Every May law enforcement from across Stanislaus County gather at Lakewood Memorial Park for a ceremony that remembers and honors those officers who were killed in the line of duty.
In a somber litany of names and agencies, the Turlock Police Department is called out five times for the five men who died in service to their community.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first law enforcement death in Stanislaus County, which happened to be a Turlock police officer. The Turlock Police Department plans to mark the occasion by sending their honor guard to Washington D.C. to participate in the national Peace Office Memorial. The trip for the honor guard is funded through donations from service clubs and the community, which Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson believes speaks volumes about Turlock.
“We are able to send them because the community cares enough about these fallen officers to make it possible,” Jackson said. “It’s important we not forget about these men. It’s easy to just look at the uniform, but these men were also husbands, fathers, and people who cared about their community.”
Between 1935 to 1973 the Turlock Police Department lost five officers — Lavon B. New, Joe Kerley, Glenn Winans, George Bredenberg, and Raymond Willert. While their photos adorn the new Public Safety Facility, their histories are fading from the collective community memory. The Turlock Journal has partnered with the Turlock Police Department to retell their stories.
Lavon Bayne New
Lavon Bayne New was born on Oct. 9, 1906, on the plains of Oklahoma into a family well-versed in law enforcement. His father, Amos Frank New, was a deputy sheriff who rode with the likes of legendary lawman Pat Garrett in Texas, before handing up his badge and working as a blacksmith and wheelwright in Oklahoma.
In 1927, the family was felled by tragedy when a tornado ripped through their home, killing New’s mother and seriously injuring him and his father. But two months later, New found joy again when he married Vera Perigo.
In 1928, the young couple relocated to Turlock where they set up their home at 320 Thor St. and New went to work as a fireman for the city. The following year they welcomed their son Lavon B. New, Jr.
For four years New worked as a fireman for the city without much incident. He was part of a team that battled large fires at the Broadway Grocery and Broadway Sweet Shop and the Union Oil Company. Then on the night of Dec. 22, 1932, a massive blaze broke out at the Knudsen Warehouse Packing sheds on N. Front Street. New was one of the fire fighters to go into the building, but he was overwhelmed by the size of the fire, which would eventually take nine hours to bring under control. New had to be rescued from the fire and suffered critical smoke inhalation injuries, effectively ending his service with the fire department.
But New found a new opportunity to serve his community when a position opened up with the relatively new motorcycle unit in the Turlock Police Department’s traffic division. New began his duties of patrolling the city’s motorists in February 1935.
On June 23, 1935, New spotted a vehicle that sped through the intersection of Main Street and Golden State Highway (now Boulevard) without stopping. New was in pursuit of the speeding car when a vehicle turned onto Geer Road and struck New on his motorcycle.
The newspaper reports at the time described the collision as being so violent that it tore the rear tire completely off the vehicle and pinned New underneath his motorcycle.
The family in the vehicle was not injured.
New was rushed was to Emanuel Hospital in Turlock with a fractured jaw, broken right leg, fracture of both wrists and a concussion. Doctors were uncertain if he would survive, but New appeared to improve and remained there until Aug. 12, 1935 when he was taken by ambulance to St. Josephs Hospital in Stockton where he could receive specialized surgery to repair his right femur.
On Aug. 14, 1935, Dr. George H. Sanderson performed the surgery on New and everything seemed to have gone well. But suddenly around 6:30 p.m. New went into post-operative shock and died.
New was 28 years old at the time of his death. He was a husband, father, son and had been a motor officer for seven months.
A service was held for New in Turlock and then his wife escorted his remains back to Oklahoma for burial. She and her 6-year-old son moved away from Turlock soon after.
For decades, Lavon B. New, Jr. knew the family stories of his father and recalled a few memories, like sitting on his father’s motorcycle, which he found quite scary. But he believed the sacrifice his father made was largely forgotten, at least he thought that until he was contacted by the Turlock Police Department in 2006.
As a 77-year-old man Lavon B. New was brought out to Turlock as a special guest for the 2006 Peace Officer Memorial. He was given a tour of the city in a vintage convertible T-bird, which included stops at his old home and the street named after his father. He also got a chance to perch on one of the police motorbikes and this time he said it wasn’t so scary.
The trip was an emotional one for the son and he expressed his gratitude for a community and a department that remembered his father.
Lavon B. New Jr. passed away in 2013.
The Journal will have future stories recounting the lives of the other fallen officers from the community.
The Turlock Police Department is still accepting donations for the honor guard trip and those interested in doing so can contact Lt. Ron Reid at email@example.com.
The Peace Officer Memorial Group contributed to this story.