Never Forget
CHP Star
Ray's Honor Guard
Honor Guards R.C.Rhodes and Art Wronn
CHP officer is remembered 30 years later

By Dena Erwin,  Journal Staff Writer


     it may have been 30 years since California Highway Patrol Officer Raymond R. Carpenter was shot and killed while patrolling Interstate 80, but his family will always feel the sting of his loss.
     In a ceremony Thursday at the Auburn-area Highway patrol office in Newcastle, a stunning memorial was dedicated in his memory. As Carpenter's widow, Patricia Carpenter Hardy, knelt to touch the black-and-gray granite plaque, she was overcome with emotion and covered her face. Tears streamed down the face of his children, now grown, and the grandchildren he never knew.
     Carpenter, forever 40 in the memories of his fellow offcers, was shot twice at close range with a .357-magnum revolver Feb. 17, 1970. Newspaper accounts stated Carpenter was shot by "a panicky kid with a gun and a stolen car." The assailant later shot himself in the head with the murder weapon as officers closed in on him near Folsom.
     Carpenter's killer was Carl Snyder, a 20-year-old Foresthill resident, a California Youth Authority parolee and a wanted robber. The car and the gun he was using were stolen from his own father. He killed himself as Officers Keith Arnold and Dennis Joksch approached the car.
     Arnole, Joksch and dozens of Carpenters former co-workers joined Carpenter's family for the ceremony. Also in attendance were law enforcement and political dignitaries, including former Placer County Sheriff Bill Scott, who was sheriff at the time of the shooting, Sheriff Ed Bonner, and a representative from the CHP commissioner's office. Even two of the journalists who covered the shooting 30 years ago, Joe Carroll and Bill Wilson, came to reminisce with old friends.
     Following the event, Carpenter's widow said her family was honored.
     "It means everything to us," she said. "This is a great honor and he's missed by everyone."
     Gene Scott, who graduated from Placer High School in 1947 with Carpenter, sang a beautiful a cappella version of "The Way We Were," bringing tears to many eyes. Scott also sang at Carpenter's funeral.
     "It was an honor then and I feel the same now," he said.
     Retired Officers Arnold and Joksch recalled Carpenter as a hard-working, well-loved man.
    "He was a lot of fun," said Arnold. "He loved his work." Added joksch: "He was a good officer."


Pat at Ray's Memorial Marker

Above, Patricia Carpenter Hardy, widow of California Highway Patrol Officer Raymond R. Carpenter, was overcome with grief as the memorial to her husband was uncovered during a ceremony Thursday. Comforting her is Auburn-area Commander Chuck Shipley. The Memorial is in front of the Highway Patrol's Newcastle office. At top, CHP Honor Guards, Officers R.C. Rhodes, left, and Art Wronn, offer a salute to Officer carpenter who was killed in the line of duty 30 years ago. Dozens of dignitaries and Carpenter's now-retired co-workers attended a ceremony in his honor Thursday.


Dove of Peace        Dove of Peace
The Old Man's Humble Tribute To His Friend, Trooper Ray Carpenter.
 
The Retirement Ceremony
An Autobiographical Vignette
© ® 1998 KGL

It's September 1986 and I'm listening to the Superintendent telling the people assembled what a great job the Lieutenant has done. Strange, it seems only a few minutes ago I was the rookie; now I'm retiring.
"It's time now," says the Colonel, "for the Lieutenant to go on to other challenges. Some", he says, "may be even more difficult and trying than those faced as a successful State Trooper."
The Commissioner and Colonel are going to present me with the traditional gifts. The Colonel promises to keep sending a paycheck if the Lieutenant will only stay home and behave himself. The crowd roars.
My mind leaves the room and wanders back over twenty-one years to the day before I even thought of becoming a State Trooper.

