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Officer William George Brown
(March 27, 1901 – Sept. 13, 1939)

The sudden, unexpected, violent death of a police officer is always tragic, but the events surrounding the death of LAPD Officer William George Brown are almost too tragic to believe.

Brown was born in Illinois on March 27, 1901. He moved to Los Angeles and joined the LAPD, where he worked as a motorcycle officer. He married Grayce F. Tait on June 8, 1933. It was the second marriage for each, and each had a son from their previous marriage. William and Grayce Brown lived on Bloomfield Street in Van Nuys, with Grayce’s son, Arthur.

After working his shift on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 1939, Officer Brown, 39, was heading home on his motorcycle to Van Nuys, northbound on Sepulveda Boulevard, and had just passed through the tunnel under Mulholland Drive. Ahead of him, heading south, was a motorcycle driven by Glen Johnson, 29, with his brother, George, 33, as a passenger.

The Johnsons’ motorcycle crossed the center line on a curve, about a mile north of the tunnel, and collided head-on with Brown’s motorcycle. Both vehicles were estimated to be traveling at 40 m.p.h., and the Johnson brothers were thrown 30 feet from the point of impact.

The Johnson brothers were taken to the Van Nuys Receiving Hospital for emergency treatment, then transferred to L.A. County Hospital, where Glen Johnson died of his injuries. George Johnson suffered a broken left arm, crushed left knee, and chest injuries, but survived.

Officer Brown suffered a compound fracture of his left leg, a broken left arm, a concussion, and possible internal injuries. He was taken to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where doctors initially gave him a good chance at survival.

Despite the optimistic prognosis, fellow LAPD motorcycle Officer Leslie Walker, 47, spent the night at Brown’s bedside. At about 6 a.m. the next morning, Brown took a turn for the worst, and his doctors told Walker that Brown was near death, and his family should be brought to the hospital. Walker raced to Brown’s home in Van Nuys to bring his wife and their son to Brown’s bedside.

Walker picked up Brown’s wife, Grayce, 38, and their son, Arthur, 19, at their home on Bloomfield Street in Van Nuys and, with siren blaring, raced back to the hospital. Less than two miles from the Brown residence, at the intersection of Moorpark Street and Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the police car was hit by a car driven by Clinton Seecombe, 30, of North Hollywood.

The police car rolled over in the collision. Grayce Brown suffered a broken neck, Arthur Brown suffered a fractured back, and both were taken to Queen of Angels Hospital on Bellevue Avenue in Los Angeles. Walker suffered a fractured skull and internal injuries, and was taken back to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. Seecombe, who told police he didn’t hear the siren until it was too late to avoid the collision, was not injured, and was not charged.

Just a few minutes before the collision, at 6:40 a.m., Officer Brown died at the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. His wife died three days later, on Saturday, Sept. 16. Officer Walker and Arthur Brown both recovered from their injuries.

Officer Brown is buried at Forest Lawn Glendale, next to his wife.

Officer Brown's sign is located on the northeast corner of Sepulveda Boulevard and Valley Meadow Road, about a mile north of the tunnel under Mulholland Drive.

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