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Saturday marks 43rd anniversary of ‘The Newhall Incident’

Posted: April 5, 2013 5:56 p.m.
Updated: April 5, 2013 6:06 p.m.

Then-Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Capt. Anthony La Berge examines newspaper clippings from the 1970 shooting of four California Highway Patrol officers during a memorial ceremony for the four in 2008. Signal file photo

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Saturday marks the anniversary of what is often called “The Newhall Incident,” a 1970 shootout between four young California Highway Patrol officers and two determined criminals.

The incident that began late April 6, 1970, left all four officers dead and forever changed CHP tactics.

The CHP officers — Walter C. Frago, 23, Roger D. Gore, 23, James E. Pence, 24, and George M. Alleyn, 24 — had less than two years’ experience when they were gunned down at what is now Magic Mountain Parkway and The Old Road next to Interstate 5.

The two shooters, identified as Bobby Davis and Jack Twinning, killed themselves in the wake of the shootout, Twinning during a standoff in a Newhall home and Davis nearly 30 years after he was convicted and imprisoned for his role in the massacre.

The CHP officers on patrol that night were informed a driver on Interstate 5 had brandished a gun at another driver. Frago and Gore were together in a patrol car and made a traffic stop on the suspects’ vehicle near where Marie Callender’s restaurant now stands.

The CHP officers didn’t know that Twinning and Davis were career criminals with a history of robberies, violent felonies and prison time.

As CHP Officer John Lutz said in a recent interview, Frago and Gore stopped them “unknowning that these guys were going to go out with a fight” or that their vehicle was loaded with weapons.

Twinning and Davis opened fire on Frago and Gore as the two officers approached the offenders’ car. Shortly afterward, a patrol car with Pence and Alleyn arrived and they, too, were gunned down.

The entire incident took just four to five minutes, Lutz said, but it changed policing forever.

“It changed the way we were trained and it changed the way we have expectations about each traffic stop,” Lutz said.

In particular, officer weapon training was overhauled and the CHP equipped its officers differently.

After the shooting, Davis and Twinning fled on foot. Davis stole a camper from a man he pistol whipped but was stopped and arrested after the man reported the theft.

Twinning broke into a Newhall home and held the owner hostage for hours. He shot himself as police stormed the residence.

Davis, who was sentenced to death but saw his sentence commuted to life in prison without parole, killed himself in Kern Valley State Prison in August 2009.

In 2008 a freeway sign memorializing Pence, Gore, Frago and Alleyn was erected on the side of Interstate 5 near the CHP’s Newhall station, which is located up The Old Road from the site of the shooting.

 

 

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