Dozens of police officers and family members attended a tribute in San Jose today for 39 law enforcement officers killed while on duty within Santa Clara County going back to 1862. “The loss still remains with us,” said Santa Clara Police Department Chaplain Ryan Wright addressing relatives of fallen officers attending the event. “We just learn how to carry it.” “The significance is not the way they died, but the way they lived,” Wright said. “Their lives mattered.” The annual Santa Clara County Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony, scheduled prior to National Police Week from May 12-18, took place in front of the sheriff’s office’s headquarters at 55 W. Younger Ave.
The ceremony centered around a memorial for the county’s slain officers outside the building, featuring a bronze relief statue of three officers titled “In the Line of Duty” and plaques with the names of each slain officer. Among the speakers at the ceremony were Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, state Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and sheriff’s Capt. Michael Doty, who emceed the service. Yeager said that a law enforcement officer is killed every 57 hours in the United States and mentioned the campus police officer killed in Boston by an alleged terrorist last month and the two officers shot to death in Santa Cruz in February. Each incident “reminds us each and every day that public safety officers exhibit courage,” Yeager said. “It’s important that we remember that everyday.” Lofgren said that news of the death of sheriff’s Deputy Paul Bush in 1990 while she was on the Board of Supervisors “was like lightening through our hearts.”
The deadly terrorist bombing in April at the Boston Marathon, through traumatic, proved “that kind of violence can be countered by the bravery of the law enforcement community,” Lofgren said. Fong warned about increasing crime in San Jose, where the rate of property crime rose by 30 percent during the past year and 46 people were murdered in 2012. Addressing the families of the county’s slain police, Fong said he would “like to express my sorrow and thanks for what you did for the community.” Doty introduced a bagpipe solo performed by Brett Bush, son of the late Deputy Sheriff Bush, and a flag raising ceremony by the sheriff’s Honor Guard. Officers from six law enforcement agencies took turns at the podium reciting the names of their officers killed as a sheriff’s deputy tolled a bell for each name.
The fallen officers included those who served the Sheriff’s Department, the San Jose, Palo Alto and Santa Clara police departments, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety and the California Highway Patrol. Some family members, including elderly parents and grandchildren, could be seen wiping tears as their relative’s name was called. After the names were read, the Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute, sheriff’s Deputy Stephen Stek blew taps and the sheriff’s Pipes & Drums group played “Amazing Grace.”
The first officer killed in the county was Deputy Sheriff Martin Roonan, stabbed to death on Oct. 23, 1862, and the most recent was San Jose police Officer Jeffrey Fontana, who was shot to death on Oct. 28, 2001. Of the officers or deputies killed in the county, 11 worked for San Jose police; eight each for the sheriff’s office and CHP; five for the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety; and three each for Santa Clara and Palo Alto police.
Another fallen officer, Albert “Sunny Jim” Margason, who died in 1927, served for the now-defunct Santa Clara County State Traffic Force. Those attending the event included District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Supervisor Mike Wasserman, representatives of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, department heads from county and San Jose city governments and dozens of uniformed law enforcement officers.
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