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Aug. 20, 2012
A simple “road rage” incident led to the shooting deaths of four rookie California Highway patrol officers in the Newhall section of Santa Clarita on April 5, 1970. The officers’ deaths led to major changes in how the California Highway Patrol and other police departments train their officers.
by Mark Pulham
Santa Clarita, in Southern California, is the fourth largest city in Los Angeles County. It is known as the home of Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park, though the park is actually just outside the city limits.
The city, just 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, was, in 2006, ranked as number 18 in the top 100 places to live by Money Magazine. On a list of cities that have at least 100,000 inhabitants, it is ranked as the sixth safest in the United States, according to the FBI.
The southernmost, and the oldest, district in Santa Clarita is Newhall, a location for many television shows and movies, such as the 1954 suspense film Suddenly in which Frank Sinatra’s character attempts to assassinate the President of the United States as he passes through town.
But to many, the name of Newhall is synonymous with one thing, an incident that occurred in April, 1970. At the time, Newhall was more rural than it is now, some may even have described it as a “sleepy town.” In one night, that image would change.
It began with a small event, a minor occurrence that should have blown over a moment after it had happened, and then forgotten. Instead, what happened snowballed into a major tragedy.