Family Recalls Memories of Slain Officers
He used to say he wanted to be a "peace man." As a small child, he
couldn't say "policeman," it always came out "peace" And he did become a peace man.
He wore the badge of the Riverside Police Department proudly, said
Mrs. Edith Christiansen, mother of Officer Leonard Christiansen, one
of two Riverside policemen murdered in the line of duty April 2.
Dr. Svend A. Christiansen, a longtime Colton chiropractor, and his
wife looked back on some of the mementoes and pictures of Leonard.
is Police Appreciation Sunday. This week was National Police Week, set
aside by proclamation of the President as a time to honor all
policemen, but especially to pay homage to those who have given their
lives in the line of duty.
The Chrisitansens have lived in Colton over 10 years. Dr. Christiansen
has kept busy with his practice and Mrs. Christiansen raised two sons,
Luis and Leonard, and found time to operate the Colton Flower Shop
Police Week came just six weeks after Leonard was slain in an ambush
in Riverside with Officer Paul Teel.
Reviewing his life and his career, Leonard's parents said that as
grieved as they are, they would never attempt to change anything
Leonard had done.
"He always wanted to be an officer. Even when he was a tiny child, he
would wave at policemen and say, 'I'm going to be a peaceman too' and
of course we could never change his mind," said Dr. Christiansen.
"He never ever wanted to be anything else. He never went through
stages like most boys do. wanting to be firemen, engineers, pilots. He
always wanted to be a cop," said the doctor.
Speaking easily of their blond-haired son, they told of many incidents
in Leonard's life in which he influenced those around him.
Dr. Christiansen used to be superintendent of an industrial school in
Colorado where Leonard was born. This school, a type of reform school
for delinquents, housed many youths, said Dr. Christiansen.
"When Len was just four, he saw a monitor at the school strike one of
the youths with a chain. The little tyke ran out and told him not to
do that, that he wouldn't go to heaven if he hit people. Well, the
monitor and Len got to be pretty good friends after that and the youth
never struck anyone again."
Then there was the time after Leonard and his pretty wife Jan moved to
Riverside. Len was a cop by then and he stopped home in his police
car. His neighbors came screaming that their baby was dying.
Leonard gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and revived the baby, who
was a blue baby and had nearly died. Later, the mother told Leonard,
"You know, I have a brother who hates cops. I wonder what he'll think
when he finds out a cop saved his niece's life."
There were the youths at the Youth Service Center where Len spent many
long hours off-duty helping the kids with their problems, rapping
about society, giving of himself. They liked the officer who made it
known he was a cop, but that he was human.
He tried to bridge the gap between community and police, and adults
and youth. He must have been successful, because at his funeral, there
were long lines of tear-stained youthful faces, unashamed of the tears
shed for their friend.
Shoulder-to-shoulder stood clean-cut officers in polished boots and
gleaming helmets, and young shaggy-haired youths clad in blue jeans
and moccasins, each sharing the loss of a good friend.
When Jan and Leonard lived in Colton for two years, he was employed by
L.A. Airways and was in charge of the local office. The blond Len and
dark-haired beauty he married made many friends here.
But Leonard wanted to be a cop.
"When he graduated from the police academy, he was so proud, he nearly
burst," recalls his mother. "And I was proud too," she said softly.
And then the tears came.
"We went to a dedication ceremony at the academy. they had a plaque
from the graduating class honoring Leonard and Paul. All those eager,
shining young faces, so young, so vulnerable. But so willing. Just
like Len." She cried softly and left the room.
She returned moments later. "He loved everybody. He made friends
easily and never knew a stranger, because everyone was a friend," she
"When he went on calls on the troubled eastside of Riverside, he knew
he had those staunch friends among the residents that he could depend
upon," said his father.
"At a traffic accident when he first went on motorcycles, a teenager
was injured. The girl lay on the pavement bleeding. And Leonard talked
with her, comforted her and calmed her down until the ambulance
arrived. She came back to him later and thanked him for his help. She
told him she didn't think policemen were kind, but that now at least,
her mind would be open when it came to police. Not closed against them
as before," said Dr. Christiansen.
There were the may people he came in contact with and talked with. He
shared their troubles, helped them patch up family arguments and set
them straight again. Like the juvenile he found walking around after
curfew. He picked him up and dropped him off a few blocks away from
the house, so the kid could walk in instead of being taken home by a
"He never belittled anyone. He had friends of all colors, black, white
and brown. But he worked better with the youthful element rather than
the criminal element. He could talk with them," said his father.
The young policeman seemed to brighten up his duties by trying a
little harder. His father recalled the time when he and his partner
pulled a lady over for speeding.
"When they looked at her driver's license, they noticed it was her
birthday. So the two boys sang 'Happy Birthday' to her. Later, she
called the department and wanted to know if this was standard
Cheerful memories brought laughter. But then we talked of the night of
April 2. The doctor and his wife were out with friends for dinner.
Mrs. Christiansen suddenly became very ill for no apparent reason and
they returned home.
They learned of their son's murder and discovered that at the moment
Leonard was shot, his mother was having her sudden attack.
There are other uncanny incidents surrounding the lives of Officer
Christiansen and his family. Last October as he celebrated his 30th
birthday, he told his parents that this would be his last birthday.
"He said he knew his time was not long, and he was a bit sad because
he felt he had so much to do in his lifetime," said his father.
"Shortly before his death, he had a recurring dream. He saw two
policemen killed. He saw them near their patrol car. But one of the
faces was blank, he didn't know who it was," he said.
Even if he knew this would be his last call, Officer Christiansen
would have still answered it. "He never shirked his duty. He was
always in the middle of everything. He was almost fearless because he
felt he was doing right and that God would guard him," said his
This thought keeps the Christiansens comforted. "We cannot understand
why, but we do not question. Somehow I know he's just as busy where he
is as he was when he was here," said Mrs. Christiansen.
"We know that he knew his time was near, but we also knew he would die
a cop. To his beloved wife Jan, the young officer had written a
letter, instructing her what to do with his effects, what arrangements
to make for his funeral and other personal details."
Jan and Leonard were very devoted to each other. Their three children,
Kanen, Keith and Steven, were very proud of their father and his role
in the community.
Are the Christiansens bitter? "Yes, we're bitter because they were
brutally murdered. Their murderers are cowards and took the coward's
It wasn't even a fair shootout. "That maybe we could have understood.
But it wasn't. It was a planned ambush to kill policemen and every one
of those boys are targets."
"Their deaths have brought decent people together though, because
people have come forth with indignant letters protesting their
murders. Maybe some good will come of their deaths.
"We have no idea how far-reaching the incidents in the lives of
Leonard and Paul have been. We don't know how far or how deep their
murders have hurt, but we know people are closer together, and maybe
somebody will be nice to a policeman somewhere because of their
- The Sun-Telegram, Sunday, May 16, 1971