On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours. Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 19,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice. For more information go to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund website.
The following are the stories of SBPD officers that were killed and/or injured in the line of duty. The officer(s) honored below represent only some of those that have fallen. SBPOA members are continuing to research the stories of other officers who will be memorialized here, including Officer Thomas Guerry for whom the prestigious Guerry Award is named.
Here is the background on the last fallen officer from the Santa Barbara Police Department
SBPD Officer Dennis Huddle
On June 16, 1972, Officer Dennis Huddle, a six year veteran of the Santa Barbara Police Department, was shot in the head by a suspect that was fleeing from an armed robbery at Jordano’s Market, located at State Street and Calle Laurales. The newly wed officer was rushed, barely alive, to the very hospital where his wife was on duty as a nurse. Officer Huddle was rushed into emergency brain surgery and, miraculously, survived the shooting. But to those who knew Dennis, he never really recovered from the brain injury he sustained in the line of duty. Friends and family of Officer Huddle recall that although Dennis physically survived, the robber had taken his life just as if he had died on that fateful day. The previously bright, happy-go-lucky Dennis Huddle, who aspired to go to law school, was never the same and could never return to work due to the handicap of the permanent brain damage he suffered as a result of the shooting. On December 5, 1976, Officer Dennis Huddle finally succumbed to the critical injury he had sustained in the line of duty by committing suicide. The SBSO Coroner’s Report describes Dennis Huddle as, “A retired/disabled police officer who underwent a prolonged period of hospitalization, surgical procedures and rehabilitation for injuries which left lasting effects with speech difficulties, motor problems and other related problems.” The coroner’s report also stated that Dennis, “Suffered periods of depression, despair, despondency and many other types of emotional disturbances as the result of his being disabled, thus causing stress and strain in the family environment.” Jim Marino, a friend to both Thomas Guerry and Dennis Huddle wrote an editorial describing the loss of his two friends by stating; “Dennis Huddle was a fine policeman who, like Tom Guerry, died in the line of duty at the hands of a ruthless killer. The only difference is that Tom died from a bullet before he hit the ground and Dennis died in two slow agonizing stages. It is only because of the stigma of suicide that we don’t pay homage to Dennis’ memory like we should.” Although Officer Dennis Huddle’s death was determined to be the result of suicide, the overwhelming contributing factor to his death was that he was shot while protecting the citizens of Santa Barbara.
Front Row Center: Officer Dennis Huddle
Carl Taylor and Sherman McCrary
On June 16, 1972, a Santa Barbara Police Officer, Dennis Huddle was shot and wounded by a gunman, Carl Taylor, fleeing the scene of an $11,000 supermarket robbery. Witnesses recalled the license number of the bandit's car, and it was traced to an address in suburban Goleta, occupied by 47-year-old Sherman McCrary, his wife Carolyn, and their 19-year-old son Danny. Evidence pointed to McCrary's son-in-law, 38-year-old Raymond Carl Taylor, as the trigger man in the robbery, and he was arrested days later, at his mother's home in Athens, Texas. In custody, Taylor and Sherman McCrary pled guilty to three local robberies - the others netting $23,000 and $12,000, respectively - and they were handed prison terms of five years to life. Carolyn McCrary, son Danny and daughter Ginger Taylor each drew nine months for harboring fugitives , but investigators soon realized they were only glimpsing the tip of a sinister iceberg.
The McCrary crime saga began as a series of armed robberies committed by Sherman McCrary and Raymond Taylor prior to 1971. According to later court testimony, Sherman McCrary perpetrated his first felony in Texas while suffering an extended period of unemployment. With Robert Taylor as his accomplice, McCrary committed armed robbery in what he claimed was a desperate effort to provide income for his family. However, Taylor and McCrary were not successful in their early attempts at a life of crime and instead were promptly arrested for their efforts. Court records indicate that Sherman McCrary's claim to a sudden life of crime may have been less than the full truth; both McCrary and Taylor had also served time in prison for a variety of other offenses, including burglary and forgery, in the Athens, Texas, area.
