Gale Gene Eldridge
Lyle Wayne Larrabee
On January 18, 1961, Officer Gale Gene Eldridge was shot and killed during an armed robbery. About one year later, on January 1, 1962, Officer Lyle Wayne Larrabee was killed in a car accident. These two men were on-duty Palm Springs Police officers and they died in the line of duty.
Gale was 32 years old when he died. He was a father of three children, Gale, 13; Donna, 11; and Bobby, 5. Gale was a uniformed officer on duty when he stopped a car for a traffic violation at approximately 7:45 in the evening. The driver told Officer Eldridge that he was on his way to a party on the "Reservation." The "Reservation" was a residential area located in the 200 block of South Indian Avenue.
Officer Eldridge allowed the driver to leave the scene and was alerted a short time later that this person was involved in a robbery in Banning. Gale called for a backup officer to meet with him in the "Reservation." Officer Quincy Welch responded to that request. Officer Eldridge drove down a separate street while Quincy came from another direction.
Officer Welch heard on the police radio that Gale had stopped the suspect and was out of the car investigating. A short time later, Officer Welch heard two gunshots. When Officer Welch arrived on the scene, he found Gale face down in his police car. Gale had been shot in the stomach. His gun was at his feet and had not been fired. Upon further investigation, the suspect was found in his car and he had been shot in the head. Two shots had been fired from the driver's gun.
It is speculation that Officer Eldridge had a brief struggle with this suspect. The driver apparently shot Gale in the stomach. Gale was able to use the suspect's own gun to shoot him in the head. Both Gale and the suspect died at the scene.
Officer Lyle Larrabee was killed at Indian Avenue and Tamarisk, apparently pursuing a reckless driver. Officer Larrabee lost control of his car and crashed into a light standard. Lyle was ejected and the car rolled over him. He died a short time later at the hospital.
These heroes' pictures hung in the lobby of the Palm Springs Police station until 1985. A new police station was built and, since there was no wall space assigned, their pictures found their way to the basement. Although their names were on a plaque at the California Police Memorial in Sacramento, members of the Police Officers' Association realized that these two officers had been virtually forgotten in their own community, for whom they paid the ultimate sacrifice.
It was former Chief Gary Jeandron who led the drive to ensure these two brave officers were not forgotten. He was saddened when he found that Gale and Lyle's pictures had been tossed into storage, and this motivated him to propose the Palm Springs Police Memorial.
Along with the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association, Chief Jeandron began a fundraising campaign to finance his vision of a fitting memorial for Palm Springs Police officers killed in the line of duty. A number of different proposals were considered, but the members of the Police Association settled on an innovative design by local sculptor, Jeffery A. Fowler.
The amount of money that needed to be raised seemed an impossible task, but Chief Jeandron was driven. Thanks to the generosity of the community, and the proceeds from the sale of Memorial Plaza personalized bricks, the fundraising goal was met. Finally, on May 16, 1998, the Memorial was unveiled and dedicated.
At the same time, the public learned about our time capsule buried nearby and marked with a granite monument. The capsule is an airtight vault filled with Palm Springs Police memorabilia and symbols of our time. It is due to be opened in a ceremony in January in the year 2098. Mark it in your calendars and stop by if you're in the area!