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Officer Gerald Wilson “Jerry” Maddox
(May 18, 1943 – Aug. 19, 1969)

The brutal execution murder of LAPD Officer Gerald Wilson "Jerry" Maddox by a teenage gang member launched a years-long quest for justice. After a complex, convoluted and confusing trek through the California legal system, with his confessed killer serving only three years in prison, questions remain as to whether justice was ever served.

Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 1969, Maddox and LAPD Officer Frank Benavidez, both 26, of the LAPD's Hollenbeck Division, were sent to a disturbance call -- a street fight between rival gangs -- on Gless Street in the Pico Gardens housing project, in the Boyle Heights section of East Los Angeles. Maddox had been an LAPD officer for just over a year.

As Maddox and Benavidez approached the scene in their patrol car, in the 500 block of South Gless Street, they saw about 20 young men running from the scene. Maddox and Benavidez stopped their car and chased the young men. Maddox followed one of them into a narrow alley between two apartment buildings, and attempted to take him into custody.

Benavidez heard his partner call for help, then heard gunshots. As Benavidez ran toward Maddox, a young man jumped out from behind some bushes, fired two shots at Benavidez, and ran off. Both shots missed.

Benavidez found Maddox lying face down on the sidewalk, shot in the neck and back. His .38-caliber service revolver was missing. Benavidez ran back to the patrol car and called for an ambulance and additional assistance. By the time the ambulance arrived, Maddox was dead.

Two teenagers were charged with Maddox's murder. A 15-year-old was the one who was caught by Maddox in the alley. As Maddox attempted to put handcuffs on the teen, he told him, "Take it easy, kid ... I'm not going to hurt you." Just then, the other youth, 16 years old, jumped out from behind some bushes, grabbed Maddox's gun from its holster, and shot the officer in the neck. After Maddox fell to the ground, he shot him twice more in the back, then ran off.

Officer David Lewis was among the officers who responded to the call, and found the 16-year-old who shot Maddox on the roof of an abandoned house a few blocks away, at 518 Boyle Ave. When the young man pointed a gun at Lewis and threatened to shoot, Lewis fired four shots, hitting him in the leg, groin and shoulder. Maddox's empty .38-caliber service revolver was recovered next to the young man.

The 16-year-old, who had a lengthy criminal history and was on probation at the time of Maddox's murder, recovered from his injuries, admitted shooting Maddox, and was tried and sentenced by the Juvenile Court to the custody of the California Youth Authority. But the CYA refused to accept him because he would have to be released when he reached the age of 21, and the CYA didn't think it was possible for him to be rehabilitated in that short a period of time.

The Juvenile Court then decided that he should be tried as an adult, which resulted in protests outside the Los Angeles Hall of Justice. The killer's attorneys argued that putting him on trial again after his conviction in Juvenile Court amounted to double jeopardy, but the California Supreme Court disagreed.

Four days before his murder trial was scheduled to begin, the California Supreme Court handed down new guidelines for juveniles to be tried as adults. Based on those guidelines, Maddox's confessed killer was returned to the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court. In January 1972, he was released on $31,000 bail. LAPD Chief Edward Davis described the case as "yo-yo justice."

Six months later, in July 1972, Maddox's killer was arrested again for another murder -– the fatal ambush shooting of a rival gang member in a parking lot near Hollenbeck Park. In that case, the now-19-year-old was charged with murder, but was convicted in April 1973 of assault with a deadly weapon.

A month after that conviction, in May 1973, after a two-week jury trial, Maddox's killer was found guilty in Superior Court of second-degree murder and assault with intent to commit murder in the officer's death. He received a sentence of five years to life, and was sent to San Quentin State Prison.

Two years later, in 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that someone convicted in Juvenile Court could not be retried as an adult in Superior Court for the same crime. Based on that decision, in April 1976, the California Supreme Court, on a 4-3 decision, ruled that Maddox's killer should be released from prison. After 30 years of freedom, he died in Alhambra, Calif., in 2006, at the age of 53.

Gerald Wilson Maddox was born in 1943 in Colorado, the first child of Claud Wilson Maddox and Ana Lee McKinney Maddox. His younger brother, John Robert Maddox, was born six years later. Maddox moved to Southern California and, on Sept. 6, 1964, married Carol M. Bush. The bride and groom were both 21.

In 1970, a year after her husband’s death, his widow, Carol, said she was considering taking the test to become an LAPD officer. "Like other officers' wives," she said in an L.A. Times interview, "I lived with the police force day after day when my husband was alive. I know more about this profession than I know about any other."

As for her plans, Carol Maddox said she wanted to work with juveniles. "I thoroughly enjoy kids," she said, "and there are so many that need help." Eventually, she did not apply for a position with the LAPD.

Officer Maddox is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, Calif.

Officer Maddox's sign is located at the southeast corner of 4th and Gless streets.

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