Taking Truth from the Dead – Newhall 45 Years Later

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Gather round and take a knee. We’re not only going to remember a day in history, but also consider why we should learn from it. Mad Duo

Newhall Murders

Taking Truth from the Dead – Newhall 45 Years Later

by David Reeder

 

One of my early LE mentors, Sgt. Jim Clark of the Tulsa Police Dept., quoted Voltaire in the first officer survival classes I attended: “To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”

Put less succinctly (but more bluntly), “You can learn the lessons other officers paid for with blood, or you can be an object lesson in the next class yourself.” 

The best AAR or “hot wash” is the one that’s delivered stark naked. It needs to be completely candid and contextual, lest what we learn from it be diluted or, worse, misinterpreted. Not only can you be harshly critical in your analysis of the actions of a dead man, you should be – and doing so is by no means showing disrespect to the dead. To the contrary, using a loss of life to further the training of the next generation is perhaps the highest honor we can render them.

Do not be one of those who believe a candid appraisal of an Event is “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” or somehow belittling those involved – it’s not.

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No Event, whatever that Event might be, is ever dealt with perfectly. It might be handled with aplomb and it might be handled effectively, but there will always be something to learn. We can and should attempt to learn from the actions of our fallen to prevent future loss. Whether you’re looking at the “Newhall Incident” that took the lives of four CHP officers in 1970, the Forza Coffee Co. murders of four Lakewood PD officers six years ago, or the fight that led to Lt. Murphy receiving the Medal of Honor,  something happened at each Event that we can learn from. This truism applies just as surely to any event involving military personnel or armed citizens.

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Cop, deputy, homeowner, pipe-hitter from the Ranger Regiment, or salty gyrene – there’s always something to we can do better.

Today we here at Breach-Bang-Clear ask you to join us in remembering Officers Alleyn, Frago, Gore, and Pence of the California Highway Patrol, killed 45 years ago yesterday near Los Angeles, CA. The lessons learned from that fight resonated throughout generations of law enforcement training, and we are grateful. Rest in peace, sirs.

More here if you’re interested.

Edit:this article was originally intended to have two takeaways: 1) to honor these four fallen officers and 2) address the idea that it’s somehow disrespectful to be critical of any fallen officer/soldier’s action. Remembering is good – remembering and learning so as to defend the ‘next generation’ is far better. The Newhall Incident is chronicled and addressed in many places, it’s lessons learned now canonical in police training. However we’ve already received questions about the Newhall Incident and we don’t want to leave anyone wondering. Please stand by for further. There are more people unfamiliar with this Event than we originally reckoned with. We’ll do our best to correct that.

See below for an official statement from the CHP.

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From the HQ of the California Highway Patrol yesterday: 

Today we honor Officers Frago, #6520, Gore, #6547, Alleyn, #6290 and Pence, # 6885. On April 6, 1970, the four officers were killed during the “Newhall Incident.”

The Newhall Incident was a shootout between two heavily armed criminals and officers of the CHP in the Newhall unincorporated area of Los Angeles County, California on April 6, 1970. In less than five 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., 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 officer inside briefly exchanged gunfire with the perpetrators, but they were able to flee the scene.

Over three hours later, Davis stole a vehicle after exchanging gunfire with its owner. He 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 9:00 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.

 

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Reeder Profile Picture 5About the Author: Someone has to corral the writing team, handle business expenses and bail the Mad Duo (and their minions) out of jail. For years the Pentagon, JSOC and the International Association of Chiefs of Police sought an impeccable man to lead the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous team of Breach Bang Clear writers. They needed someone charismatic, a warrior, able to maintain mental acuity under the worst stressors. Unfortunately the program suffered severe budget cuts so they ended up with David Reeder. Reeder is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, his mastery of tactical sesquipedalianism is unmatched in modern times. He’s a self-professed POG who taught MOUT at the Bold Lighting Urban Warfare School and later combat tracking to members of all branches. As a LEO he worked patrol, training, SWAT and counter-narcotics and was on the OC-evaluation team at the National Homeland Security Training Center. You can read more about him here.

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6 thoughts on “Taking Truth from the Dead – Newhall 45 Years Later

  • June 5, 2015 at 5:05 pm
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    Just wanted to drop a note to say FANTASTIC article. I am reposting it on the Below 100 Facebook page. Well written. We can (and must) learn from the deaths of others if we are to save lives; and do so without being judgmental. You hit the nail on the head!

    Reply
  • Pingback:Weekend Knowledge Dump- April 10, 2015 | Active Response Training

  • April 9, 2015 at 1:18 pm
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    Well spoke gentlemen and much needed words. All too often these days the fallen are remembered as the heroes they rightfully are. And not a soul in the squad room will say an unkind thing about what caused them to get killed. It wasn’t “their fault.” I have been retired from LE for going on 16 years now. I served as a patrol officer a patrol sergeant SWAT Officer, FTO, department training officer, survival school instructor and general pain in the rear for those ranks lieutenant and above. I frequently said if I get killed out here feel free to come into roll call and tell everybody how I screwed up.

    Newhall is a foundation incident for police survival to be trained on. And if what I read in the news and see on TV these days is any indication, the foundations have been forgotten by this current generation of cops.

    Good street survival skills can keep you alive and they can also keep you out of court and out of prison!

    Keep up the good work gentlement

    JTE

    Reply
  • April 8, 2015 at 3:04 pm
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    Well done, Gents. Thanks for honoring the fallen and for reminding us that Newhall can still teach us many valuable lessons today.

    Searcher, thanks for the kind words about my book–much appreciated. I’d be happy to help answer any questions that people have about Newhall. Remembering and learning is the best way we can honor their sacrifice.

    V/R

    Mike Wood

    http://www.newhallshooting.com

    Reply
  • April 8, 2015 at 10:37 am
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    Nice introduction to the beginning of the officer survival movement. I suggest, no, I recommend to anyone interested “Newall Shooting-A Tactical Analysis” by Mike Wood.

    It contains diagrams and background information you need to understand the incident. No matter who you are, CCW citizen or the first person in the door you’ll find some ideas in this book, even if it’s a simple as “don’t under estimate your foe.”

    Reply

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