Law enforcement officers around the world went to work today, following procedures, watching each other’s backs and protecting the public, most of them unaware that the very safety procedures they practice daily were forged by four California Highway Patrol officers who made the ultimate sacrifice 40 years ago.
College students studying criminal justice may remember reading about “The Newhall Incident,” a bloody 4 ½ minute shootout that killed four officers who were ambushed in a Santa Clarita Valley restaurant parking lot.
Roger D. Gore, Walter C. Frago and George M. Alleyn James E. Pence, Jr., responded to
Officers Roger Gore and Walter Frago were responding to a call of a man brandishing a weapon from a vehicle shortly before midnight April 5, 1970. They located the car and were conducting a routine traffic stop at The Old Road and what is today’s Magic Mountain Parkway, instructing the driver to get out of the car and place his hands on the hood. As the officers approached the car, the passenger, Jack Twinning, jumped out and fired two shots into Officer Frago’s chest. He them fired once at Officer Gore, who returned fire. Driver Bobby Davis then shot Gore twice at close range. Both officers died instantly.
Officers Pence and Alleyn arrived moments later, and were immediately fired upon. Pence put out a help call, but both officers were mortally wounded within minutes in the gunfire exchange. Suspects Twinning and Davis split up and a nine-hour search ensued. Twinning took a hostage in a house in Pico Canyon, but killed himself without harming the man, using the shotgun he took from Officer Frago. Davis was captured, stood trial and convicted on four counts of murder.
He was sentenced to die in the gas chamber, but in 1972, the state of California deemed the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. His sentence was modified to life in prison. He was initially kept at Folsom State Prison, but was moved to Pelican Bay Prison and eventually to the Kern Valley State Prison, where he killed himself on August 16, 2009.
A memorial to the four officers is prominently displayed in the parking lot of the Newhall CHP Office on The Old Road, a short distance from the location of the incident itself. Events to commemorate the anniversary have included the placement of a wreath, gathering to hear from family members and in 2008, the dedication of a freeway sign commemorating the officers, placed at Rye Canyon Road on the I-5. Read the story of that dedication here.
This year, the public is invited to visit the CHP Newhall office for an Open House from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 28648 The Old Road. A historical memorial display, created by station personnel, will be available for viewing. For information on the open house, call 661-294-5540.