Last year when it was my turn to make the selection for our book club to read and discuss, I was in a quandary. The pressure was on.
My quest brought me to Sam's Club; food first, book aisle second... A paperback in the display caught my attention. A stark black cover with the title in large print "The Newhall Incident, America's Worst Uniformed Cop Massacre." The cover photograph showed the shattered rear window of a CHP car with blood caked in dried rivulets dripping down the rear bumper. A lone CHP hat sat on the trunk.
Powerful stuff. I had found our book.
It was almost midnight on April 5, 1970, when a traffic stop led four California Highway Patrol officers to step from their patrol cars and into a nightmare.
On that fateful evening, two worlds collided. The world of Officers Gore, Frago, Pence and Alleyn which was dedicated to maintaining the "good" of California's highways and the world of Bobby Davis and Jack Twining, who by circumstance or design epitomized the "bad."
This Hometown Story is not about the facts of the "Newhall Incident", but about Retired CHP Officer Sgt. Harry Ingold, one of the first officers to arrive on scene in 1970 as the smoke from discharged weapons still hung over the killing grounds.
Harry Ingold was born in 1943 in Kansas City, Missouri. His younger brother Danny suffered from asthma.
"I was about 7 years old, Harry recalled, and after Danny had a serious asthma attack, my father said, 'that's it, we're leaving."
The Ingolds hit the road with all of their belongings packed into a one- axle trailer hitched behind their 49' Ford.
After a brief respite in Arizona where the single axle broke, their trailer had to be abandoned. With everything they owned now piled to the roof of their Ford, the Ingolds came to a literal fork in the road.
The highway leading towards Phoenix was barren of tire tracks, whereas the path to Los Angeles looked well traveled. On a wing and a prayer, Mr. Ingold made the decision to head for California.
They settled in and called the San Fernando Valley home.
Harry said to me, "I have an interesting story about my junior high school." "Wonderful", I thought as I turned on my tape recorder. He shared with me that he went to Pacoima Junior High with singer Richie Valens of "La Bamba" fame.
"Richie would take out his guitar at lunch, while we were treated to informal jam sessions."
"However," Harry replied, "That wasn't my junior high story."
Harry Ingold then proceeded to recount a tale of a scarred playground and scarred images.
"It was January 31, 1957. I was on the field at Pacoima Junior High when my PE group looked up and saw a plane with fire coming out of the rear. In a flash, the airplane banked and began heading toward our school. In seconds, I was running for my life as the plane exploded directly upon impact. I hit the asphalt when a 3x3 piece of the plane skipped off of the ground directly in front of me. It looked like a battlefield with the four engines imbedded in the schoolyard and torn bodies lying around."
On that dreadful afternoon, an Air Force Fighter Jet was out on maneuvers and a DC-7 Transport plane was on its final test run. In a horrifying instant at 25,000 feet, the planes collided over the San Fernando Valley.
The Air Force pilot ejected and made it to safety. The four-member crew of the DC-7 and three Junior High students lost their lives that day.
Six months later, Harry's 8th grade class graduated, putting behind them a year they would never forget. The devastated schoolyard and countless lives slowly began to mend.
Harry moved on to Polytechnic High in Sun Valley. A yearbook photo shows a dashing young man in a tracksuit.
Not long after high school graduation, Harry married his girlfriend Jeanette. The two continued to live in the Valley while he worked as a phone installer for Pacific Telephone. On a fluke he applied to the California Highway Patrol.
January 3, 1967, the same day that Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the Governor of our great state, Harry was sworn in as a recruit in the California Highway Patrol Academy. He graduated in April, and began an exemplary career spanning 36 years and 3 months.
Officer Ingold was stationed in Newhall, California.
On April 5, 1970, Harry and his partner, Roger Palmer, were on duty patrolling near the Way Station on San Fernando Road when they heard a call from dispatch that a vehicle was seen brandishing a weapon on the Southbound 5 Fwy near Pyramid Lake.
Another officer on duty that night, Roger Gore replied that he and his partner Walt Frago, had the vehicle in their sights and it was exiting at Henry Mayo Drive (now Magic Mountain Parkway) near the Standard Gas Station & J's Coffee Shop (where Marie Callendars now sits).
Officer Skip Pence, in a second car, radioed that he and his partner George Alleyn would provide back up.
"When I heard that both cars were responding, we felt they had it handled," Harry recalled. "Within minutes, the next transmission I hear is Pence screaming "11-99, J's Coffee Shop, 11-99 ! Those were the last words that I ever heard Pence say."
11-99 is the code for "Officer Needs Help".
"You can go your entire career never hearing those words," Harry said as he shook his head.
