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Freeway honor for slain CHP officer from Auburn

Raymond Carpenter was killed 43 years ago this coming Sunday
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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What: I-80 memorial dedication

When: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13

Where: Rocklin Police Department conference room, 4080 Rocklin Road, Rocklin

Raymond Carpenter – a California Highway Patrol officer from Auburn who was killed while on duty 43 years ago – will gain a rare honor Wednesday.

Thanks to efforts by his family and local legislators, Carpenter will have a stretch of Interstate 80 between Rocklin Road and Highway 65 named in his memory.

The Raymond Carpenter Memorial Freeway is to be dedicated Wednesday, providing a point of remembrance along the busy interstate thoroughfare and a sign that will be viewed annually by millions.

Highway Patrol Officer David Martinez said plans are to unveil the signs Wednesday for the first time in front of family members at the police headquarters in Rocklin. Already in place outside the Indian Hill Road Highway Patrol office is a stone monument put in place in 2001. Carpenter is buried in the Auburn Cemetery.      

A husband, father of six children and four stepchildren when he died, Carpenter was 40.

The end came Feb. 17, 1970, on the section of I-80 that will soon bear his name. According to reports at the time, the 14-year Highway Patrol officer was on patrol and made a stop on a possible stolen car a quarter-mile west of Rocklin Road.

Witnesses would later say there had been a struggle outside the patrol car between Carpenter and the 20-year-old California Youth Authority parolee he stopped. Carpenter died from a gunshot wound and his killer committed suicide soon after near Folsom with the same revolver.

The death of one of its own hit the Auburn community hard. Carpenter had been born in the Auburn area and Carpenter graduated from Placer High School before going on to serve seven years in the U.S. Air Force.

In a 2006 interview, Carpenter’s son, Paul, said that the death didn’t seem real at the time.

“It was like you expected him to pull in any moment into the driveway with his patrol car,” the younger Carpenter said.

When Carpenter returned from the Air Force, he enlisted with the Highway Patrol. After stints in Bakersfield and Truckee, he was transferred to his hometown.

In Auburn, Carpenter was active in Civil Air Patrol, served as commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1942, and even ran and lost for a state Senate seat in the early 1960s.

He could also be seen around town on his Suzuki motorcycle, camping with his family at Lake Valley Reservoir or participating in activities with the Auburn Masonic Lodge.

Caltrans spokesperson Rochelle Jenkins said Monday that Carpenter will be remembered with signs along the freeway that the Department of Transportation has been paid to install and maintain for seven years, using private funding.

Similar memorials have been approved by the state Legislature for bridges, overpasses and other freeways. In Placer County, there are stretches of roadway dedicated to politicians (former U.S. Rep. Biz Johnson), other fallen officers (Colfax High grad and Sacramento Police Officer Bill Bean Jr., who died in 1999) and victims of drunken driving.

Jenkins said supporters of a freeway naming approach a state Legislator with a candidate. The cost and maintenance for signs is around $1,000, Jenkins said.

An unofficial count shows 28 Highway Patrol officers have been remembered with stretches of freeway named after them.

The late Sen. Dave Cox of Fair Oaks was an early proponent of honoring Carpenter on I-80. Cox has a memorial interchange on Highway 50 named in his memory.

 

What: I-80 memorial dedication

When: 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13

Where: Rocklin Police Department conference room, 4080 Rocklin Road, Rocklin