Newhall Incident (Part 1)

How was the future of law enforcement changed in just four and a half minutes in 1970. A horrific gun battle between two hardened criminals and CHP officers on April 5 of that year lasted only four and a half minutes and left four CHP officers dead.  This was the largest single incident loss of officer’s lives in memory, a number that wouldn’t be seen again until 2009 in Oakland California.  As a result of the Newhall incident, training and equipment was improved throughout the nation.

The two felons had been planning a series of bank robberies in which employees would be abducted and held for ransom.  They had planned and practiced their own procedures for a response to law enforcement attention.  On the night of April 5th, after practicing with their weapons and testing their own radio equipment, they encountered a driver and, in what today would be called a road rage incident, pointed a handgun at him.  The driver reported the incident to CHP.    Not long after, Officers Walter Frago and Roger Gore spotted the vehicle on US 99.  They notified dispatch and followed the vehicle, intending to initiate a stop at Valencia Blvd where officers James Pence and George Alleyn were waiting to provide backup.  Instead, the suspects exited the freeway at Henry Mayo Drive and pulled into the parking lot of a coffee shop.  Frago and Gore activated the red light and the vehicle stopped.  The driver exited the vehicle and distracted the officers while the passenger quickly exited and opened fire, killing Frago immediately.  Gore exchange gunfire with both suspects and was also struck and killed.  Officers Pence and Alleyn arrived on the scene and immediately came under fire.  They were able to broadcast “shots fired” and requested additional backup.  A third unit arrived and exchanged gunfire as the suspects fled and split up.  One suspect broke into a house and took a man hostage.  When discovered and surrounded by Sheriff’s deputies, he took his own life.  The second suspect was captured, tried and found guilty of four counts of murder.  He died in prison in 2009.