The Newhall Incident
They called it the “Newhall Incident.” It was the worst massacre of police officers in the 80-year history of the California Highway Patrol, and possibly the worst in American history. It changed police procedure forever thereafter — improved police training on how to approach a suspect, better weaponry, bullet proof vests — saving the lives of many police officers in the line of duty. It’s a story of the bravery and sacrifice of four young CHP officers, and the story of a true American hero, a civilian bystander who risked his life under fire from gun-toting suspects to try to save the life of a downed patrolman.
On the evening of April 5, 1970, four CHP officers, Roger Gore, Walt Frago, James “Skip” Pence, and George Alleyn were brutally gunned down by two dangerous suspects in the lot of a Standard Service Station next to J’s Coffee Shop on what is now the intersection of The Old Road and Magic Mountain Parkway in Valencia. The two suspects were down-and-out career ex-convicts.
Throughout history many tragedies have been accompanied by great heroism. The Newhall Incident was no exception. Gary Dean Kness was driving by J’s Coffee shop on his way to work when he saw the gun battle and raced out of his car to the officer’s side, attempting to pull him out of the line of fire and eventually firing a shot that sent the suspects away. Kness was later honored by the CHP for his heroic efforts to save the officer.
Davis was convicted and sentenced to death; he remains in prison to this day. Twining ended up barricaded in the home of Steven and Betty Jean Hoag on Pico Canyon Road near the Old Road, where he shot himself to death when the house was surrounded by the police.
Never before had so many officers been killed in one incident. Sympathy poured in from a stunned community as more than 5,000 letters were sent to CHP headquarters with nearly $100, 000 in donations for the families. As a result of the officers’ sacrifice, police procedures were re-examined and changed, making the jobs of police officers across the country much safer to this day.
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