The Newhall incident, also called the “Newhall massacre”, was a shootout between two heavily armed criminals and officers of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in the Newhall unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, California on April 5, 1970. In less than 5 minutes, four CHP officers were killed in what was at the time the deadliest day in the history of California law enforcement.
At approximately 11:55 p.m. (UTC-8), CHP officers Walt Frago and Roger Gore conducted a traffic stop of Bobby Davis and Jack Twinning in conjunction with an incident involving the pair that had been reported to the CHP minutes earlier. After stopping in a restaurant parking lot and initially cooperating with the officers, Twinning and Davis opened fire and killed both officers. Minutes later, Officers George Alleyn and James Pence arrived on the scene and engaged Twinning and Davis in a shootout. A passerby picked up one of the officers’ weapons and opened fire on the perpetrators; however, the three were outgunned, and both Alleyn and Pence suffered fatal injuries while the passerby ran out of ammunition and took cover in a ditch. A third CHP patrol car arrived on the scene and the lone officer inside briefly exchanged gunfire with the perpetrators, but they were able to flee the scene.
Over three hours later, after stealing a vehicle and exchanging gunfire with its owner, Davis attempted to flee the area; however, he was spotted by police and arrested. Meanwhile, Twinning broke into a house and took one of its occupants hostage. The house was surrounded by deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and at approximately 9 a.m., he released the hostage and committed suicide when the deputies entered the house. Davis was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1973. He killed himself at Kern Valley State Prison in 2009.
The Newhall incident resulted in a number of changes at the CHP, including procedural changes in arresting high risk suspects and standardization of firearms and firearms training used across the department.
The above describes a horrible situation where good and evil battled and eventually good won out. What struck me when I first heard this story was the involvement of that sheepdog that picked up an officers weapon and stood up against evil. I have corrected a few people when they refer to police, EMS, fire department, etc. as “first responders”. No disrespect meant at all but quite often it is a civilian that is the first responder. What they decide to do – or not do – can make all difference. I’m likely just overly obsessed with the semantics of terminology.
So – how many of us would jump in in defense of those officers? Don’t answer – because I’m not sure most would really know until the situation occurred.