Officer honored 50 years after he was shot to death in Truckee

Margaret Moran
California Highway Patrol employee Terri Fisher places a bouquet of flowers on the CHP Officer Glenn Carlson Memorial Bypass sign, located at the Highway 267 bridge, Thursday morning in honor of the 50th anniversary of Carlson's death in the line of duty. Pictured with Fisher, from left: CHP officer Kurt Peterson, Truckee Police Department Sgt. Jason Litchie, CHP officer Jason Tomkinson and CHP Sgt. R.C. Fisher.
Margaret Moran / | Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Fifty years ago this Friday, Glenn W. Carlson went to work, but he never made it home.

The California Highway Patrol officer was on duty when he stopped a speeding vehicle occupied by three men in a chain-controlled area in the Sierra Nevada. He issued the driver a citation.

Soon after, Carlson learned the car was missing from a used lot in Sacramento, and he began pursuit, according to CHP. Unknown to the 33-year-old officer, those in the vehicle were fleeing from a Bank of America robbery hours earlier in Sacramento.

The vehicle pulled over in front of Loch Leven Lodge by Donner Lake, and the men — Robert Burns, a parolee from Oregon, and fellow parolees Roger Mealman and Clifford Toycen Jr. — exited and approached Carlson.

When Carlson ordered the suspects back, Mealman shot him five times with a 9 mm pistol, killing him. All three suspects were later apprehended and charged with Carlson’s death.

“Officer Carlson laid down his life rather than swerve from the path of duty,” said Pete Mann, CHP Truckee public information officer, earlier this week. “(His) death highlights the sacrifice that all CHP officers are ready to make to protect the citizens of California.”

Officers with CHP and the Truckee Police Department honored Carlson Thursday morning by placing a bouquet of flowers at the CHP Officer Glenn Carlson Memorial Bypass sign, on the side of Highway 267 near Old Brockway Road.

The flowers will be on display all day Friday — the anniversary of Carlson’s death, Nov. 15, 1963.

“It doesn’t matter, even when 50 years go by, you never forget,” said Terri Fisher, office manager at the Truckee CHP office. “We never want to forget.”

The bypass, dedicated to Carlson in 2003, serves as a reminder of the dangers of law enforcement, said Truckee Police Sgt. Jason Litchie.

“Ultimately, it could have been any one of us,” he said. “What he was doing was just a normal part of his activities for the day. … (When) our units leave the office, we drive past this (sign) every day, see it every day, so it’s a healthy reminder.”

Before the bypass was closed temporarily for Thursday’s ceremony, several passing motorists could be seen taking a quick backward glance at the gathering of officers.

“We talked about it being a reminder for us, but it is important to remember him as a person,” said Ryan Moreau, TPD’s school resource officer.

At the time of his death, Carlson was in the process of building a house in Truckee for his wife, Jane, and their three children: Sven, 7 at the time, Coleen, 6, and Eric, who turned 4 the day after his father died.

Next May, during police officer memorial week, Carlson’s name will be read aloud during a bell ringing ceremony at CHP’s Academy in West Sacramento, along with the names of 233 CHP officers who’ve died in the line of duty.

“We keep his memory alive by doing things like this, so we have every intention of always doing something like this in remembrance,” Litchie said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.