Two Officers Down in El Segundo: The Cold Case Murders of Richard Phillips and Milton Curtis
It was Sunday night, July 21, 1957 in Hawthorne, California. Bob Dewar was 17 years old and had attended a summer party with three friends earlier in the evening. It was before midnight when the quartet, consisting of two boys and two girls, decided to make a stop at the local Lover’s Lane on Van Ness Avenue. After parking, Bob rolled the window of the 1949 Ford down — and that’s when the barrel of a gun poked through. A voice told him “This is a robbery.” Bob initially thought someone was pulling a prank on them but it was all too real. All four handed over watches, jewelry and cash.
Armed with a flashlight, the robber had also brought surgical tape, which he used to cover the teenagers’ eyes, before forcing them to undress and then binding them. One of the girls, only 15 years old, was raped by the man after he moved from the driver’s side of the car to the passenger side.
Bob later remembered that the man asked them to get out of the car and then said, “I think I’m going to kill you. I want you to march out into the field.” The girls were crying and Bob figured it was the end of the line for all of them — when they heard the car door close and the Ford take off. The four were left, bound and taped, naked and helpless but alive. Officers Richard Phillips and Milton Curtis would not be so lucky.
El Segundo in the 1950s was a quiet, safe and well-to-do suburb of Los Angeles. The night shift usually consisted of traffic stops of impatient or intoxicated people. Officers Richard Phillips and Milton Curtis were working the graveyard shift, sitting in their patrol car at the intersection of Sepulveda and Rosecrans. Phillips was 28 years old, a veteran who served in the Air Force during the Korean War and was known to be an excellent marksman. He had been with the department for nearly three years. He was married and had three children. Curtis was 25 years old, a rookie who had just graduated from the academy in Riverside and had been in uniform only two months. He was married and had two children.