The speedometer on my first highway motorcycle had numbers only up to 140 miles per hour, so I used the tachometer to calculate speeds beyond that. This was a Harley-Davidson, re-built by the Harley Dealer in Oakland, California for the Reno Drags. After he had finished building it, he found that another dealer had built a faster one, so he dressed this one up, chromed it and sold it to me. At age seventeen, I had one of the hottest bikes on the West Coast, and I was enjoying it.
In high gear, 5,000 rpm was 140 miles per hour. That meant the 6,000-rpm I saw now was an even 175-mph. Actually, the bike could do well over 200 mph. "175 is way too fast for a public highway!" I thought, lying flat out on the gas tank to keep the wind resistance down. I slowed down until the needle came back to 140mph as I started across a long flat stretch. "I'm still going too fast." I thought. It wasn't this conclusion, however, that gave me the sudden hot rush of apprehension; it was the car that came gliding up alongside. Actually, it wasn't the car, it was the drab paint job; black and white, with "California Highway Patrol" lettered in bright white around the emblem on the door.
The Trooper was looking at me when I turned my head to get a better look at the car. He didn't have to wave me over because we connected mentally, probably by ESP. Cops and violators, I realized at that moment, have a mysterious way of communicating without words, each knowing which one was the winner, and which was the looser.
Several thoughts went through my mind as the bike slowed by engine compression and wind resistance to 120, then 100. At 90-mph I sat upright on the seat to let wind resistance help slow the bike down more before I start heating up the brakes. I'm wondering what the fine is for 175mph. I'm wondering if there is a fine for 175mph, or if there is only jail. It's Friday evening, and I have to be back on duty by 0600 Monday (that's 6 A.M. to civilians). If I'm in jail on Monday instead of on duty, then I'll go straight to the Brig when I get out of jail. This could turn out to be a real bad day, real fast. I don't know whether to wish I had not been speeding in the first place or had been more observant. More observant wins, as I'll never make it home and back at the speed limit. Looks like I'm not going to make it home anyway. "Wish I hadn't been speeding" wins out after all.
"Hands on your head, face-down on the pavement!"
It's a big voice in back of me. Real deep, lots of volume. Must be a big Trooper behind it. I start to look around, smile, maybe take the edge off this situation.
"DON'T turn around, just do what I said!"
My smile disappeared as my hands flew to the top of my head. The pistol barrel I had caught a glimpse of looked like the ocean-end of a San Francisco storm drain. I eased the kickstand down with my toe, let my legs ease the bikes' weight onto it, and gingerly stepped out of the saddle.
Getting face down on the pavement was no problem. Ease down onto the knees, slowly rock forward onto your belly without hitting your chin, hands still on top of your head. The pavement smells like dead dinosaurs. At least, I'm sure that it must be close to what they smell like. What a dumb thing to think of. Dinosaurs, dead or alive, are not my problem right now.
"Do not move, I'm going to handcuff you." the big voice says.
Man, I'm in deep kimchi here, handcuffs are not funny. My right arm is twisted from on top of my head down to the small of my back. The steel of the handcuffs is colder than the hand holding my wrist. The hand feels like a vice. I wonder how strong this Trooper is. Very strong. My other hand is twisted down to the small of my back and the other handcuff is fastened.
"I'm going to lift you up now, I want you to stand still where I put you, do you understand?"
"Yes, Sir, I understand"
I'm lifted up like I weighed ten pounds. What does this guy do, press barrels of oil and curl railroad tracks for practice?
"Where are you going in such a hurry?" The Trooper asks.
"Well, until I saw your CHP Emblem I was headed home for the weekend."
"Where's 'home' at?"
"Provo, Utah, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City."
"Provo, UTAH!?" It was more of an exclamation than a question. "That's more than 800 miles from here!" The Trooper was not amused nor was he impressed.
"Yes, Sir, Provo, Utah. I do it every weekend I don't have the duty."
"What do you mean by 'duty'?"
"Well, Sir, I'm in the military, and sometimes we get the weekend off so then I don't have the duty. Other times I can't leave for the weekend, so I don't go."
The Trooper shakes his head. Something here he can't believe, or doesn't want to believe.
"I got my I.D. Card, Sir, if you want to see it."
He takes hold of my left arm, turns me around, and takes off the handcuffs. It feels better, they were tight, there are white marks on my wrist.
"Let's see your I.D. Card and Driver's License." The Trooper says.
I fish out my wallet, get my Military I.D. and Utah Driver's License, hand them to him. He looks at both of them.
"Sorry for the handcuffs, but we had a Trooper shot last week. My motto is; 'No matter what, I'm going home after this shift is over!"
"No problem, Officer, I understand."
He reaches into his car, gets a clipboard with a long narrow book on it. He's writing. My mind finally catches up; I'm getting a ticket.
"Thanks, God, he's writing me a ticket, I'm not going to jail after all!"
"This is a ticket for speeding, and you'd better start saving your money 'cause it isn't going to be cheap!"
"Thank you, Sir; 'expensive' is a whole lot better than 'jail', and I know you had the choice between the two. I owe you!"
