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Officer Roger Renick Warren Jr.
(May 25, 1943 – May 8, 1967)

Usually when a police officer is shot in the line of duty, it isn't a planned event. More likely, it's someone caught in the act of committing a crime, or trying to escape. The situation escalates, judgement fails, emotions take over, and it can end in tragedy.

When rookie LAPD Officer Roger Renick Warren Jr. was shot and killed, less than two weeks after his graduation from the Police Academy, it was the result of a carefully planned ambush, even though it's likely Warren’s teen-aged killer didn't know who he was, or that Warren was even the intended target. Warren was killed simply because he was wearing a badge.

Early in the evening on Tuesday, May 8, 1967, a 23-year-old man walked into Dale's Food Market at 6821 Lennox Ave. in Van Nuys, across the street from Van Nuys Park. The man lived on Ethel Avenue in North Hollywood, about two miles east of the market. When the man picked up a bottle of wine and attempted to walk out without paying for it, the assistant manager of the market stopped him.

While the assistant manager detained the shoplifter and prepared to call police, the man offered to pay for the wine. Several of the man's friends, including a 16-year-old Van Nuys resident, entered the store, and urged the assistant manager to accept the payment, and not call the police.

The assistant manager wasn't swayed, called the police, and the shoplifter was arrested. Later that evening, the market received an anonymous telephone call threatening the market and the assistant manager.

The 16-year-old Van Nuys resident, who lived a few blocks north of the market, seemed particularly upset about the incident. He had recently worked as a box boy at Dale's Food Market, but lost his job for spending his break time with friends in the park across the street. After that, he worked as a car washer, and planned to join the Army when he turned 18.

The teen also had a lengthy police record beginning when he was 10 years old, including arrests for malicious mischief, curfew violations, burglary, and attempted armed robbery. He was also picked up at least twice on suspicion of sniffing glue. Each time, because of his age, he was released to his parents. Despite his record, the teen's father described his son as "an easy-going, loveable boy who was raised to respect the law."

After the shoplifting incident at the market, the teen went home, told his parents he was going to bed at about 9:30 p.m., and then snuck out of the house with a 30.06-caliber hunting rifle, fitted with a telescopic sight. He returned to Van Nuys Park, across the street from the food market, and crouched behind a brick barbecue pit, about 75 yards from the front of the market. Police theorize that the teen's intended target was the assistant manager.

At about 10:25 p.m., an LAPD patrol car from the Van Nuys Division headed south on Lennox Avenue, between the park and the market. Behind the wheel was Officer Roger R. Warren Jr., 23, who had graduated from the LAPD Police Academy nine days before, and was on his second night on patrol. With him was his training officer, James P. Woodman. Woodman noticed a figure crouching in the darkened park, so Warren made a U-turn, and pulled up to the curb next to the park.

As Warren and Woodman exited the patrol car to investigate, Woodman heard a "bang," and shouted to his partner to take cover. But it was too late. The gunshot hit Warren on the right side of his chest, under his arm, and passed into his heart.

Woodman returned fire, but was unable to hit the shooter. LAPD Officer William C. Wisehart, who lived nearby and was off duty at the time, heard the shots and quickly responded to the scene. Woodman and Wisehart exchanged gunfire with the shooter, who was hit at least three times, and died at the scene. (For their actions, Woodman and Wisehart were both awarded the LAPD's Medal of Valor -- the department's highest honor.)

Warren was taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital, at 15107 Vanowen St., where he was pronounced dead on arrival -- about two weeks before his 24th birthday.

Warren was born May 25, 1943, the second of five children of Roger Renick Warren and Catherine Cleo Boynton Warren. After graduating from James Monroe High School in North Hills, Warren served for four years in the U.S. Air Force as an air policeman before joining the LAPD in January 1967.

On Aug. 17, 1963, Warren married Nancy A. Davis. Their daughter, Kelley, was born April 1, 1965.

