Remembering the fallen: California Highway Patrol Newhall Memorial
The "Newhall Shooting" as it came to be known, was the worst day in the history of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and a pivotal day for American LE
In the closing moments of April 5, 1970, California Highway Patrolmen Roger Gore and Walter Frago stopped a vehicle whose driver was suspected of threatening another motorist with a handgun. Less than five minutes into the new day, Officers Gore and Frago lay dead, alongside brother officers George Alleyn and James Pence, Jr., as the pair of felons who killed them escaped into the night.
The "Newhall Shooting" as it came to be known, was the worst day in the history of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), and a pivotal day for American law enforcement.
The murder of these four officers led to significant improvements in tactics, training and procedures throughout the nation. There is no officer who has served since Newhall, regardless of agency, whose work has not been influenced by this critical event.
In order to commemorate the fallen officers, the California Highway Patrol built a monument outside the Newhall Area Office later that year. It consisted of a small, stone wall with plaques that bore the names and birthdates of the officers.
Additionally, Officer Roger Palmer, who arrived on scene as the last shots were being fired, and who pursued the killers into the darkness as they escaped, planted four Italian Cypress trees to honor his friends and fellow Highway Patrolmen. They were planted side by side, standing together as the officers did in their final battle.
When the rapidly expanding Newhall Area Office outgrew its small facility a few years later, a larger station was built a few miles north, just beyond the site of the deadly shooting. A new monument was erected at the site with a single plaque that listed the names and birthdates of the officers, the seven-pointed star of the Highway Patrol, the date of the shooting, and the title, "Killed In The Line of Duty."
Four new Italian Cypress trees were planted with the memorial because the originals could not be moved. The roots of the original trees planted by Officer Palmer had become intertwined to the extent that they were now one – a poetic and fitting tribute to the men they represented, and their solidarity in life – and any attempt to transplant them would kill the magnificent trees. They still stand today, at the site of the old Newhall Area Office, appearing to the world as four individuals, but united at their very core.
This second Newhall memorial served well, but with time, the brick wall housing the memorial plaque began to break apart, and the plaque itself was deteriorating from the elements. It was decided that the memorial needed to be refreshed, and a team of volunteers from the Highway Patrol and the community banded together to make it happen. Local businesses donated materials, services, and expertise. Volunteers from the community, the department and the CHP Senior Volunteer Program did the rest, and saw it through to completion.
A New Reminder
On April 5, 2017, the 47th anniversary of the enforcement stop that led to the shooting, the CHP rededicated the newly-built memorial in a touching ceremony under beautiful blue skies.
The event was attended by family members of the fallen officers, two officers who were there in the closing moments of the fight (Erwin Holmes and Roger Palmer), CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, department leaders, officers from the CHP and allied agencies, the volunteers who turned the dream of a new memorial into reality, and supportive members of the public. All had gathered to pay their respects to the fallen officers and remember their ultimate sacrifice.
The newly-dedicated memorial features a granite boulder with the professionally-restored plaque of the second generation Newhall memorial set into it. Additionally, the boulder bears a plaque with a tribute quote from then-Governor Ronald Reagan, which reminds us that, "Oftentimes the only thing that stands between a citizen and the loss of everything he holds dear is the man wearing the badge." These elements all stand in the center of a seven-pointed star, shaped like the CHP badge. Benches stand nearby for visitors to rest upon.
Four new cypress trees have been planted in the tradition first set by Officer Palmer in 1970, and each is accompanied by a bronze image of the officer it represents. The entire display is illuminated during evening hours.
We Shall Not Forget
In May 2016, the CHP dedicated a new exhibit at the CHP Museum on the grounds of the CHP Academy in Sacramento, California. This exhibit, like the CHP Memorial Fountain on the academy grounds (which bears the names of all CHP officers who have fallen in the line of duty), is closed to the public. However, the Newhall Memorial at the CHP Area Office is not only open to the public, it is located in plain sight, where the citizens of the state of California can see it daily, and reflect upon the sacrifices made by the officers, their families, and all of our nation's law enforcement officers and families.
It's a respectful and fitting tribute, and a challenge to all who wear the badge, to ensure that the vital, lifesaving lessons of Newhall are not forgotten.