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Newhall Incident: CHP log book

Four officers killed in April 5-6, 1970 shootout.

Posted: April 5, 2008 11:54 p.m.
Updated: June 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The California Highway Patrol memorial drill team performs a 21-gun salute Friday in Santa Clarita during the memorial and dedication for the four CHP officers killed 38 years ago.

 

Editor's Note: The following is a July 1, 1970 California Highway Patrol log report of the events which began the night of April 5, 1970.

Sunday, 11:20 p.m.: A serviceman stationed at Port Hueneme, accompanied by his wife, was driving south from Gorman on U.S. 99. As they approached the area known as Pyramid Rock, a northbound vehicle made a U-turn across the center divider into their path. He managed to avoid a collision and when the other vehicle slowed down, he pulled alongside, and his wife rolled her window down. The serviceman told the other driver that he didn't like the way he was driving and that he would like to "kick his ass."

When both vehicles came to a stop, the other driver pointed a revolver at him and called him a "smart punk." The serviceman told him a California Highway Patrol vehicle was approaching their rear. (This was a ruse on the serviceman's part). The other driver looked back, then motioned with the gun for them to leave. The serviceman accelerated away and began looking for a telephone. During this confrontation the serviceman and his wife noticed only one occupant in the other vehicle.

Sunday, 11:36 p.m.: At Violin Canyon Road, approximately eight miles south of where the incident occurred, the serviceman's wife telephoned the Newhall office of the California Highway Patrol. Radio dispatcher Jo Ann Tidey took the call and was given the license number of the suspect vehicle along with information which described it as a red, late model General Motors product.

A registration check was made which disclosed that the vehicle was a 1964 Pontiac two-door registered in Orange, Calif., with no wants.

Sunday, 11:37 p.m.: Newhall Dispatch Point contacted Unit 78-8, Traffic Officers Gore and Frago, and informed them of the incident. Information to identify the vehicle was given them along with details concerning the time element of the incident and direction of travel as last observed.

Sunday, 11:50 p.m.: Unit 78-8 inquired if the name of the complainant had been obtained and if he would sign a complaint. The unit was informed that the complainant was due back at Port Hueneme and was en route there.

Sunday, 11:52 p.m.: Unit 78-8 requested the registration information previously obtained by Newhall on the suspect vehicle and was informed there were no wants. The officers then staked out Castaic Junction to watch for the suspect.

(It is important to note that up to note that up to this time Officers Frago and Gore were presented with information indicating that only a misdemeanor had been committed. This type of report is fairly common in the area because of its rural geography and because it is open to hunting and shooting. It is not unusual to receive complaints of persons brandishing weapons).

Sunday, 11:54 p.m.: Unit 78-8 notified Newhall Dispatch Point they were behind the red Pontiac, southbound at Castaic Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility, and requested backup. Unit 78-12, Traffic Officers Pence and Alleyn, stopped on the southbound on-ramp at Valencia, two miles south of the Inspection Facility, to await the arrival of the vehicles.

Considerable car-to-car traffic followed between the two units as the suspect vehicle approached Henry Mayo Drive. When the suspect exited the freeway at Henry Mayo, Unit 78-12 turned around and headed north toward that location. Unit 78-8 then stated the suspect vehicle had turned right on Henry Mayo and north on "old" 99 and was pulling into the Standard Service Station adjacent to J's Coffee Shop. This area is well-lighted and the vehicles, suspects and officers were clearly visible to witnesses.

Unit 78-16R, Officers Holmes and Robinson, was approximately three miles away in Saugus when they monitored call for backup. They started toward Henry Mayo Drive but when 78-12 indicated they were almost there, abandoned their response and returned to patrol.

Sunday, 11:56 p.m.: An excited voice, identified as Officer Pence's (Unit 78-12) radioed for an "11-99, shots fired, at J's Standard." Newhall Dispatch Point rebroadcasted the 11-99 and Units 78-16R, 19R, S4, S6, 15, and two scale officers responded. The call was also relayed to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Station at Newhall and several sheriff's units also responded.

The following represents a reconstruction of the events after the suspect vehicle entered the driveway at the Standard Station at Henry Mayo Drive and old Highway 99. While no exact reconstruction can be made, more than 30 witnesses and considerable physical evidence provide a relatively clear picture of the sequence of events:

As the suspect vehicle pulled into the driveway, Officer Gore (the driver) turned on the red spotlight, and Officer Frago (the passenger) turned on the white spotlight. Both officers exited and advanced to the front of the patrol vehicle. Officer Frago was armed with a shotgun and Officer Gore with a .357 Magnum revolver.

