Honor Roll

Donald J. Gillis

Joseph L. Carlock, a 65-year-old San Diego auto mechanic, was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Lt. Donald J. Gillis, 45, on Sept. 20, 1958. Carlock was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and sentenced by Superior Judge William A. Glen.

Gillis, a veteran Los Angeles County sheriff’s lieutenant, was killed in the Laguna Mountain recreation area, about 50 miles east of San Diego, where he was spending a weekend camping with his wife, Leatha.

Carlock, a retired naval air station employee, was said by police to have been “apparently intoxicated” at the time.

San Diego County Coroner A.E. Gallagher said Carlock drove into the Gillis’ camp area in search of a deer hunting party from which he had become separated.

The coroner said witnesses told him that Gillis tried unsuccessfully to help Carlock locate his friends, then told him, “Get into your car and sleep it off. We’ll help you find your party in the morning.”

As Gillis headed back to his parked station wagon, Carlock took a rifle from his car and fired two shots into the air.

The Los Angeles officer went back, disarmed Carlock and headed back to his station wagon again.

When he faced in Carlock’s direction again, according to the police report, Carlock grabbed a second rifle from his car and fired, a bullet striking Gillis in the chest. He died almost instantly.

Investigators said Carlock claimed he fired the shot in self-defense, in that he saw Gillis holding the rifle, headed toward him.

Gillis had been with the sheriff’s department for 20 years and was assigned to the Firestone substation.

Tributes in honor of Lieutenant Donald J. Gillis

  • Niece of Lieutenant Donald J. Gillis

    I was five years old when my Uncle was murdered. Five years earlier I was expected to be a boy, and named for him in his honor…and so my name is Donna. He was the rock of the family, the one you could count on in any situation and would give his all (as he did) to help anyone.
    I was robbed of knowing him, but through family stories, he was brave, kind and loyal. I remember little of his terrible death, but the horrible news coming to our house. The heartbreaking weeping. My mother’s sob’s while telling of having to identify is blood clothes on at the trial. Senseless. He, as was his nature, was de-escalating the situation, doing what a good man does; keeping others safe by taking the gun away after trying to help this criminal and telling him he would help him after he sobered up. And then he was shot. Left to die. I was robbed of my Uncle Don. I wish I could have told him I loved him in my little 5 year old way…hold his hand and kiss him one last time. He is a Hero. God Bless you Uncle Don, you have a special place at his side. You are loved eternally.

  • Niece of Donald J. Gillis

    My Uncle Don. I was 5 years old when he was murdered, I was expected to be a boy baby 5 years earlier and…..and named Donald in his honor. And so I am Donna.
    At Five years old I remember the heartbreak in our home, when the terrible news came to the house. I remember my mother having to testify at the trial and describe (in between heart breaking tears) having to testify that the bloody clothes she was shown were Uncle Don’s. He was the strength, honor, pride of our family. I was robbed of knowing my name sake, but through stories knew there was no finer man. To read that he tried to do what was right….de-escalate the situation so nobody would be hurt, like a true man, only to be shot to death, he was a Hero, and died senselessly but with honor.
    God Bless you and keep you Uncle Don. I love you, and wish I could have told you. Yours…..Donna