Harry and another nearby CHP car immediately flipped U-turns on
San Fernando Road. They rode bumper to bumper at 140 mph down Henry Mayo Drive. As they rounded onto Old Highway 99 (now The Old Road), they saw a scene pulled right from the pages of Hell's travelogue.
Four Highway Patrol Offices lay on the ground behind and next to their vehicles. Three were dead and one, Officer Alleyn, was barely alive.
The suspects Davis and Twining attempted to escape in their vehicle.
The tires were shot out and they hightailed it in two different directions.
Harry shared with me his recollections of what happened next;
"I rolled up and stayed a short distance behind the two CHP cars. I approached the first downed Officer, but I was not able to identify him because he had been shot in the face. I looked at his nameplate and saw it was George Alleyn. He was barely alive and was later pronounced dead at the Hospital."
"It was obvious that the three other Officers who were our friends were dead." The carnage was appalling.
Harry continued; "We secured Davis and Twining's car. By this time every law enforcement agency within range of our radios was converging at J's Coffee Shop.
I went to my glove box and took out an instamatic camera and yellow crayon. I began snapping photographs of the scene. The photograph used on the cover of "The Newhall Incident" was one of mine.
With the yellow crayon, I drew circles around the four bodies so that when they were removed, we would know where they had lain.
Roger Palmer and I were then given the task of searching for Davis and Twining. We were sent to patrol a dirt road in the middle of nowhere near Rye Canyon. Talk about scared. We were shaking from adrenaline and what we might encounter."
Jack Twining made it 3 ½ miles on foot to a home on Pico Canyon where he held the Hoag family hostage. When law enforcement arrived, Twining killed himself with the shotgun he had stolen from Officer Frago.
The second suspect, Bobby Davis, was captured and taken into police custody.
Harry left work at 10:00 a.m. on April 6th, 1970. It had been a very long, very exhausting and very traumatic night.
The tight knit communities of Santa Clarita and the CHP were broken. Only time would repair the property and human damage left behind.
Bobby Davis was tried for murder by the State of California. Officer Harry Ingold testified for the Prosecution. Davis was convicted and is serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay.
"Davis has only granted one interview, Harry said, "In it, he told the reporter that he did not see men that night, he only saw uniforms."
I asked if being so up close and personal to the Newhall Incident affected his job performance after that night. Harry thought about it for a moment.
"No, don't get me wrong, it was horrible, but never for an instant did I think about quitting. A lot of people later told me they would never have been able to continue. I just handled it differently, I don't think I handled it better."
Harry did laugh when he remembered the first traffic stop that he and Roger Palmer made three days after the Newhall Incident.
"A car on the 5 Freeway was weaving between lanes. When we pulled up and got out to approach the driver, we were both nervous wrecks and our hearts were racing. We breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that our suspect was a white haired little old lady!" Whew....
Harry grew to love the scenery and lifestyle of Santa Clarita as he patrolled its roadways. On the morning of February 9, 1971, an earthquake centered in nearby Sylmar broke apart the ground with a vengeance. The 6.5 temblor afforded the Ingolds the opportunity to move into the Santa Clarita Valley.
Nerves were rattled and many folks just wanted to get out of Dodge.
"I was able to get a great deal on this house. We moved in March 71' and I loved being only 10 miles from work," Harry smiled.
Officer Ingold was promoted to Sergeant in 1987 and was transferred to West Los Angeles, where two years later he became a Motor Sergeant.
Channeling Poncharello from CHiPs, Sgt. Ingold cruised the highways of Southern California on his Kawasaki helping to keep the bad guys at bay until his retirement in 2003.
Today, Harry Ingold, a thoughtful, modest man enjoys traveling and family. He and Jeannette were married for 18 years and divorced in 1980, but still remain friends. Harry combined his two loves this past June, and took the entire family including Jeannette, their two children Michael and Terri along with their families on an Alaskan Cruise.
"It was one of the best trips we've been on," Harry said.
The tough retired cop showed a softer side when he shared with me that he picks up his 87 year-old mother everyday and takes her out to breakfast.
Devotion is a cornerstone to the character of Harry Ingold; He spent 36 years devoted to his career and continues to be a devoted son, father and grandfather. His mother certainly raised him right.
A proud conservative, Harry loves to "Tivo" the Fox News Channel and watch his favorite conservative commentators. His retired friends from all walks of life get together regularly to shoot the breeze, compare stories, and just enjoy the companionship of long time friendships. It is a good life.
It is not everyday that a character from a book that so profoundly affects you comes to life. And, it is not everyday that you get to meet them and discover that they are so much more than you could have ever imagined.
Harry Ingold is one of my favorite characters.
"Four young men gave their lives protecting the residents of the state of California that night. God Bless them." -Harry Ingold, on The Newhall Incident.
By Rachel Singer