End of watch
Oct. 14, 1957
Theodore Roosevelt Beckham, a 23-year-old suspected sex offender, killed LAPD juvenile Officer Robert R. Christensen, 38, with his own gun during an attempted arrest, the third slaying in a bloody, tragic week for Southern California law enforcement. Five hours later, Beckham lay dead in South Los Angeles with four bullets in him.
Police said that on the morning of Oct. 14, 1957, Christensen went directly from his home, 5192 Berryman Ave., Culver City, to arrest Beckham in a neighborhood of apartments and rooming houses east of MacArthur Park. As a juvenile officer, Christensen usually worked with Policewoman Betty Stone, who said that when she reported for duty that morning, she found a note from Christensen saying that he was picking up a man suspected of indecent exposure.
Beckham had been arrested in the area on July 15, The Times said, and Christensen suspected he was the man who had recently been reported as a peeping Tom.
Wearing civilian clothes and driving his personal vehicle, a battered 1947 Chevrolet, Christensen parked at 1524 Ingraham St., before 8 a.m. He saw Beckham, wearing green overalls, half a block away and got out of the car to take him into custody, The Times said. Christensen led Beckham to the car and apparently put him in the vehicle without handcuffing him.
As Christensen got into the car, Beckham grabbed his .38 Colt Detective Special from its holster. Beckham shot him once, ran away, then came back and shot him three more times through a car window, witnesses said. Christensen was found halfway out of his car with the handcuffs next to him on the seat.
Beckham ran to his 1950 Ford and as he was push-starting the car, a neighbor noted the license number, GCD 026. Police traced the car to Beckham's brother Othello, 5428 Duarte St.
Five hours later, Beckham was dead. More than 100 LAPD officers assigned to the search soon found the car at 99th and Grape streets. Police began searching the area and when Beckham ran from the house at 2049 E. 99th St., officers ordered him to halt, The Times said. "We hollered at him to stop, Officer J.O. Worden said, "but he kept running."
Worden and his partner, Officer K.E. Gourley, killed Beckham, who was found holding Christensen's .38, The Times said.
Christensen, a Manual Arts High graduate and World War II veteran, was given a funeral at Callanan Mortuary Chapel, 1301 N. Western Ave., with interment at Holy Cross Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, Katherine, daughters Candy and Patricia, his parents, two brothers and a sister. He had joined the LAPD on March 18, 1946.
H.K. Chetwood, Beckham's boss at a rubber manufacturing shop, 1617 W. 7th St., said: "I have hired him off and on for five years except when he was in jail. He was a drifter but a good worker."
By the way, not that you would know it from The Times: Beckham was African American.
Highway Patrolman Robert E. Reed.
Sheriff's Deputy Harold Blevins.