The Murder of 4 Officers Leads To Changes In Equipment and Tactics
On April 6, 1970 was a dark day in the history of the California Highway Patrol. Four officers were killed in a matter of minutes in separate shootouts with two heavily armed perps. The agency would revamp its training and tactics due to the murders.
The deadly incident started with a failure of the criminal justice system. Two career violent perps, one on parole, had met in prison. Jack Twinning and Bobby Davis had convictions for robberies and assaults on police officers. They reunited after their bids and proved that “corrections” is an antonym for what happens in jail. Getting right back to criminality, the pair came up with a scheme to rob an armored car using explosives stolen from a highway construction site.
Late on the night of April 5th, the two perps went out to steal the explosives from the site. Davis dropped Twinning off and planned on doubling back to pick him up. Davis made an illegal U-turn, nearly striking a Volkswagen. Davis and the operator of the Volkswagen got into a dispute and Davis menaced him with a revolver. The Volkswagen driver pulled over and called the police.
Davis had gone ahead and picked up Twinning. Shortly afterwards California Highway Patrol Officers Walt Frago and Roger Gore stopped Davis and Twinning. Davis was ordered out of the car and complied. As Frago approached the passenger side of the car, Twinning jumped out and opened fire with a .357 revolver. He struck Frago twice, killing him immediately. As Gore attempted to shoot Twinning, Davis pulled a .38 revolver and killed him with two shots at point blank range.
Two additional officers arrived just after the murders of Gore and Frago. Officers Michael Alleyn and James Pence came under fire from the two pistol brandishing perps. The officers observed the pair getting back into their car. They assumed they were going to flee, but they were actually rearming themselves from a formidable arsenal in the back seat. Both came out of the car shooting. Davis unloaded with a pump action 12-gauge shotgun, while Twinning fired his Colt 1911. Both Alleyn and Pence were soon dead on the side of the highway.
Two more patrol cars arrived on the scene and Davis and Twinning fled separately through the woods adjacent to the road. Davis came upon an occupied camper. After another brief shootout with the owner, he made off with the unlikely escape vehicle. He was quickly stopped and arrested by LA County Sheriffs.
Twinning found a house nearby and broke in, taking the residents hostage. A standoff soon ensued with police attempting to negotiate Twinning out of the house for hours. Eventually, it was decided to storm the house. As police made entry, Twinning killed himself with Officer Frago’s stolen gun.
A review of the facts of the case led to some changes in policing. All four murdered officers had less than two years on the job. Three of the four officers suffered wounds that a bulletproof vest would have stopped. Issues in reloading may have played a part in the murder of Officer Pence. Speedloaders were not authorized at the time. The California Highway Patrol and other departments made changes to rectify these issues to prevent another tragedy of this magnitude.