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San Jose Mercury News (CA)
September 22, 1997
Author: TRACEY KAPLAN, Mercury News Staff Writer
Like many disillusioned Californians, Mark Stall moved out of state five years ago to get away from crime. But the danger that stalked him as a youngster in Cupertino and dogged him as a sheriff’s deputy in Los Angeles, finally destroyed him in the safe haven he’d sought for himself and his young family.
Boise, population 175,000, where Stall moved three years ago, has only about two or three murders annually, police there say. It’s a good place to raise children, and the Stalls had two little girls. Better, maybe, than Cupertino, where Stall and a friend had been kidnapped by an armed parolee 11 summers ago as teenage boys. They got through that one by jumping their assailant, but it was a close call. Stall’s friend, Steven Letchworth, lost a chunk of his left knee when the kidnapper’s gun went off.
Then came the Los Angeles years, five long ones. Idaho must have seemed like Shangri-la after that. But being there wasn’t enough to protect Stall, 29. He became the first officer to die in the line of duty since the Boise Police Department was founded more than 110 years ago, said Boise Lt. Larry Jones. Stall lost his life Saturday night in a shootout with two brothers who had been pulled over in a bar parking lot. One of the brothers died at the scene, and the other died at a local hospital. They were identified as Craig Broderick, 30, and Doug Broderick, 27.
”Mark came here to avoid street violence in Los Angeles,” Jones said. ”We’re taking this hard.” Stall was remembered as a devoted husband and father, a religious man who had a kind word for everyone. His family was too upset to comment Sunday. ”He never complained about going out on a call like some of the other guys,” said a Boise police dispatcher. ”He was very, very well-liked.” So well-liked, in fact, that Stall’s funeral will take place Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Boise State University’s Pavilion building, which seats 12,000 people, Jones said. ”That gives you some idea of what his death means to us,” Jones said.
Routine traffic stop
According to Jones, the incident began about 1:20 a.m. as a routine traffic stop initiated by two other officers. The officers were following a car down a nearly deserted street in downtown Boise when the vehicle changed lanes without signaling and abruptly pulled into the parking lot of a bar. The officers ordered the two men in the car to remain in the vehicle. But when the men left the car and began walking toward the squad car, the officers called for extra assistance. Stall was among the four officers who arrived within moments of the call. Boise officers carry pocket tape recorders, and two of the officers taped the rest of the incident. According to the tape, Jones said, the officers ordered the driver out of the car and told him to show them his waistband to make sure he was unarmed. ”The guy says, ‘I don’t think so,’ pulls a gun from a holster and starts firing,” Jones said. ”The officers returned fire. Then the passenger pops out and starts firing. It was over in like, 15 seconds.
Mark took a round under the armpit, and it severed an artery.” Clean records A permit to carry concealed weapons is easily available in Idaho, but neither suspect had one, Jones said. Police searched the house they were renting and found bomb-making books, hatchets, swords and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Both men had clean records, and one of their uncles is the police chief of a town in Pennsylvania, Jones said. Neither was drunk or stoned on drugs, though one of the men was taking anti-depressants, he said. ”We have no idea why these guys decided to get aggressive against six cops,” Jones said. ”It was a completely irrational act.”
Almost as irrational as what happened one warm June night in 1984, when 16-year-old Stall and his friend were kicking back in Letchworth’s driveway. They said a man, later identified as Steven Ross Pellatt, ambled by and asked the boys for a light for his cigarette. When Stall reached in his Datsun pickup to push in the truck’s cigarette lighter, the boys said the man pulled a gun and ordered them into the truck. They pulled off in the foothills, where the kidnapper ordered the boys to strip. Determined to protect himself, Letchworth pounced on the kidnapper, and Stall joined in. ”We knew what we needed to do,” Stall told a Mercury News reporter shortly after the incident. ”We didn’t want this to go any further.” Sentenced to prison The gun went off during the struggle, wounding Letchworth, and the kidnapper fled. He was captured a month later by park rangers who recognized him from a fugitive-wanted poster.
Pellatt was sentenced to prison for 26 years without parole, said Letchworth’s father, Peter Letchworth. Today, Steven Letchworth sells hinges, handles and other furniture hardware in the Bay Area. Unlike Stall, he has never had another brush with crime, his father said. ”He was just real lucky: One inch higher, and he would have lost part of his leg,” his father said. ”You can imagine how I felt getting a call at 11 at night that my son had been kidnapped and shot. It’s like it’s happened all over again for the Stalls. My heart just goes out to them.” Memo: Mercury News Staff Writer Barry Witt contributed to this report.