Truckee CHP Officer Shot and Killed 51 Years Ago

Overview: 51 years ago local CHP Officer Glenn Carlson issued a ticket to the driver of a  Cadillac heading east near Truckee in a snow storm.  The three occupants were speeding as they had just held up a bank in Sacramento. Carlson, a five year veteran of the Department, quickly learned the car’s license plates had been stolen, so he gave chase and stopped the three near Donner Lake. The 33 year old Carlson was violently gunned down by the side of the road.  All three career criminals were soon arrested, but this is only half of the story.  Read this week’s Law Review.

On a snowy November night 51 years ago, seven days before John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas, three men in a Cadillac sped along old Highway 40 heading towards Reno. A few hours earlier they had robbed a Bank of America branch on Northgate Boulevard in Sacramento. They were carrying the $45,000 cash they had taken, the biggest bank heist in Sacramento history at that time.

The three criminals had met in prison. Robert Lee Burns, a parolee from Oregon for prior robbery and assault convictions, was driving. Robert Mealman and Clifford Toycen, Jr., also parolees, had been on a recent crime spree, having held up a liquor store in Arizona and a grocery store in Bakersfield.

The Stop

CHP Officer Glenn Carlson pulled the car over and gave Burns a speeding ticket. No sooner had Burns driven off, when Carlson, a five-year veteran of the Department, learned the Cadillac’s plates had been stolen off of a junk car.

Carlson radioed for help and gave chase, stopping the criminals again near Donner Lake.

The Shooting

Mealman, a 29-year-old career criminal from Sacramento, jumped out of the car rushing towards Carlson, armed with a Luger, firing five times and killing the 33-year-old Officer. According to reports, one of the bullets pierced the citation Carlson had just written. All three suspects were soon arrested and pled guilty to first degree murder. They agreed to life terms to avoid death sentences.

Burns, the driver, pled guilty to felony-murder and served five years of a life term in Folsom prison, then at his request was shipped to Oregon to finish a prison term for a prior parole violation. Mealman and Toycen, both imprisoned in California, were paroled in the 1970’s.

Officer Glenn Carlson

Officer Carlson, by all accounts a stellar person and conscientious patrolman, was stationed and lived in Truckee. He supposedly has or until recently had a son living and working in Truckee but I was unable to contact him.

A January 2001 story in the Los Angeles Times about the case was sent to me by one of Truckee’s well known and respected citizens, Hank Schwarz, who wrote that Glenn Carlson was his best friend in high school and was building a home on Hank’s street at the time of his murder. It is an unbelievably sad tale.

The Highway 267 bypass over the Truckee River is named in honor of Officer Glenn W. Carlson, a deserving tribute.

But that’s only half the story.

The Other Half of the Story

After Robert Burns served his prison term for the parole violation in Oregon, he was scheduled in 1975 to be released back to California authorities to finish his prison time for the murder. Oregon governor Robert W. Straub, believing Burns had been rehabilitated, refused to sign his extradition papers, instead allowing Burns to remain free in Oregon.

For several years Burns fought extradition attempts by California, then somehow California authorities lost track of Burns. In the meantime, he had turned his life around, married with a family in Oregon.

In 2001 California found Burns’ name on a list of fugitives and again tried to have him extradited to serve remaining time in California for Carlson’s murder.

At one point the 70-year old Burns lost an extradition hearing and was being driven by Oregon prison authorities to California when they were stopped 18 miles from the state line by Oregon State police cars. Oregon took him back, a free man. Burns died in 2002 leaving a former wife and five children.

A sad situation all around.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or www.portersimon.com.  

Like us on Facebook. ©2015