Four California Highway Patrol officers are killed in a shootout in Newhall, Los Angeles.
In April 06, 1970, four California Highway Patrol Officers were murdered in a tragedy that became known across the nation as “The Newhall Incident.” These murders served as a wakeup call for law enforcement training nationwide. In fact, many of the tactics that officers still use today originated from this terrible event.
However, I recently learned that one of the most notorious “facts” about this incident is not true. As one of the countless officers and instructors who accepted and repeated this myth, I would like to do what I can to help set the record straight. For those of you who are not already aware, the Newhall Incident occurred about 15 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. At around midnight, two California Highway Patrol Officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle wanted in a firearms brandishing incident. As these officers began to remove the suspects from the vehicle they were ambushed and murdered by the occupants. Their cover unit arrived just moments after the ambush however these officers were also murdered in an intense gun battle.
The Newhall Incident is the single pivotal moment in law enforcement training that started the ball rolling toward the modern research and practices that became survival training. The investigation and willingness to examine why things happened helped tens of thousands of cops win. The truth of the matter is that is Officer Pence is a hero and a martyr for law enforcement, and to tell the truth to make us better as a profession has NEVER denigrated his sacrifice. In fact, to tell the Newhall story is to add greater meaning to the sacrifice of all four Newhall officers, and this week especially they should be remembered. Whether Pence had brass in his pocket or not — and we’re reviewing alternative sources related to the incident since it is such an important and widely-used incident for ongoing training — the Pence story is equally valid. Do not allow yourself to accumulate scars in training which could adversely affect your ability to win in real world.