Chief of Police Dennis Titla, Sr.

Chief of Police Dennis Titla, Sr.

San Carlos Apache Tribal Police Department, Tribal Police

End of Watch Tuesday, April 12, 1960

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Dennis Titla, Sr.

Chief of Police Dennis Titla was shot and killed while attempting to arrest three brothers for being drunk in public on a dirt road one mile west of San Carlos.

He and another officer had handcuffed one of the men when the other two attacked them. During the struggle on the men gain control of Chief Titla's service weapon and shot him three times.

The other officer was able to subdue the other two brothers and transported all three to the jail. They were convicted of Chief Titla's murder.

Chief Titla had only served as the chief of police for one month. He was survived by his wife, three sons, parents, brother, and sister.


  • Age 30
  • Tour 1 month
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Arizona
  • Weapon Gun; Unknown type
  • Offender Convicted


Most Recent Reflection

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I remember the day this happened. I was 16 years old (1960) living with my grandparents in Gilson Wash, on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Gilson Wash is just one of the 3 main districts on this reservation.
I was eating a meal with my elderly grandparents looking out the door way to the northeast and I happen to look across the wash where a paddy wagon was parked. It wasn't far from Ernest Hill's house to the right.
I could see the scuffle that ensued and how the young kid took Dennis' pistol. From my view, I could only see one person. The distance from my house to the scene was less than 1/4 of a mile.
I was not a material witness as my parents told me to stay put as I was about to run toward the scene with having no fear of what I had just seen.
In 1988, 28 years later, I was to meet his son, Steve Titla, a prominent attorney in Globe, Arizona still, today.
It was during a summer Apache ceremony in the mountains east of San Carlos about 30 miles and I was asking for directions when Steve drove up looking at a puzzled Apache with 3 young non-Indian nurses who came to witness a puberty rite ceremony. Fortunately, we were rescued by Titla.
It was during this time when I began asking questions about who Steve Titla was and wondered who his father was. I was to learn that his father was the late Dennis Titla.
I spoke with Steve this day, May 19 to ask his permission to post this.

Steve is an acquaintance and I have never told him the particulars of the incident or that I witnessed what happened until today. It was difficult for me to share this with him. I know that he was appreciative of the information and I promised to post in memorial to his father during National Law Enforcement Week.

I knew the boy that committed this terrible murder. The kid wasn't very smart.
So, I have seen an actual killing of a policeman.
I would never want anyone else to witness such an incident.
The San Carlos Police force was the first official Native American police force organized at the turn of the century.
God Bless the Titla family during National Law Enforcement Week.

Friend of Dennis Titla son.

May 20, 2016

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