Officer James E. Pence, Jr.

Officer James E. Pence, Jr.

California Highway Patrol, California

End of Watch Monday, April 6, 1970

Add to My Heroes

James E. Pence, Jr.

Officer James Pence, Jr., was one of four California Highway Patrol officers who was slain in an incident that became to be known as the Newhall Incident.

Officer Pence had served with the California Highway Patrol for two years. He is survived by his wife, son, and daughter.

He is buried in Suisun-Fairfield Cemetery, Fairfield, Solano County, California.

The Newhall Incident

On the night of April 5th, 1970, two subjects were in the northern Los Angeles County foothills, target practicing with an assortment of weapons, which included handguns, rifles, and shotguns. They were also testing the range of their walkie-talkies as part of a plan to use the equipment to commit armed robberies to finance a scheme to purchase nursing homes. One of the men dropped the other off and drove a short distance to test the walkie-talkie. During the drive, he made an unsafe U-turn on the freeway, cutting off another motorist. A verbal confrontation occurred between the two drivers, and the subject threatened the motorist with a handgun.

The motorist was allowed to leave after he convinced the gunman the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was in the area. The motorist continued south on the freeway and then made a call to the California Highway Patrol's Newhall Station to report the incident.

The CHP officers in the Newhall area were notified by radio that a handgun brandishing occurred on US 99 in the Gorman area north of their location. Officer Roger Gore and Officer Walter Frago informed dispatch they were staked out in the area of Castaic Junction and US 99. A short time later, they spotted the traveling south on the freeway. The officers notified dispatch and their backup officers that they were following the vehicle as it continued south. The officers intended to make a vehicle stop when the gunman reached the area of Valencia Boulevard, where Officer James Pence and Officer George Alleyn were positioned. 

The vehicle instead exited the off-ramp at Henry Mayo Drive at The Old Road, just north of Valencia, and pulled into the parking lot of J's Coffee Shop. After activating their red light and drawing their weapons, Officer Gore ordered the suspects to exit the car with their hands up. They failed to comply, and the order was given again. Finally, the driver got out of the car and was told to lean on its left fender in order to submit to a search. The passenger still did not comply with the exit order, and Officer Frago proceeded to walk up to the right side of the car in order to remove him. The passenger suddenly opened his door and shot Officer Frago twice with a handgun, killing him instantly. The passenger then fired at Officer Gore, who returned fire. The driver, who had a handgun concealed in his waistband, then shot Officer Gore in the chest, killing him. 

Officer Pence and Officer Alleyn arrived on the scene moments after the shooting and were immediately fired upon. Officer Pence broadcast that shots had been fired and that they needed assistance. In the ensuing gun battle, both officers were shot and killed. All four officers were shot on April 5th, 1970, just prior to midnight, but pronounced dead on April 6th, 1970.

The gunmen were able to make their escape after firing at the arrival of two additional CHP units. They drove into a dead-end road a short distance away, abandoned their vehicle, and fled on foot.

The passenger entered a home in the city of Newhall and took the residents hostage. He later committed suicide when the home was tear-gassed as members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department made entry.

Los Angeles County deputies later captured the driver after he shot and assaulted a man and stole his camper. The driver was convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to death. The death sentence was reduced to life in prison after the California Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was unconstitutional. On Sunday, August 16th, 2009, the killer was found dead in his cell at the Kern Valley State Prison of an apparent suicide.

A portion of I-5, between Rye Canyon Road and Magic Mountain Parkway, in Los Angeles County, was renamed the "California Highway Patrol Officers James E. Pence, Jr., Roger D. Gore, Walter C. Frago, and George M. Alleyn Memorial Highway" in their honor.


  • Age 24
  • Tour 2 years
  • Badge 6885

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Incident Date Sunday, April 5, 1970
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Committed suicide

traffic stop, weapons violation

Most Recent Reflection

View all 72 Reflections

To the few who have the honor of serving the public in the most under appreciated and demanding roll in our society. keep your heads up, and never get complacent. God be with you.

Nathaniel Pence
Arizona Pence family.

January 28, 2023

Want even more control of your Reflection? Create a free ODMP account now for these benefits:

  • Quick access to your heroes
  • Reflections published quicker
  • Save a Reflection signature
  • View, edit or delete any Reflection you've left in the past

Create an account for more options, or use this form to leave a Reflection now.