"That isn't the end of it, you aren't going to no 'Provo' on my weekend, you'll spread yourself all over Nevada somewhere!"
"Yeah, you're right. I got a late start tonight, I should have not tried to make it. I guess I'll just have to go back to the Base."
I finish signing the ticket and hand the clipboard back. He looks at it, tears off the number two copy and hands it to me. I stick out my hand. He's four inches taller than me and has me by sixty pounds, so he's not worried about any tricks. He has a good handshake. He could be a politician if he wanted to.
"How about this, youngster, I know you don't want to spend your weekend on the Base so what if you follow me to my place, my wife cooks us dinner and you can ride Patrol with me the rest of the shift?"
The world is suddenly brighter. I can actually ride a shift with a real CHP Trooper? Go fast? Catch crooks? Man, I must be living right! "Yes, SIR, I'd like that!"
Trooper Ray's wife Pat was a great cook... Roast Beef, potatoes, carrots, gravy and milk. A clan of little kids who thought my bike was great, and a huge dog that stood aloof. Riding the shift in the Patrol car was terrific. We caught a bunch of speeders, a car thief and had coffee with one of the other Troopers. The CHP cruiser was faster than my bike. By the time shift was over, I was asleep in five minutes and didn't hear a thing until breakfast the next morning. After that weekend, I spent every future weekend riding shotgun with my Trooper friend Ray of the California Highway Patrol. I became hooked on catching the bad guys.
The Commissioner continues; "the Lieutenant has caught a lot of bad-guys in his twenty-one years, 1,800 full-custody arrests..."
My mind wanders back to one of them, a murderer from Hollywood. I stopped him in Echo Canyon. Put my bumper against his driver's door, made him crawl out of the passenger's side while looking down the barrel of my twelve-gauge shotgun. I always called Ray down in California with the news when I got a real good one; after all he trained me first.
The Commissioner continues; "The Lieutenant has not had to shoot anybody in his whole career, which makes the Attorney General real happy." An undercurrent of chuckles follows. Yeah, I'm happy about that too.
My mind wanders to the dozens of times I might have had to shoot somebody, but I usually got the drop on the bad guys first and they gave up. A lot of them got handcuffed while face down on the pavement. I always wondered if they also thought the roadway smelled like dead dinosaurs. Two guys from Chicago I put in jail for drugs said they were going to try to shoot me, but thought better of it. "You're the meanest looking polite sunuvabitch I've ever met!" said the big one. I didn't know that before, but was glad just the same.
"Even better than that", continues the Commissioner, "he didn't get himself shot in twenty-one years either!"
For an instant I remember my lifelong motto, learned from my friend Ray; "No matter what, I'm going home when this shift is over!" That memory twists in a spiral as my mind whirls backwards in time, spinning down to stop at that one miserable day when Ray's wife Pat phoned my wife who then phoned me. Her voice told me there was something badly wrong before she said a word. Ray had been shot and killed on duty. A car thief got the drop on him. I couldn't believe it. Ray was indestructible. Ray didn't make mistakes. I called my Sergeant and checked off shift. My wife and two daughters went with me. We drove all night. Ray's dog met us at his door, stood flatfooted and sniffed my nose. Pat told him to go sit down. I can't believe Ray is gone, but then neither can anyone else.
"Finally, we have some nice presents for the Lieutenant." Says the Colonel. My thoughts slide back to a previous present, in the distant past.
After Ray's funeral was over, and Pat had time to level out, she took a trip and stopped at our house in Morgan. It was very nice to see her again.
"Ken, I have something I believe Ray would want you to have" she says. "His Service Revolver. It was damaged when he was killed, but the CHP repaired it. You can still see where one of the bullets hit the frame while it was in his holster."
My throat tightens up now with the memory, just like it did on that day. I take the big .357 Magnum she's handing me. It's still in its "clamshell" holster, a very rare holster. Push the hidden lever and the clamshell pops open, releasing the weapon straight into your hand. This is the same barrel I looked into many years ago, just before I started wanting to be a Trooper. This big Smith & Wesson belonged to my friend Ray. This is his service revolver, now his grieving widow has given it to me.
"I appreciate this, Pat, and I'll take good care of it."
It's a solemn moment for all of us.
"And so, Lieutenant, we all wish you God's Speed and success in your retirement. Continued good luck to you and your nice wife!" The people there applaud, say "hear, hear", give other compliments and the formalities are over. In fifteen minutes all the years from the beginning to the end of my long career have spun together in a multi-colored spiral of vivid memory flashes and intense feelings travelling at the speed of light.
I still have Ray's Service Revolver. I clean it regularly and each time notice the scar on the frame where one of the killer's bullets hit. I shoot it at least once a year to keep it in practice. Maybe Ray will want it back someday when we meet again.
It seems that only yesterday I was thinking the hot California highway smelled like dead dinosaurs.
Only a few minutes ago I was a rookie Trooper, just starting out.
Now here I am retiring.
Funny, how my life kept traveling at 175mph for all these years.
Return to
Gateway

