The mood was somber on a cloudless, sunny Wednesday in Courthouse Square.
The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presents a 21-gun salute in front of the Tuolumne County Courthouse. Amy Alonzo Rozak/ Union Democrat, copyright 2012
About 100 peace officers from law enforcement agencies around Tuolumne County gathered in the downtown Sonora park at noon to honor fallen comrades from across the state for the annual California Peace Officers’ Memorial.
There were 173 officers killed in the line of duty last year from various law enforcement agencies nationwide, with 10 of those from California, according to statistics from Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc., a nonprofit group dedicated to honoring fallen peace officers.
The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 391 Color Guard presented the national and state flags, Michelle Jachetta sang the national anthem, bagpiper Ben Orr played “Amazing Grace,” and Sonora Police Chaplain Dave Bush gave an invocation at the beginning of the ceremony.
The featured speaker at the event was Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, who talked about her appreciation for the sacrifices made by peace officers.
“To put one’s life at risk to keep others safe is the very embodiment of selflessness,” she said.
Olsen also took time to pay tribute to Sonora Police Officer John Sheldon, who was stabbed to
death by two men while walking his downtown area beat in 1855.
Sheldon is the only known officer in the department’s history to have been slain in the line of duty.
Current Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson uncovered Sheldon’s story through three months of poring through city records, coroner’s inquests, news articles and other historical documents.
“I was surprised she did that,” Stinson said of Olsen’s speech recognizing Sheldon. “It was an honor coming from her, actually.”
Stinson’s efforts led to Sheldon being added this month to peace officer memorials in both Washington D.C. and Sacramento. Stinson attended the induction in Sacramento where he met Gov. Jerry Brown, who held a private ceremony for law enforcement officials and families of fallen officers in State Assembly chambers.
“I guess we can say he’s been laid to rest properly,” Stinson said.
Other local peace officers who have died in the line of duty over the years are: Columbia Police Officer Joel McDonald, Columbia Constable John Leary, Sheriff’s Investigator Paul R. Marks Sr., CHP Officer Wesley D. Johnson and Sheriff’s Deputy David P. Grant.
Summerville High School students Charles McClung and Kameron Hurst played “Taps” on bugles and seven Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard riflemen fired a 21-gun salute to close out the ceremony.
The California officers who died in the line of duty last year and were honored at Wednesday’s ceremony are: Garberville CHP Officer Thomas R. Adams, Cathedral City Police Officer Jermaine A. Gibson Sr., Hawthorne Police Officer Andrew S. Garton, Alhambra Police Officer Ryan Stringer, Buena Park Police Officer Daniel R. Ackerman, San Diego Police Officer Jeremy N. Henwood, Vallejo Police Officer James L. Capoot and Signal Hill Police Officer Anthony A. Giniewicz.
CHP Officer Robert Quirk was also recognized because he was recently added to the memorial. Quirk died of a fatal heart attack after arresting three people in a foot pursuit, according to the Officer Down Memorial webpage.