Although witnesses' statements vary as to the officers' actions at this point, it appears certain that Officer Frago remained near the right front headlamp and slightly to the rear. Officer Gore leaned over the left front fender of the patrol car with his revolver extended toward the suspect's vehicle.

One of the officers, probably Gore, ordered the suspects out of their car. His voice was clearly audible some distance away, and the command was repeated three times: "Get out with your hands up," and "We told you to get your hands up." the driver got out of the suspect vehicle and was ordered to lean against the car in a search position.

He compiled, and Officer Gore moved forward about five paces and slightly to the left rear of the suspect vehicle to begin a search.

At the same time, Officer Frago approached the passenger side of the vehicle, holding a shotgun in a "port arms position." (It is not known whether he had chambered a round). As he reached the passenger door it was suddenly opened and Officer Frago was heard to yell, "Hold it!"

The passenger suspect turned in the seat and fired two shots from a four-inch .357 Magnum revolver, striking Officer Frago in the chest. The officer died almost instantly.

Officer Gore, attracted by the sound of the shot, turned to his right and was himself fired upon by the passenger suspect who had stepped out of the car. Officer Gore fired one round at the passenger suspect which struck a parked vehicle in the restaurant parking lot.

With the officer's attention diverted, the driver suspect drew a two-inch .39 caliber revolver and also began firing at Officer Gore, two of his shots striking the officer in the chest. The bullets entered the left front and lodged in the right back area. Officer Gore collapsed and also died instantly.

Sunday, 11:56 p.m.: Unit 78-12, Officer Pence (the driver) and Officer Alleyn (the passenger), arrived and were immediately under fire from both suspects.

The passenger suspect, his revolver empty, removed a .45 caliber automatic from the vehicle and fired one shot at the officers as they came to a stop. This weapon jammed and the suspect entered the vehicle again and obtained a second .45 caliber automatic, exiting the vehicle on the driver's side.

In the meantime, the driver suspect had obtained a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun from the vehicle and began firing at the officers.

Officer Pence returned the fire from his position behind the left front door of his vehicle. Officer Alleyn exited with the shotgun, chambered a round, and moved around the rear of the first patrol vehicle (Unit 78-8). He took up a position behind the open right front door and fired three rounds. One blast from the officer's shotgun penetrated the rear window of the suspect vehicle just as the passenger suspect was entering the vehicle. This shot caused a minor wound in the suspect's forehead.

(One live and three spent shot shells were found next to the right front door of the first patrol unit, indicating that in the excitement, Officer Alleyn apparently forgot he had chambered a round and ejected a live round out of the gun).

With the shotgun empty, Officer Alleyn moved to the rear of the patrol car and took up a position near he left rear and began to fire with his service revolver. As he moved around the rear of the vehicle, the driver suspect moved down in front of and between the patrol cars and using the sawed-off shotgun mortally wounded Officer Alleyn.

While this was happening, Officer Pence was exchanging shots with the passenger suspect who was near the left front of the suspect vehicle using the car for cover.

When he ran out of ammunition, Officer Pence ejected the spent cartridges from his revolver and retreated to the left rear of his vehicle (Unit 78-12) to reload.

The passenger suspect moved out from behind his vehicle to where he had a clear view of the officer and again began firing. Officer Pence was struck with .45 caliber bullets, two in the legs and two in the chest, with one of his leg wounds resulting in a compound fracture.

An examination of Officer Pence's revolver revealed that although mortally wounded he was successful in reloading the weapon but had no opportunity to fire additional shots. It is apparent that just as the officer completed reloading, he was fatally wounded by the passenger suspect who had crawled along the left side of the patrol vehicle, raised up over the fender, and fired from close range.

While Officers Pence and Alleyn were exchanging shots with the suspects, a witness arrived at the scene and observed the officers in their respective position behind the patrol vehicles. He stopped his vehicle approximately 200 feet south of their position and turned off the vehicle's headlamps.

As (the witness) watched, he saw Officer Alleyn fall to his right and away from the protective shield of the patrol vehicle. (Officer Alleyn had been hit by a total of 10 Double 00 shotgun pellets in the face and chest).

Leaving his vehicle, the witness ran to assist the fallen officer. He got behind the patrol vehicle and tried to drag Officer Alleyn out of the line of fire from the driver suspect. (The suspect had abandoned the sawed-off shotgun and taken Officer Frago's revolver from the fallen officer's holster and was using it against Officer Alleyn even though the officer was down and mortally wounded).

When he was unable to move the downed officer, the witness picked up the CHP shotgun and attempted to fire at the suspect, but the weapon was empty. Seeing the driver suspect advancing toward him along the right side of the Pontiac, he dropped the shotgun and picked up Officer Alleyn's revolver lying at his feet.

Holding the weapon in both hands, he fired one shot, single action. The bullet probably struck the suspect vehicle and splintered with portions striking the suspect in the chest. (Two copper-jacketed fragments were found imbedded in the suspect's chest after his capture).

When he tried to fire again, the witness found the revolver was also now empty. The witness heard a loud report behind him and turned to see the passenger suspect approach Officer Pence who was down, yell something to the effect of "I got you now," and fire one round from a .45 at close range. this shot struck the officer in the back of the head, killing him instantly. When he saw Pence go down, the witness abandoned further attempts to help the officers and took cover in a ditch situated along the east edge of the road.

Sunday, 11:59 p.m.: Unit 78-16R, Officers Holmes and Robinson, arrived just as the witness took cover. They were immediately fired upon. Officer Holmes fired two shots with his service revolver as the suspects jumped into their car and accelerated through the Service Station.

All of the above action took place within the span of approximately four and on-half minutes, from the initial stop at 11:54 until the arrival of Unit 78-16R at 11:59. During this period more than 40 shots were fired, 15 by the officers and the remainder by the suspects. z

Included in the suspects' arsenal were a .38 Special Airweight; a four-inch .357 Magnum revolver; two .45 caliber automatics; a sawed-off shotgun; a .44 Magnum Ruger automatic rifle (not used), and an 18-inch machete. In the course of the shooting, the suspects took the service revolvers carried by Officers Gore and Frago and the CHP shotgun carried by Officer Frago.

The suspects drove their vehicle approximately 150 yards where they abandoned it at the end of a dead-end road. Both suspects fled on foot north along the freeway fence. The driver suspect turned east and the passenger suspect west.

The driver suspect, following a river bed, worked his way north to San Francisquito Canyon where he came upon a parked pickup camper.

The camper was occupied by a male subject who was awakened by the suspect with the demand that he get out of his vehicle. The subject ordered him away and the suspect fired one round through the rear door of the camper with Officer Frago's revolver. The subject returned fire with a .38 caliber revolver carried in his camper. The suspect retreated and threatened to set fire to the camper unless the subject came out. Fearing for his life, the subject left the camper and was immediately set upon by the suspect and beaten with the now empty revolver.

The suspect took the camper and headed north on San Francisquito Canyon Road toward the Antelope Valley. The subject, severely beaten about the head, walked to a nearby power station and reported the theft of his truck.

Monday, 4:17 a.m.: A radio broadcast was made informing all units of the camper theft. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's unit responded from Lancaster and staked out San Francisquito Road. Approximately two or three miles south of the end of the paved road the Sherif'f's unit encountered the stolen vehicle.

Blocking the road, the deputies stopped the vehicle and ordered the suspect out. The suspect exited the vehicle with his hands up and meekly surrendered.

When the suspects split up, the passenger went west across Old Highway 99, doubled back southbound parallel to the freeway, and walked 3 1/2 miles to Lyons Avenue, coming out only a few hundred yards north of the Newhall area office of the California Highway Patrol.

Monday, 4:45 a.m.: Shots were heard coming from a residence behind Denny's Coffee Shop at Lyons Avenue, and all available units responded to the location. It was determined that the suspect had entered a home situated on top of a hill and was holding one of its occupants hostage. The area was closed off and a cordon of officers placed around the house.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies were able to engage the suspect in conversation over the telephone. (During this conversation, the suspect said of Frago, "He got careless so I wasted him.") During the next several hours, numerous attempts were made to get the suspect to release his hostage.

Monday, 9 a.m.: The suspect permitted the owner of the house to leave. Several unsuccessful attempts to talk the suspect into surrendering then followed.

Monday, 10 a.m.: An assault team composed of three Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputies entered the house under cover of a tear gas barrage.

When they entered the house they were unable to see the suspect because of the thick gas. As they approached the hallway, a shotgun blast was heard and the deputies returned fire, believing the suspect had shot at them. When they were able to approach the suspect, they found he had committed suicide by placing the muzzle of the CHP shotgun under his chin and discharging the weapon.

The surviving suspect has been held to answer in the Superior Court of the County of Los Angeles on four counts of murder and one count of robbery.

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