Newhall Incident/Shootout/Massacre, Firefight Friday

In the early hours of April 6, 1970, a series of events occurred that brought about the largest single day loss of life for California law enforcement. From start to finish, it took 5 minutes. At approximately 2355 hrs of April 5, two CHOP officers, Walt Frago and Roger Gore initiated a traffic stop on Jack Twining and Bobby Davis.  They were initially compliant, but minutes later opened fire on the two officers, killing them. Two more CHP officers arrived, James Pence and George Alleyn. They engaged the suspects in a shootout but were also ultimately shot and killed. A nearby citizen, Gary Kness, Marine and bad-ass hero, attempted to assist by grabbing a fallen officer’s weapon and returning fire but he eventually ran out of ammunition and was forced to hide in a ditch. Eventually a third officer arrived on scene and the suspects fled.

One of the suspects, Bobby Davis was located later and arrested. Twinings, however, was able to elude capture until he broke into a home and took the homeowner hostage. LA Sheriff’s Department was able to negotiate the release of the hostage. Twinings subsequently killed himself. Davis was sentenced to death, but California is California, and his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He killed himself in 2009.

Several procedural changes arose from the incident. The officers had trained with .38 caliber rounds while they carried .357. The difference in recoil was substantial. There was also argument that speed-loaders would have assisted the officers in getting back in the fight quicker. Standardization of weapons and ammunition among officers became more prominent.  Speed-loaders were soon approved and issued. New procedures for arresting high risk individuals also came about. Bullet-proof vests, not being standard issue at the time, were not worn by the responding officers. 3 of the 4 officers died from wounds that would’ve likely been prevented with effective body armor.

 

Officer Walter C Frago, 23 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/5056-officer-walter-c-frago

Officer Roger D Gore, 23 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/5590-officer-roger-d-gore

Officer James E Pence, 24 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/10509-officer-james-e-pence-jr

Officer George M Alleyn, 24 years old.

http://www.odmp.org/officer/1153-officer-george-m-alleyn

All four had less than 2 years on the job. All told, 4 widows and seven children laid their heroes to rest.

These 4 men did not die in vain. The lessons learned from their deaths have saved countless officer’s lives in the last several decades.

A Brother Was Killed Today

I’ve been in this job for almost 10 years. I’ve been around cops since the day I was born. I grew up hearing stories from my Dad about cops he knew who had been killed in the line of duty. Men he respected. Men he admired. Real cop’s cops. The kind of men he loved working along side. In my 32 years, I’ve never known a cop who was killed in the line of duty. Maybe that’s a blessing in itself. All the men my Dad talked about died years ago. All the cops I heard about in the news died so far from here. The cops that died near me always died in the city. I always knew it could happen here. I’m not stupid. But a part of me thought we were too lucky, too blessed to have that happen.

Today, Deputy Jacob Pickett, Boone County, Indiana, was shot while in foot pursuit of a wanted suspect. He had no chance of recovery. I’ve known Jacob for years. We went to school together. We worked together briefly. Even after he left, I responded to a call and, lo and behold, he was on scene. I tried to talk him into coming back to us. I wanted him with us, in our home county, but he was too loyal to Boone and too loyal to his K9. We shook hands that night and parted ways with a promise to grab a beer sometime. We never did.

He leaves behind a wife and two children. He left behind a broken hearted department. He leaves behind a community recently rocked by tragedy.

He also left behind a legacy. A legacy of bravery and dedication. A legacy of hard work and determination. And a physical legacy in the organs he promised to donate if this ever occurred. Somewhere today, lives were forever changed for the better because Jake was a giver. Tonight, Jake’s lungs will help someone breathe a little easier and his heart will beat in someone else’s chest, continuing his legacy of service. If only his liver could go to his brothers, who will no doubt join me in a solemn moment of reflection and an evening drinking to his memory.

In a true testament to the men and women of this profession, his coworkers will don their uniforms tomorrow, before the sun comes up. They’ll pull their vest on, buckle their duty belt, and holster their weapon. They’ll patrol the same streets where it all started today. They’ll do the same job Jake did today. And god willing, they’ll come home. Why do they do it? At some point in our lives, we’ve all realized how important the job is. If we don’t do it, if guys like Jacob don’t do it, who will? We don’t want a world without Deputy Pickett’s willing to give it all for the greater good. And we better be damn thankful.

Rest Easy, Jake. Let’s grab a beer sometime.

The Night I Got Hit By A Car, What’s That? Wednesday

Ten years ago, this clock was hanging on the wall of a Family Video. That night, I was working, like any other night at that time of my life. I was set to close the store. Part of those duties included cleaning the store. I had just begun to clean up some of the more hidden parts of the store and hopped on top of one of the cabinets to retrieve some items that had fallen behind it.

As I hopped off the counter, I heard a loud noise. I turned and the cabinet holding the entirety of our video game selection was tipping towards me. I was unable to get out of the way and it knocked me over and landed on me. The way I landed, and how it landed on top of me kept me from getting up. There was smoke and dust in the air. I heard a woman shout, “Call 911!”

“Hang up the damn phone. Nobody call 911. I’m fine.” I was more embarrassed than anything. I knew I’d put on some weight, but I never imagined it was enough to topple massive cabinets.  Then I heard a little old lady shout, “Oh my goodness! There’s a truck in the store!” Out of nowhere, a man appeared and lifted this cabinet off me. I was able to get out from under it as I heard sirens approaching. As suddenly as he appeared, he was gone. I never saw him again.  He was either an angel or wanted.

