this day in crime history: april 6, 1970

On this date in 1970, four California Highway Patrol officers were killed in a shootout with two heavily armed criminals. Officers Walt Frago and Roger Gore initiated a felony traffic stop north of Newhall. The suspect vehicle was reportedly operated by a man who had brandished a gun during an altercation with a motorist earlier in the day. What the officers didn’t know was that the two men in the car, Jack Twinning and Bobby Davis, were heavily armed and had just been practicing with their weapons in preparation for a planned robbery.

Officer Frago approached the car with a shotgun as Officer Gore covered Davis while Davis exited the car. Twining flung open the passenger side door and opened fire on Officer Frago with a revolver. When Officer Gore turned to engage Twining, Davis drew a gun and opened fire on Gore. As the two pairs of men exchanged gunfire, CHP Officers George Alleyn and James Pence arrived on the scene and joined the fight. All four officers were mortally wounded. Davis and Twining suffered only minor wounds at the hands of the officers and Gary Kness, a Marine Corps veteran who happened on the scene during the shootout and attempted to assist the officers by firing on the gunmen using one of the fallen officer’s guns.

Davis and Twining grabbed some weapons and left the scene on foot as a third CHP cruiser arrived. Davis was arrested shortly afterward in a stolen camper. His ammo supply depleted, he offered minimal resistance to officers. Twining was cornered in a house a few miles from the scene of the shootout. After a standoff that lasted several hours, he took his own life with Officer Frago’s shotgun.

Davis was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted to life in 1972 after a US Supreme Court ruling invalidated death penalties across the country.

Further reading:

LA Times – CHP Honors Slain Officers

Officer.com – April 6, 1970 Police tactics would never be the same

Wikipedia – Newhall massacre

6 thoughts on “this day in crime history: april 6, 1970

  1. John D.:
    That is one interesting story…I didn’t even recall it.
    ( I was busy trying to graduate High school)

    This was definitely the tipping point for police procedure with traffic stops.

    Good post.

    Happy Easter to you and yours.

    Stay safe out there.

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    • This incident definitely spurred a major change in police procedures. Had proper tactics been employed (weapons ready to deploy from the beginning of the encounter), some or all of the officers might have survived. Sadly, most lessons in law enforcement tactics are paid for in blood.

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  2. I do not pretend to be a cop, or all that knowing of cop procedure, but also remember how that shoot-out changed a lot of procedures. Heck, it is surprises me how many officers pull their weapons and hold alongside their legs when making approaches during a stop.

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    • Good point. If they’re going to draw their weapons against a suspect whose hands they can’t see, it’s critical they be ready to engage their target(s) quickly. If the bad guys are armed and looking for a fight, it’s a certainty that they’ll try to be in a position to shoot first.

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  3. Another thing that comes to mind is the aftermath of a shooting and catching the shooter. I used to watch the video podcasts by LineOfDuty.com and they would emphasize their opinion that an officer should always touch the stopped car’s trunk lid to leave their fingerprints. I suppose people might argue about how helpful that is.

    This tactic must have gained traction because I’ve seen characters on the cop show SOUTHLAND do the same. I presume the show’s cop advisors have the actors do that for LAPD-style realism.

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