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.

Officer Leonard Christiansen 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.

Today 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 too.

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.

Officer Christiansen with his wife, Jan, and their three 
          children (left to right) Steven, Karen, and Keith "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.

Future Riverside police officer, 
          Steven Christiansen, makes his way past officers at his father's funeral.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 said.

"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.

Keith Christiansen looks on 
          during the funeral service. 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 cop.

"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 procedure."

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 mother.

Riverside Police Officers 
          carry out Leonard Christiansen's casket following the service.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 way out."

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 murders."

- The Sun-Telegram, Sunday, May 16, 1971

A memorial to Officer Christiansen and Officer Teel stands to the front of the Orange Street police station in downtown Riverside.

Riverside Police Department Safe In His Arms Memorial