Once I was able to get out, I could see the wall and the ceiling were caved in. The clock was missing. People were milling about, trying to get a closer look when I heard a distinctive chime of the door opening. A woman came in, with a bag full of DVD’s, and casually dropped them off in the drop box and proceeded to browse. I told her, “Hey, you gotta go, we cant have people inside.” Then that little old lady shouted, “That’s the lady who hit the store!” She was either in shock or hoping no one noticed her goddamn Ford Explorer was 3 feet off the ground inside my store! Her toddler of a child even weirdly told us, “I told my Mommy her brakes sounded funny.” Bullshit. Now we knew why it took her so long to come in. She was likely coaching her kid.

The cause of the crash was determined to be “Brake failure.” But she drove against the curb, thought she had more room, revved it and ramped it, and voila she came through the wall. I ended up going to the hospital with a possible broken leg. Turns out, I was just a gigantic baby.

My boss at the time presented me with this clock, which stopped at the moment of impact. We had to close the store that night, but we were open the next day. I wound up with a few days off and an ok settlement. It wasn’t much longer that I left to start a career in law enforcement. I keep this clock handy as a reminder of how quickly things can change.

“What’s That? Wednesday” is a series of posts about quirky things I have in my office that people tend to ask about when they spot them.

The Last on Courtesy from Elements of Police Science

This will wrap up the chapter on courtesy as briefly as possible. I’m working on a way to summarize all the courtesy points from several sources into one compact write-up that I might post here. Hopefully it’s worth a damn.

Our author is brief but specific in his expectations of personal appearance and tone. He points out that appearance is accepted as going hand in hand with ability. While well dressed men may not make the best officers, the best officers should present themselves in a clean professional manner so as to exude confidence in their ability. Take a bath, shave, wash your hands, cut your hair, and brush your teeth. These all seem like basic points, but he felt the need to present them. An entire paragraph is dedicated to bad breath. If you can’t get rid of bad breath, he goes so far as to recommend medical help! Basically, wash your ass, shine your brass, and shave. That’s the best way I can summarize this section.

His next section covers tone. “Every time you speak, you touch someone with your voice.” “Ninety percent of all the friction of daily life is caused by mere tone of voice.” The author suggests you not talk too loudly, don’t mumble, but don’t enunciate every single word. He recommends a low pleasant voice. Personally, I have found that about 90% of my interactions are best facilitated by a quiet voice. Raising my voice in a tense situation occasionally calms it down, but a soft voice has been far more effective.

The chapter continues with instructions on how to act patriotically in regards to the flag. There is also a ridiculously detailed section on dining etiquette. I suppose back in the day, police officers were held in a higher regard in society and dined with important people. The author felt officer’s needed instruction on how to hold a spoon, which fork to use, and how to hold a glass. It’s crazy to think how far things have changed. I’ll skip those details, as they are excruciatingly boring.

We end with the section “Courtesy Pays.” In the same sense as karma, the author explains that being courteous will return great rewards for those who take the time. While never being able to point to a single action we perform, the small things we do daily, added up, can enhance the respect and support we receive from the public. The only tangible immediate return we see is the feeling in our heart. We’ll never get rich doing this job; however, the feeling of accomplishment we receive from what we do shouldn’t be ignored. Sometimes, that’s all we get. We also can’t ignore the impact our interactions have on the public. “The whole life of a person in his outlook on law and officers of the law may be involved in a minor contact with him. An unthinking act of discourtesy may embitter him or a simple display of consideration and thoughtfulness make him an ally on the side of law and order.”

I’ll close with a few personal stories about how I think courtesy can affect our attitudes towards law enforcement.

My Dad told me a story of when he was a teenager he had a flat tire while in bad weather, and had no tools. An officer, with tools, stopped and helped him change that tire without complaining. Without that officer, Dad would have been stranded. Dad told me the way that officer did his job, and  how he was helping him in his hour of need, left an impression on him. He said he admired the officer so much he wanted to become an officer himself.

If we rewind a few years, my Dad was a child. His family wasn’t flush with money. They got by but vacations were few and far between. He told me of a time when Grandpa had hyped a camping trip. All the kids were excited. He said they had the car loaded up and had just pulled out. They weren’t far from home when Grandpa got pulled over. I don’t recall the infraction, but Grandpa got a ticket. He didn’t argue. He didn’t complain. He accepted the ticket, and then he turned around and told everyone, “Well, sorry, guys, we can’t go camping.” That ticket was enough to set them back that Grandpa couldn’t afford the trip any more. As a child, I cannot imagine how much you have to hate that cop for ruining your trip. Maybe Grandpa deserved the ticket, but a child probably doesn’t care. I tell these two examples to show how a single act from a cop could totally influence someone’s opinion on us. In every single thing you do, be cognizant of the potential ramifications. Sometimes we have to do things that suck. Sometimes we can’t cut breaks when we want to. But just keep in mind what’s at stake.

The coming chapters cover witness testimony, photography, fingerprints, and a whole lotta other potentially outdated stuff. I’ll skip most of it. If there’s anything of interest in those chapters, I’ll try to include it in more interesting write-ups. Again, if you have questions, opinions, comments, feel free to comment or email. I’m interested in other viewpoints.