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Retired CHP commissioner celebrates 101st birthday at Newhall Station

Posted: October 24, 2013 5:40 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2013 5:40 p.m.

Dozens of attendees look on as California Highway Patrol Officer John Lutz, left, presents a birthday cake to retired CHP Commissioner Harold Sullivan, center, in celebration of his 101st birthday at the CHP Southern Division Retiree Day held at the CHP Newhall Station on Thursday. Daughter-in-law Stevi Sullivan looks on.

SANTA CLARITA - Retired California Highway Patrol Commissioner Harold Sullivan celebrated his 101st birthday Thursday with his pals and peers at the CHP’s Newhall Station.

Sullivan was appointed a CHP commissioner when President Ronald Reagan was governor of California.

On Thursday, close to 100 well-wishers at the CHP’S annual Retirees Day luncheon presented Sullivan with a small birthday cake and heaps of praise.

The retired commissioner, who began his law enforcement career in 1937 when he joined the Los Angeles Police Department, was asked by The Signal to reflect on the two most memorable moments of his CHP career.

“One of the biggest ones was the Santa Barbara rebellion,” he said, recalling a night of chaos and massive police response to riots in Isla Vista more than four decades ago.

On Feb. 25, 1970, rioters — including many students from the University of California Santa Barbara — set fire to the Bank of America building in the college berg of Isla Vista. Tensions at the time were fuelled by the firing of a popular anthropology professor at the university, Sullivan said.

But it was the shootout in Newhall a couple of months after that, however, that changed Sullivan and the CHP forever.

On April 6, 1970, four young CHP officers — Walter C. Frago, Roger D. Gore, James E. Pence Jr. and George M. Alleyn — were shot and killed in one of the state’s bloodiest gun battles.

“I was in Sacramento at the particular time,” Sullivan said. “I sent my deputy chief to take care of that situation and I sent him down there.

“The reports (I received) back from what went on down there was that it was a bad situation,” he said.

CHP Officers Gore and Grago — the first to confront armed suspects stopped in a car — pulled into a parking lot which would be near the intersection of The Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway today. They were shot and killed.

Their fellow officers Pence and Alleyne showed up shortly after and were shot as they arrived, according to CHP transcripts of the shootout.

Police tactics were reviewed and lessons learned from the shootout. Sullivan was one of those who helped change protocol for the way in which CHP officers respond to gun calls.
on twitter @jamesarthurholt


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