W I L L I A M “E A S T E R” B O N N E R
by Duane Preimsberger
It was a typical Southern California Spring morning, with
low clouds that would soon break away to sunny skies. It was also Easter
After getting into uniform and obtaining a quick briefing from the Morning Watch Lieutenant, I settled into my desk chair with a stack of performance evaluations for some of the Sergeants assigned to my watch and other paper work needing completion. The radio that monitored the working frequency of Firestone & Lennox Stations was blessedly quiet on this blessed morning and it seemed that my hope for a quiet day might well come true. After a few cups of coffee and a guaranteed heartburning breakfast burrito from one of the few fast food places open, I began prowling the station to see how the rest of the Firestone crew was spending Easter Sunday.
The four Deputies that made up the desk crew were involved in a deep discussion relating to the possible competitors in the upcoming basketball playoffs. The secretaries were processing crime reports; the detectives were interviewing the few persons in-custody for felonies this morning and the Watch Sergeant was red lining some incident reports that needed grammar or other corrections before being accepted from the Deputies who had submitted them. Our jail was almost empty and the few left over drunks from Saturday night were about to be cited out on their promise to appear. Things were well in hand.
By I thought I had it made, I was going to get through a very peaceful day shift at the Departments most violence ridden area without any significant incident and soon I’d be home in time for the traditional Easter Dinner. Life was pretty darn good, considering the alternatives.
I was shuffling paper together and getting ready to turn over a quiet station to the oncoming Evening Shift Lieutenant when the first inkling of a problem filtered through the radio speaker over my desk.
It was a 2:35 PM radio call to an address in the Lennox
Station area not too far west from our area boundary and I perked up as I heard
the dispatcher order several Lennox units to a Shots Fired, Assault with a
Deadly Weapon, three gunshot victims down incident, at 1609 W.
As the day progressed and Firestone Station personnel became
deeply and inextricably involved with Mr. William Bonner, I learned that the
victim, Otha Leavitt, a middle aged woman, had stopped at the location, the
home of a friend, Bonner’s mother, to use the telephone. While she made her
call and while Mrs. Bonner colored Easter eggs in the kitchen, William shot the
woman in the head and then ran out to her car where two friends awaited her
return and there, he shot the two passengers and then fled in the
Less than 10 minutes later, my hope for a quiet Easter
Sunday crashed and burned as Bonner approached a parked 1966 Chevy Impala near
the southeast corner of the Arco Gas Station at 105 E. El Segundo Blvd. in Firestone
Station’s area. He shot the two occupants, killing Allene Wells, a 12 year old
girl, with a shotgun blast that destroyed her left lung and put seven holes in
her heart. Her driver, a young woman, was also seriously wounded and witnesses
described the shooter as William Bonner, who’d, once again, fled in the
Almost immediately, Bonner drove eastbound to the Texaco
In a time span of slightly more than 10 minutes William Bonner had committed 3 murders and seriously wounded three innocent people. He was on the loose and there was no telling how many more individuals would meet their demise as a result of whatever was driving him to kill.
I knew we had to do everything we could to try and stop his
murderous rampage as quickly as possible. I immediately arranged to hold over
the Firestone Station Day Watch Personnel and obtained Code 3 assistance from
the immediate response units at East Los Angeles,
After I grabbed Deputy John Null from the station desk, the
two of us loaded what passed for special weapons, .30- .30 Winchester lever
action carbines, as well as maps and legal tablets into a radio car and headed
for the intersection of Avalon Blvd. &
Seconds after leaving the Station there was yet a fourth incident involving Bonner in the Firestone Station area. He had driven to 13227 S. Avalon Blvd, armed himself with the shotgun, kicked open the front door of the home and began shot gunning 3 more victims, Jevia Thompson later died and 2 more were seriously wounded. Both John and I were wondering how many more would die on this sacred day.
As we got close to our destination we learned that Firestone
units in the area around
40 minutes from the first Bonner related incident in the Lennox Station area,
Firestone Deputies were dispatched to a silent robbery alarm at Liquorama
There, William Bonner
wounded an employee with yet another shotgun blast to the stomach and shot a
second employee before fleeing in his
and Bonner visited
Diane Banks at
It was chaos when I got back to the Station; we were besieged by the Press. Sheriff Peter Pitchess had taken a personal interest in the events and was making the Department’s weekend Duty Inspector crazy by asking a series of questions that he couldn’t answer. The Inspector knowing full well that stuff can and should flow down hill made certain that I answered each and every one of those questions fully and completely.
I didn’t make it home on time for Easter dinner; instead I
had the pleasure of seeing some of the best street law enforcement officers in
I came back to the Station the next day and found that my Deputies had been hard at work, making the tragedies they’d confronted somehow more tolerable.
Cops, Firemen, Coroners staff and Emergency Room personnel often try gallows humor as a way to soften the mayhem to which they are exposed.
Firestone Deputies had invented a new name for William Bonner, in keeping with the day of his activities they’d come up with “Easter Bonner.”
Many, that day, had been visited by the Easter Bunny bearing gifts of candy and brightly colored eggs; others, unfortunately, had been visited by Easter Bonner who brought pain, suffering and death.