By August 1971, Sherman McCrary and Raymond Taylor had gained their freedom and the McCrary family was together once again. The McCrarys quickly settled on a new course of criminal activity that they viewed as potentially more prosperous than their former careers -- kidnapping and extortion. On August 17, 1971, the family, led by Sherman McCrary, Daniel McCrary, and Raymond Taylor, held up a Salt Lake City bakery at gunpoint, collecting the cash on hand and abducting a seventeen-year-old female employee named Sheri Martin. The McCrary family transported their teenage hostage to Nevada by car, raping her repeatedly along the way. Martin was then shot and her body was dumped by the side of a road near Wendover, Nevada, becoming the first known victim of the McCrary family. Her abduction and murder established a method of operation that the murderous family would use almost exclusively for the next six months.
Three days later, on August 20, 1971, the family was in Denver, Colorado. There they robbed another store and abducted an employee, Leeora Looney. Once again, the McCrary family raped and murdered their captive, using the same weapon that had killed Sheri Martin -- a 32-caliber revolver. For the next several months, the McCrarys continued this pattern of robbery, abduction, and murder, ranging from Florida to California. Each of their victims was sexually assaulted and murdered with the same small-caliber weapon. In addition to the rampage of serial murders, the McCrarys committed a variety of other felonies, often netting a very small reward for the incredible mayhem they created. Throughout the crime spree, Carolyn McCrary and Ginger Taylor provided support to the primary perpetrators, Sherman McCrary, Daniel McCrary, and Raymond Taylor. However, it is uncertain if they directly participated in any of the murders, whose vicious nature became the McCrary family trademark.
The McCrary murder and crime spree came to an abrupt end near Santa Barbara, California, in June 1972. While attempting to rob a supermarket at gunpoint, the McCrary men and Raymond Taylor were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a law enforcement officer. The responding officer was wounded in a shoot-out in front of the supermarket as the robbers tried to flee the crime scene. Even though the McCrarys and Taylor managed to escape, witnesses to the robbery were able to provide a description of the vehicle and its license plate number. Police quickly located the McCrary family in Goleta, California, and arrested all five members. Taylor and the McCrary men immediately pled guilty to several robberies in an attempt to deflect attention from their dozens of murders. Carolyn McCrary and her daughter were charged with harboring fugitives and several other minor offenses. Although they were convicted on charges of armed robbery and imprisoned, the McCrary men and Raymond Taylor were unable to avoid their murderous history for long.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was able to link Sherman McCrary, Daniel McCrary, and Raymond Taylor to the murder of Leeora Looney and at least ten other women in several states. FBI investigators also believed that the McCrary family had been involved in as many as a dozen other unsolved murders between August 1971 and February 1972. Carolyn McCrary and Ginger Taylor, who had already been imprisoned for earlier charges in connection with several robberies, were believed to be accomplices in several murders, although it proved impossible to produce sufficient evidence to indict them on charges of homicide. By the end of 1972, all five members of the McCrary family serial killing team had received prison sentences ranging from five years to life in prison. The McCrary family was a classic organization of relatives by birth and marriage that engaged in a crime spree reminiscent of many of the infamous American gangs of the 1920s and 1930s. However, this felonious family separated themselves from all previous gangs by their incredible obsession with serial murder. From August 1971 until February 1972, the McCrary family was responsible for at least twenty-two abductions and murders, dozens of robberies, and countless other offenses, constituting a crime spree that ranks among the most intense and lethal in the history of American criminology.
Currently, SBPOA members and retired officers are working to research the stories of the other 5 officers who have died in the line of duty serving Santa Barbara. It is our goal to provide a detailed and accurate narrative about each officer, and to honor them by never forgetting their sacrifice. While we are conducting this research, shorter versions of these officers' stories can be found at the Officer Down Memorial Page. If you have information about other fallen officers in the history of the Santa Barbara Police Department feel free to contact us.