CHP Officers in 1970 Murders Receive Tribute

April 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Four California Highway Patrol Officers who were killed in the line of duty nearly forty years ago received a fitting tribute Friday.The 1970 murders of the four officers in southern California represented the Highway Patrol's single biggest loss of life at one time. The tragedy left seven children without fathers and led the CHP to overhaul how officers are armed and trained.

Rose Frago still fights back tears when she thinks about her son's murder. "Very hard, it's been hard to deal with all along the way."

Walter Frago was one of four young Highway Patrol Officers gunned down on April 6, 1970.

Frago and Roger Gore, who were both from Merced County, had stopped a car near Newhall, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. As they approached the car, two men inside the vehicle shot and killed the officers. When officers George Alleyn and James Pence arrived for backup, they also came under fire and were killed in the shootout.

One of the suspects later committed suicide during a stand-off with authorities. The other was captured and is now serving a life sentence.

"Walt's death was devastating to my family, and it has impacted our family greatly," said Nanette Ontis, Walt's sister.

On Friday morning, Frago's mother, siblings, and widow joined hundreds of other family members and law enforcement personnel for a ceremony to honor the fallen officers. A stretch of Interstate 5 near the site of their murders was re-named for the four men.

"I feel very honored and very thankful that after so many years they have not forgotten," said Ontis.

"I think it's great that they'll always be remembered," said Frago.

The freeway dedication is just a small part of the legacy the officers have left behind. The Newhall incident also impacted law enforcement agencies across the country. The Highway Patrol completely revamped its procedures, putting a new emphasis on officer safety and making the police baton and other protective tools like pepper spray standard equipment. "That to us as a family is very rewarding and comforting that there can be a lesson learned from this and to save other lives," said Ontis.

The Highway Patrol only began renaming freeways for fallen officers eight years ago and the agency said it took some time to get all of the families together for today's dedication.