Several Southland incidents will always be remembered because of the impact they had on law enforcement: the Los Angeles bank robbery, the Rodney King incident, the Norco bank robbery, the Casa Blanca shooting, the Newhall CHP shooting and the Cajon Pass shooting in which Al Stewart lost his life. We need to always remind ourselves how the Alfred E. Stewart Memorial Award came to be and who the man was that inspired such a coveted award.
A Nation is stunned
On March 11, 1973, the nation was stunned by an incident at Wounded Knee, Montana. As the country sat glued to their television sets and radios, law enforcement personnel in California's Southland were still reeling from a tragic shooting that had occurred on March 9 in San Bernardino's Cajon Pass area. San Bernardino Sheriff's Lt. Alfred E. Stewart and California Highway Patrol Officer Larry Wetterling were slain by Jerry James Youngberg, a 30-year old parolee from Illinois who had no apparent motive for the killings.
CHP Officer Wetterling was dispatched to the area on reports of a drunk driver driving north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 15 in the Cajon Pass. Wetterling stopped his patrol car to investigate a disabled car, an old model, black Lincoln with a flat tire at about 7:50 a.m. The car was parked facing north in the southbound lanes. Several minutes into the seemingly routine encounter, Youngberg removed a .38-caliber handgun from the vehicle's glove compartment and, for no apparent reason, shot Wetterling three times.
The first shot struck Wetterling in the chest and he fell to the pavement, on his back. From several feet away, Youngberg fired two additional shots into Wetterlings head. Youngberg sped away in the CHP patrol unit, taking Wetterlings handgun with him. He reportedly fired at least one shot as he passed a southbound vehicle. Continuing south, Youngberg forced one vehicle with two female occupants in it off the road.
Youngberg exited the patrol car and, with a pistol in each hand, confronted the two females. As he did so, he saw that the patrol car was rolling downhill. He quickly ran back to it. The females sped away and Youngberg fired several shots at the vehicle, one of which went through the window, narrowly missing the occupants. Youngberg followed and overtook the vehicle. The two females watched as the patrol car spun out of control near the intersection of Highway 138. The now-disabled CHP unit crossed the northbound lanes and crashed into an embankment.
Youngberg ran about 350 yards to a nearby service station. A passing truck driver, who had witnessed the incident, made a frantic call to the CHP and a subsequent "officer needs help" call was broadcast. Lt. Stewart, who was head of the county's Regional Narcotics Task Force, was driving Deputy District Attorney John Hardy to the Barstow area for a task force meeting. Stewart, who was driving north, spotted the wreckage of the patrol car and sped into the service station where Youngberg had fled. As Stewart stepped out of his vehicle, Youngberg opened fire from about 15 yards away. Stewart and Youngberg exchanged gunfire and one bullet passed through both of Stewart's legs. Stewart fell to the pavement and threw his six-shot revolver to Hardy. Stewart, apparently thinking the incident was an ambush, put out a radio broadcast to that effect. Hardy fired one shot, emptying the revolver. Youngberg walked over to the wounded Stewart and fired one shot at his chest. He was pronounced dead on arrival at San Bernardino Community Hospital.
San Bernardino County Supervisor James L. Mayfield, an 11-year veteran with the sheriff's department, arrived on the scene and wounded the fleeing Youngberg, who was taken into custody by arriving officers. Investigators learned that a service station attendant had also been killed prior to Stewart and Hardy's arrival. Lt. Stewart, originally a police officer and narcotics officer in New Jersey, had been assigned as head of the San Bernardino Regional Narcotics Task Force just a few months prior to this incident. His goals on taking command of the unit were to mold the unit into an effective team and put a sharp dent in the narcotics trafficking in the largest county in the nation. Stewart would have been promoted to Captain in charge of the narcotics division the following week, according to then-Sheriff Frank Bland. Many of the CNOA Executive Board members knew Al and emotions still rise when his name is mentioned. Al drew praise from supervisors, peers, subordinates, district attorneys and everyone who had the privilege to know him.
Al was one of the founding members of CNOA and the eighth president, having served his term in 1972. The Alfred E. Stewart Memorial Award was created in 1973 to memorialize Al in a most fitting way-honoring individual achievement of working narcotic officers.
Since that time, 27 people have received the coveted award, and those that have been nominated or received the award all agree that it is truly humbling. In the field of narcotics enforcement, there is no greater honor than to be the recipient of an award named after a legend!
Alfred E. Stewart Award
2012 Narc of the Year
San Jose P.D.
The following is a list of the previous "Al Stewart Award" winners.
* denotes deceased
1973 Alfred Stewart * San Bernardino Sheriff's Department
1974 Steven L. Armenta * DOJ/BNE
1975 Edward Piceno Santa Barbara Co. Sheriff's Department
1976 Richard M. Sloan L. A. Co. Sheriff's Department
1977 Stanley Shaver * Santa Clara Co. Sheriff's Department
1978 Robert Olwell * Sacramento Police Department
1980 Carlton Vidano Huntington Beach Police Department
1981 Guy Ingles Ventura Co. Sheriff's Department
1982 Daniel Largent DOJ/BNE
1983 Richard Velasquez DOJ/BNE
1985 Michael A. Guy * Los Angeles Police Department
1986 Rudolf E. Delgado DOJ/BNE
1987 Patrick Gregory DEA
1988 John Schlim Fremont Police Department
1989 James G. Aumond Orange Co. District Attorney's Office
1990 Donald MacNeil Glendale Police Department
1991 Wilfredo Cid DOJ/BNE
1992 Roger Whitchurch Lake County Sheriff's Department
1993 Steven M. Angeja Alameda Co. Sheriff's Department
1994 Douglas Silva DOJ/BNE
1995 Tony Alvarez Los Angeles Police Department
1996 Edward Pecis DOJ/BNE
1997 James Kimzey Alameda Co. District Attorney's Office
1998 Michael Digby Los Angeles Sheriff's Department
1999 George Driscoll DOJ/BNE
2000 Brian Olmstead Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department
2001 Detective Caesar Mercado Stockton Police Department
2002 Detective Rick Serrato Santa Ana PD
2003 Special Agent Steve Duncan DOJ/BNE
2004 Sgt.Thomas R. Lorenz Glendale PD
2005 Lt. Devin Chase Torrance PD
2006 SAC Orlando Lopez DOJ/BNE Riverside
2007 Dave Lundgren Hayward PD
2008 Antonio Ybarra DOJ/BNE-Riverside/INCA
2009 Lieutenant. Jim Royer Hawthorne P.D.
2010 SAS Dean Johnston DOJ/BNE-Fresno
2011 Detective Juan Sandoval National City P.D.
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