Book Excerpt: Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis
Section One: The Approach and Initial Shots Fired
Editor’s Note: At SHOT Show 2014 I was fortunate to finally meet Mike Wood, who has written several PoliceOne First Person Essays and become one of my very best email “pen pals.” He gave me a signed copy of his book, which I’ve read in electronic form. Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis is, in my opinion, the most comprehensive and thoroughly researched account of this shooting available. Wood had unprecedented access to the files of the detectives who investigated this case, and conducted numerous personal interviews with officers who participated in the gunfight. In my view, you will not find another account of this gunfight that is more accurate or more thoroughly documented. The following excerpt describes the opening moments of the fight.
When Davis brought the Pontiac to a stop, he did so in an area bathed with light from the gas station ahead and the restaurant parking lot to the right. With the additional light provided by the headlights of the CHP cruiser and the passenger side mounted white spotlight, Officers Gore and Frago could clearly see that the vehicle contained two occupants, not the single occupant reported by the complainant, Tidwell. Davis was behind the wheel, and Twining was in the right front passenger seat of the Pontiac. They remained inside the vehicle.
The CHP Dodge was located at the five o’clock position from the Pontiac, approximately 15 to 20 feet behind—a little more than one car length away. The Dodge was angled away from the Pontiac towards the left, in a way that exposed the right side of the patrol car to anyone who exited the passenger side of the Pontiac.
The officers got out of their patrol car and took up initial positions with weapons drawn, as was standard procedure for a high risk or “hot” stop. Officer Gore exited the driver’s side, drew his 6” Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver from his swivel holster, and pointed it at the vehicle from a “leaning” position across the left front fender and hood of the Dodge. Officer Frago, armed with the Remington 870 12 Gauge shotgun from the patrol car’s Lektro-Lok rack, donned his hat and established a position just aft of the right front headlamp of the patrol car, in accordance with the tactics he had been taught for “routine” vehicle stops as a cadet less than a year and a half ago.
Officer Gore ordered the occupants out of the car with the command, “Get out with your hands up.” When neither Davis nor Twining complied with the command, he repeated it a second and third time before the driver, Davis, finally exited the vehicle. Witnesses reported that Gore had to order the noncompliant Davis an additional time to raise his hands, stating, “We told you to get your hands up.” Against directions, Twining remained in the car.
Officer Gore ordered Davis to spread his legs, place his hands on top of the Pontiac, and lean on the car. When Davis assumed the directed search position, Officer Gore advanced the short distance between them (about 10-15 feet) to search the suspect. The time was just prior to 23:55.
Meanwhile, Officer Frago abandoned his covering position at the front of the Polara and approached the passenger side of the Gran Prix with the shotgun in a “Port Arms” position. Nearing the vehicle, he reportedly shifted the butt of the shotgun to his right hip and held it muzzle in the air with his right hand only, as he reached for the door handle of the Pontiac with his left hand to remove the noncompliant passenger, Twining.
As Officer Frago reached for the door handle, Twining suddenly opened the door and spun to face Officer Frago with a 4” Smith & Wesson Model 28 .357 Magnum revolver in his hand. Officer Frago was reported to have yelled “Hold it” before Twining fired twice with the revolver, striking him in the left armpit area with both shots. The bullets from the Western brand .357 Magnum cartridges traversed Officer Frago’s upper chest, killing him instantly, and he fell where he stood.
Twining quickly exited the vehicle and turned to fire two shots at Officer Gore, who was frisking Davis on the other side of the vehicle. In his haste, Twining triggered both shots low, into the right rear side of the Pontiac’s body and roof as he tracked the gun upward towards Officer Gore.
Meanwhile, Officer Gore turned away from Davis, aimed his revolver, and fired a single round of Remington-Peters .357 Magnum ammunition at Twining across the deck lid of the car. The shot went wide and missed Twining, striking the right rear window of a Ford Mustang parked in the restaurant parking lot and exiting out the rear window.
With Officer Gore focused on the threat across the car, Davis had the opportunity to push back from the car, spin to his right, and pull a 2” Smith & Wesson Model 38 Bodyguard Airweight .38 Special revolver from his waistband (the same gun he had used to threaten the Tidwell’s, earlier). Davis shot the distracted officer twice in the chest at arm’s length, the bullets traveling from left front to right back. Like his hapless partner, academy classmate, and childhood friend, Officer Frago, Officer Gore was dead before he hit the ground.
The time was 23:56. The Pontiac had stopped just over one minute earlier, and help had just arrived.
Mike Wood’s book, Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, is available in electronic and paperback formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple ITunes, GunDigestStore.Com, and other popular retailers. Please see the official website at www.newhallshooting.com for additional information.