Warren was survived by his wife and their young daughter; his parents; two brothers, John and Michael; and two sisters, Carole and Linda.

"It makes me feel not too awfully bad because he was dedicated to police work," Warren's widow told the L.A. Times. While he was in the Police Academy, Nancy Warren said her husband would stay up every night studying until 10:30 p.m., then get up at 5 a.m. to prepare for his day. "He used to spend hours shining his shoes," she said. "He was so enthusiastic. He told me quite a few times he had to be enthused about becoming a policeman because the training was so rugged. Sometimes he was too tired to eat when he came home at night. We were all so proud of him."

Warren's funeral services were held at the Utter-McKinley Mortuary in Mission Hills, and were attended by LAPD Police Chief Thomas Reddin, dozens of other officers, and many classmates from Warren's 118-member Police Academy graduating class. Warren was buried at at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills.

Although he didn't live long enough to make a personal impact on the streets of Los Angeles, Officer Warren's influence on policing continues decades after his death. Warren's younger brothers, John and Michael, were 14 and 11, respectively, when he was killed. They were in their bedroom that night when they heard a knock at the front door of their home, then heard their mother burst into tears.

"From that point on, we wanted to become cops to fulfill what he started," Michael Warren told the East Bay Times newspaper in 2008. Four years after his brother's death, Michael joined the first Police Explorer Post at the Newark Police Department, southeast of San Francisco, in Alameda County. In 1977, he became a reserve officer and, in 1980, he became a full-time officer.

Before Michael Warren retired in 2006, he served in patrol and investigative positions, and was an instructor with the department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. In 1993, Michael Warren was named the department's Officer of the Year.

Meanwhile, John Warren joined the Daly City Police Department, in San Mateo County, south of San Francisco, in 1977, after starting his career as a reserve officer in Newark. He worked as a field training officer, gang task force officer and detective assigned to homicide, narcotics, gang violence and burglary investigations. In 1997, he was promoted to lieutenant, and was named captain the following year.

When Capt. John Warren retired in 2006, after nearly 30 years with the Daly City Police Department, he went to work as a chief inspector for the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Michael Warren's son, Matthew Roger Warren, also joined the "family business." At the age of 15, he joined a Police Explorer Post, worked as a prisoner transport officer for the Union City Police Department, obtained his degree in justice administration in 2007, and became a full-time officer with the Newark Police Department in 2008.

The influence of Roger Warren's life and death also extended beyond his family. On the evening he was killed, a producer named Robert A. Cinader was doing research for a new TV series about LAPD patrol officers. Cinader wanted the series to capture the reality of two LAPD patrol officers, a veteran and a rookie, and the typical issues and challenges they face while on patrol.

Cinadar was on a ride-along with officers from the North Hollywood Division, doing research for the series, getting a feel for the job, and learning the duties and responsibilities. When the officers he was with heard the radio reports of an officer down, they raced to the scene, but there was nothing they could do. Warren had already been taken to the hospital, and his killer was lying dead in the park.

"What happened to Officer Warren could happen to any man in uniform, and they never forget it for a moment ... nor do their families," Cinader later wrote. Cinader pitched his series with that idea -- the daily experiences of LAPD patrol officers, sometimes tedious and boring, sometimes frantic and dangerous, but always with the grim cloud of tragedy over their heads.

Cinader and his partner, Jack Webb, best known as the producer, writer and star of the "Dragnet" TV series, sold their idea for the new series. It was called "Adam-12," starred Martin Milner and Kent McCord, and ran for seven seasons, from 1968 to 1975. The series was credited with introducing police procedures and jargon to the general public, and inspired a generation of young men and woman to consider a career in law enforcement.

Officer Warren was later joined at Forest Lawn by his father, who died in 1991, and his mother, who died in 2009.

Officer Warren's sign is located in the north side of Vanowen Street, between Sylmar and Lennox avenues.

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