able to enter the house, the gunmen were gone in the darkness.

The man and three of his sons were indicted and charged with the murders. The family alleged the federal officers fired first. There was a mistrial in June 1921. In September 1921, three of the men were re-indicted for having resisted federal officers, but they were found not guilty. On April 24, 1922, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the indictment against the family on the grounds that it failed to state on what authority prohibition agents raided the Ranch.

Agent Beckett was survived by his wife, 8-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter, and parents. He is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.

Agent Beckett began his federal service in March 1916 as a temporary Mounted Watchman in El Paso with the U.S. Immigration Service, which at the time was a part of the Department of Labor. He was promoted to Immigrant Inspector in December 1918. He enlisted as a Texas Ranger in Company B on October 4, 1919. He returned to federal service as a Federal Prohibition Agent one year prior to his death.


  • Age 31
  • Tour 5 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Texas
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Acquitted

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Thank you for your service and please know that no passage of time can ever erase your sacrifice. Rest in peace always.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

March 21, 2021

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