"Post Script" for Ms. Denise S.

A Post ("After") Script ("The text") is something added after the main message.

This is a Post Script written for a young lady who is the grand daughter of my friend Ray Carpenter. She found Ray's Memorial, and asked if there were any stories she could hear about her Grandpa. So here is just one, there were many more but this is one that was somewhat exciting at the time, somewhat repetitious (as it turned out) for Ray, but simply one more expensive failure for the "guy in the red Corvette".

Ray was great at working traffic. He helped people in need ("public assists") and worked the violations that had been causing crashes and other traffic safety problems. He wrote warnings for those who might benefit from a reminder, and hard-copy for those who obviously needed it.

Two of Ray's favorite places to observe traffic flow was the top of the hill where he timed me going past on my motorcycle, and the top of a particular overpass where he could observe traffic on the freeway going both directions. He could easily get to the on-ramp of whichever side needed attention.

So for this event, "The Guy In The Red Corvette", he is parked on top of the overpass. Traffic is moderate to light, and we're observing all the cars going past. Everyone seems to be doing quite well.

Eventually, here comes a red corvette poking along quite below the speed limit. Eventually it stops right in the middle of the outside traffic lane. Maybe a couple hundred feet before he gets to the overpass. Right in the middle of the lane. I couldn't believe it.

"That dummy is going to get rear-ended, doesn't he know that thing is made out of fiberglass?"

"Oh, I don't believe he will be there very long". Ray replied, as he started up his Chrysler 300 and let it idle for a few seconds.

Suddenly I could hear the deep roar of the 'Vette's engine as the driver wrapped up the rpm's the pipes rattling the countryside, and the red "Vette started laying rubber. Big time rubber. With the 'Vette's rear-end fishtailing, the car moved slowly at first towards the underpass, gaining a bit of speed as the distance and burned rubber increased. It appeared to me that he was on the front brakes which minimized the speed gain by sacrificing tire rubber while putting on a show worthy of Saturday afternoon at Half Moon Bay. Suddenly the car straightened out and leapt forward, rubber still burning. The driver shifted gears and the tires started screaming in pain all over again as the "Vette disappeared under the overpass. He shifted again as he came out on the other side and the red Corvette was quickly doing exactly what Chevrolet had designed it to do.

"Hang on..." Ray calmly told me as he nosed his cruiser from our gravel perch on the overpass. He gradually accelerated as we went down the ramp, didn't spin a tire, didn't get excited, and by the time we hit the merge lane the Corvette was not disappearing near as fast as when Ray had started down from the top of the overpass. It was difficult for me to see the speedometer because the dash overhang hid the right side of the wraparound numbers.

Without any trouble at all, Ray soon overtook the red corvette, paced it, turned on his lights and both cars came to a gradual stop in the safety lane.

I watched as Ray issued the ticket. The guy signed it, took his copy and put it in his wallet. They talked for a couple of minutes, the guy got back into his corvette, then Ray returned to the patrol car.

The corvette driver then merged his 'Vette into traffic like he was a model citizen on a Sunday morning trip to church.

"That ticket should slow him down", I mused.

"Yes, until next time. He's pretty good except when he decides to try out his Corvette against the CHP Chryslers!"

"You mean, he's done this before?" I asked incredulously.

"Oh, yeah. Every time he does something else to the engine, he comes looking for us to see if he can outrun the CHP."

It took awhile for me to process all the layers of this idea. The expense of tickets, the chance that he might find a Trooper with no sense of humor that decides reckless driving would be more appropriate, the foolishness of trying out his car against a CHP cruiser instead of the "Christmas Tree" at Half Moon Bay for eight bucks, and the risk of something going wrong on one of his hot runs, killing himself and hurting other people.

"Sounds kind of a stupid; testing your car on a public highway against a State Trooper.", I mumbled. "He was driving way too fast for a public highway."

Ray was quiet for a few moments.

"You really believe that?"

"Sure do. Why would you think I didn't believe that?"

"We first met, you were about twenty five faster than that corvette. You must have repented since then."

"Oh, yeah, I repented, sure did.

"When did you repent?"

I thought for a minute. "Repented quite a bit when you didn't put me in jail. And the rest when I paid the ticket."

Ray started chuckling, then he laughed. Then we were both laughing.

We met up with another CHP Trooper who was (I believe) just coming on shift. Ray and the other Trooper talked about the red corvette, then about what was going on in general.

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