Sheriff Isham Lafayette "Fate" Elder

Sheriff Isham Lafayette "Fate" Elder

Karnes County Sheriff's Department, Texas

End of Watch Monday, September 6, 1886

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Isham Lafayette "Fate" Elder

On Monday, September 6, 1886, Karnes County Sheriff Isham Lafayette Elder was shot and killed along with his brother, Deputy Sheriff James J. Elder, and Deputy Sheriff John M. Bailey who died the next day. Local citizens Hiram and Henry Pullin were also killed and Deputy Sheriff V. O. Vivvy Barfield, William G. Butler, and Christopher P. Dailey along with the County Attorney F. R. Graves were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

Shortly before noon on Monday, September 6, 1886, Sheriff Elder was sitting outside a polling place at Daileyville. Sheriff Elder observed Juan Coy and Epitacio Garza ride into town. Coy was wanted in connection for a murder that had occurred at Floresville in Wilson County. Coy and Garza dismounted; each took a Winchester Rifle his saddle scabbard. It was violation of the law for carrying firearms within one-half mile of a polling place by anyone except lawmen.

William G. Butler, a wealthy rancher, employed Coy and Garza. Butler and Sheriff Elder had some “hard-feelings” between them. Butler believed Sheriff Elder assisted in the killing of his son, Emmett, some 20 months earlier.

Coy and Garza begin firing at Sheriff Elder. The Sheriff drew his pistol and attempted to fire but his pistol misfired. Sykes C. Butler, 18, approached behind the Sheriff and fired a shot into the back of his head. Sheriff Elder fell to the road dead.

Deputy Bud Elder was fired on by Coy and Garza and seriously wounded. Bud Elder wounded William Butler. An unknown person then walked up to Deputy Elder and shot him in the head, killing him instantly.

Deputy Jack Bailey realized the bad tactical situation he was in and ran for the cover in a yard near the store with his pistol in his hand. As Deputy Bailey was in the yard, someone shot him and he fell. As Deputy Bailey was laying face up on the ground, he was then shot 2 more times. Later it was determined that Deputy Bailey had never fire his gun. Bailey had been shot in the right leg, and his knee was shattered, so doctors had to amputate his leg. He died the following day on September 7th of his wounds.

Isham Lafayette “Fate” Elder was born on December 23, 1851 in Helena Texas. He was married to Elizabeth Jane Robuck and had 3 children. Sheriff Elder was appointed by Karnes County Commissioners Court on January 5, 1885 and served until his death on September 6, 1886. He was the second Sheriff of Karnes County to be shot and killed in the line of duty in 18 months. All three dead lawmen were buried at Helena Cemetery, but only Bud Elder's grave site can be located.


  • Age 34
  • Tour 1 year, 8 months
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Weapon Unknown weapon
  • Offender Sykes Bulter

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No passage of time will ever erase your service and sacrifice and may you always rest in peace knowing that your fellow law enforcement will always remember and thank you.

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

September 6, 2020

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