By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
The 1963 kidnapping of two LAPD plainclothes officers and subsequent murder of one sent shock waves through the department and law enforcement.
This could not happen to US—WE ARE THE BEST OF THE BEST. NOT HERE, NOT NOW, NOT EVER.
But it did, and it shook us to the core.
Seven short years later, four young California Highway Patrol Officers (CHP) lost their lives in a 4 1/2-minute gunfight, 270 seconds, 4 dead.
It came to be known as the “Newhall Incident” or “The Newhall Massacre.”
The officers (partners in first unit): Walter Frago, age 23 and Roger Gore, age 23. In the second unit: James Pence, age 24 and George Alleyn, age 24.
Each of them had less than 2 years on the job. Just recently a stretch of I-5 has been named in their honor.
I write this due to the fact some of you might have been too young to know of it or perhaps you never knew the story. Worse yet, maybe you have forgotten it.
The killers were two hard core ex-cons: Jack Twinning, age 35, graduate of eight different prisons including Alcatraz where he had killed another inmate on parole 11 months. Bobby Davis, age 27, on parole 8 months. They met and allied in prison.
Shortly before midnight, Sunday April 5, 1970 Davis brandished a handgun in a traffic dispute near the Grapevine on I-5. The citizen contacted police and the suspect vehicle was spotted southbound toward L.A.
Frago and Gore follow while Pence and Alleyn waited in nearby Valencia to assist if necessary.
The suspect vehicle exited the freeway on Henry Mayo Drive, entered and stopped in the parking lot of “J’s” restaurant.
Davis exited the driver’s side while Gore approached and prepares to search him.
Frago armed with a shotgun held at port arms, across his chest at a 45-degree angle, covers Gore.
As Gore prepared to search Davis, Twinning suddenly exited the vehicle on the passenger side. Armed with a handgun, he fired 2 shots at Frago, hitting him twice and killing him. Gore turned has attention to Twinning, drew his revolver and traded shots with him, both missing. Davis now behind Gore pulled his revolver and shot Gore twice in the back, killing him. All of this in the blink of an eye.
Shortly afterwards Pence and Alleyn arrived and there was a furious exchange of gunfire. Twinning was struck in the head by a bullet fragment suffering only superficial injuries. Alleyn was killed, and Pence seriously wounded, when Gary Kness age 31, a former Marine and civilian, enroute to work saw the gunfight. He came to assist the officers. He attempted unsuccessfully to drag Alleyn to safety unaware he was deceased. Then, he armed himself with Alleyn’s revolver and joins the gunfight. Twinning got behind Pence while he was reloading, shot him twice in the head and killed him. A fragment from a round fired by Kress struck Davis in the chest but was ineffective.
At this time a third CHP one-man unit arrives and there was a further exchange of fire. Both suspects fled on foot armed with the officers’ weapons.
Twinning takes a hostage but is surrounded by Sherriff’s Deputies. After an all-night standoff he shot and killed himself.
Davis stole a car but was quickly arrested. Convicted of multiple murders he was sentenced to death; later commuted life in prison. He committed suicide in 2009.
This incident as you can imagine caused many changes in training and tactics.
“J’s” coffee shop no longer exists however half a dozen eateries are at that off ramp which leads to Magic Mountain.
Seriously consider taking time to google “Incident or Massacre at Newhall” for a virtual shot by shot account of the gunfight and the heroic actions of these brave young warriors.
I’d like to include photos and the link to this but copyright issues preclude it.
Remember this when you hear people bad-mouthing the police. Thanks also to Gary Kress, the former Marine.
Semper Fi and GOD BLESS AMERICA