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The Newhall Incident: CHP officers gone but not forgotten

SCV remembers when four were killed in the line of duty

Posted: April 5, 2009 1:15 a.m.
Updated: April 5, 2009 7:00 a.m.

Photo of The Signal's front page on April 6, 1970.

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There aren't many CHP officers who don't recognize the names Roger Gore, Walt Frago, James "Skip" Pence and George Alleyn.

The four California Highway Patrol officers were shot to death in Newhall 39 years ago in what became known as the Newhall Incident.

The gunshots that rang out on April 5, 1970, still reverberate today.

The Newhall Incident unfolded when Bobby Augusta Davis and Jack Twinning were pulled over by Gore and Frago in the lot of what was a Standard service station on what is now the intersection of the Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway. Twinning fired the first shot, striking Frago. Davis shot and killed Gore just before CHP officers Alleyn and Pence arrived to support the first two officers.

Davis shot Alleyn from behind with a shotgun and Pence was killed, execution-style, by Twinning. The killers escaped and barricaded themselves inside a house.

Twinning escaped justice when he committed suicide inside the barricaded home. Davis was captured, tried and convicted, and is serving a life sentence in Pelican Bay prison in northern California.

The slain officers didn't die in vain, CHP Officer John Lutz said Tuesday.

"Through the tragedy the (CHP) learned a new outlook on how to approach high-risk stops, both tactically and from an officer-safety standpoint," Lutz said. He declined to elaborate on that new outlook, saying that for safety reasons, the CHP doesn't discuss tactics publicly.

The Newhall Incident helped reshape the Santa Clarita Valley, said Pat Saletore, Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society executive director.

"It was a little town that didn't see much action," she said. "And these people shattered that perception."

The recent police shooting in Oakland helped resurrect memories of the Newhall Incident, Saletore said.

What's now being called the Oakland Incident occurred March 21 when Lovelle Mixon, 26, of Oakland, shot two Oakland Police officers during a traffic stop. Mixon fled the scene before shooting two more officers as Oakland SWAT teams entered the apartment where Mixon was hiding.

"You can't stop random acts. People lose control and hurt other people," she said. Saletore said the Oakland Incident is a sober reminder that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.

The recent events in Oakland and the Newhall Incident are ingrained in the mind of every person in law enforcement, Lutz said.

"Officers think about it all the time," he said. "Because officers want to go home to their families at the end of each day."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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