Annual vigil honors O.C.’s 53 peace officers who died in the line of duty

By Lou Ponsi

“Robert Squires … Orange County Sheriff’s Department.”

“Guy S. ‘Jim’ Matthews … California Highway Patrol”

“Lauren E. Hurd … California Highway Patrol”

“Leo Roy Darst … Huntington Beach Police Department”

Mounted law enforcement officers from various agencies march in as part of the Peace Officers’ Memorial Honor Guard Procession during the start of the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The names of all 53 peace officers killed in the line of duty in Orange County, along with their accompanying agencies, were read aloud during the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.

The solemn ceremony, which pays tribute to the officers who lost their lives and their surviving families and colleagues, was held in front of the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial, with hundreds of police officers, family members and citizens in attendance.

Motor officers slowly ride in as part of the Peace Officers’ Memorial Honor Guard Procession.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“I have worked in law enforcement for nearly 40 years and I can tell you that there is no greater burden, nor greater honor than to bear the loss of a friend, a colleague, a loved one who is in service to our community,” Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said. “We must and will always remember them.”

The polished vigil began with an honor guard procession and multiagency presentation of the colors.

The Riderless Horse is led past the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument at the start of the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin. The empty boots facing backward is a tradition signifying a soldier’s march has ended and that he was able to look back on his troops. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A riderless horse, symbolic of fallen warriors, passed slowly in front of the memorial.

“Taps” was played and a three-volley rifle salute was staged.

Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and candles were given to everyone in attendance.

A multi-agency honor guard that includes the OC Sheriffs Department, Irvine PD, Orange PD and Santa Ana PD presents the colors.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange County has gone four years without having to add a new name to the memorial wall, the sheriff said.

However, eight peace officers died in the line of duty in California in 2017, and 135 died nationally.

Some people salute, some place their hands over their hearts and one little girl gives her best attempt at a salute during the presentation of colors.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“That’s 135 families who are grieving the loss of a loved one,” Hutchens said. “And 112 law enforcement agencies who are mourning the loss of a colleague and 112 communities who gather to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our rights, our privileges and our freedoms.”

Law enforcement and communities need to act as partners, the sheriff said.

Orange PD Officer Colten Ivans teams with the rest of a multi-agency honor guard during the presentation of colors.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Everyone plays a role in keeping our neighborhoods safe,” she said.

In 2018, 65 peace officers have been killed through May 31, up from last year’s total during the same period, said Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel, who served as keynote speaker for the vigil.

“While heartbreaking indeed, law enforcement officers who have died at the hands of violent felons, drunk drivers or through other tragic means, made a difference in the lives … of each person they touched,” Hamel said.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and Undersheriff Don Barnes salute the flag as the a multi-agency honor guard presents the colors.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens delivers her welcoming address.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A girl examines her red carnation that she later placed on the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSD explorers attend the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard gives a Three-Volley Salute before the playing of “Taps” during theOC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard stands watch as Erik Larson sings “Stand By Me” during the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Irvine PD Chief Mike Hamel gives the keynote speech.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Recruits from various law enforcement agencies were among attendees at the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Police helicopters fly in a “missing man” formation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

An officer plays “Taps” from the roof of the OCSD Regional Training Academy.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OCSDDeputy Sgt. Aaron A. Brady salutes during the playing of “Taps.”
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Law enforcement recruits from various agencies attend the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Irvine PD Chief Mike Hamel, left, and OCSD Undersheriff Don Barnes hold a proclamation from the OC Board of Supervisors, which on May 31, 2018 declared Peace Officers’ Memorial Day in Orange County to remember “those peace officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice.”
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel places a flower in the memorial wreath.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens holds a candle during the ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

A member of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs (AOCDS) Pipe Band plays “Amazing Grace” near the end of the OC Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony & Candlelight Vigil May 31 at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy in Tustin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Heather Nasser, also known as OCSD Deputy Heather Drummond, and her 5-year-old daughter, Vivienne, walk up to place a flower on the Orange County Peace Officers’ Memorial Monument.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC