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Detective Hunt was killed in an automobile accident while on duty.
Tuesday, February 22, 1955, had been a typical winter day in Los Angeles. The weather had been mild in the mid 60’s. Detective Clay Noble Hunt, Serial No. 1007 was working Hollywood Detectives when he and his partner, Sergeant Robert O. Young, aged 37, were assigned a routine death investigation involving the noted cartoonist, William De La Torre. As Detective Hunt and Sergeant Young travelled on Santa Monica Boulevard and Gower Streets, a vehicle driven by a jazz musician named Beryl C. Sheldon ran a red light and collided with the two officers’ unmarked vehicle. The crash proved fatal for Detective Hunt and he succumbed to injuries received during the collision.
Detective Clay Hunt was born in Los Angeles County, on September 12, 1912 to Charles Thomas Hunt and Hattie Hunt (nee Wheaton). By 1920, Clay lived at 2227 West Sunset Boulevard, where Clay’s mother earned a living as operator at a knitting mill. The family later moved to 220 East 38th Street in today’s Newton Division, where Clay left high school at the age of 16 to work full time as an auto mechanic.
On September 1, 1937, Detective Clay Hunt was appointed to the Los Angeles Police Department. By 1940, Detective Hunt was working patrol and lived in North Hollywood near the 1700 block of Coast Highway, with his wife Rita E. Hunt (nee Halloran). In 1951, Clay Hunt promoted to detective and was subsequently assigned to Hollywood Division. In November 1953, Detective Hunt and his partner had survived a violent confrontation with an armed suspect in the corridor of a hotel located at 1961 Cahuenga Boulevard. The suspect had shot Detective Hunt along his left shoulder. The bullet grazed Hunt’s suit jacket but left him uninjured. A Los Angeles Times photograph captured the close call and detailed Detective Hunt pointing out the location of the bullet hole on his jacket.
On the date of his death, Detective Hunt and Sergeant Young were responding to what was considered a routine “death investigation” involving the natural death of the creator of the “Little Pedro” comic strip, William De La Torre. The 23 year old driver, Beryl Sheldon, was traveling southbound on Gower Street when he failed to stop for a red traffic signal at Santa Monica Boulevard, colliding with the passenger side of the officers’ vehicle. Both officers were subsequently transported to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. While Sergeant Young’s injuries were serious, Detective Hunt was gravely injured. He died from the trauma sustained during the traffic collision.
The traffic investigation found Sheldon in possession of marijuana at the time of the collision. Following the crash, Sheldon claimed his brakes failed. However, the investigation further revealed Sheldon’s vehicle left some 70 feet of skid marks, pointing at speed as the primary factor. He was arrested for a narcotics charge and eventually stood trial for the death of Hunt. A judge found Sheldon to have displayed “gross negligence” in causing the collision that killed Detective Hunt. The narcotics charge was dismissed at trial and Sheldon was found guilty of manslaughter. On September 3, 1955, Beryl Sheldon Jr. was sentenced to four months in jail for the collision that took the life of Detective Hunt.
Detective Clay Noble Hunt was laid to rest at Forst Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. He was survived by his wife Rita E. Hunt. His gravestone may be viewed on line at FindAGrave.Com.
Lieutenant J. A. Macias, Serial No. 27710