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Corrections fire camp supervisor with ties to Galt killed in Las Vegas massacre


A veteran fire camp supervisor for the state Department of Corrections who had ties to Sierra Conservation Camp and the peace officer academy in Galt was killed Sunday night in the shooting massacre in Las Vegas.

Camp Commander Lt. Derrick “Bo” Taylor, 56, a resident of Ventura County, attended the Route 91 Harvest country music festival with his girlfriend, Denise Cohen, of Carpinteria, who was also killed in the attack orchestrated by a man with multiple firearms, including sniper-type rifles that could fire up to nine rounds per second.

Department of Corrections staff learned of Taylor’s death Tuesday from one of his adult sons, Kyle, who lives in Southern California, after he went to Las Vegas to look for his father, said Bill Sessa, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“He hadn’t heard from his father, and he went from hospital to hospital until he learned his father’s body was there,” Sessa said.

Taylor worked 29 years for the Department of Corrections, most recently as camp commander at La Cima Conservation Camp in San Diego County, from 2004 to 2014, and then at Ventura Conservation Camp since October 2014. The CDCR camp program houses inmates who help to fight wildland fires.

“Family, friends and staff at Sierra Conservation Center and Ventura Conservation Camp were stunned to learn one of their own was killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation staff said in a statement posted Tuesday night.

Taylor did not work at Sierra Conservation Center, but he was known there because staff there handle personnel records and paperwork for the department’s fire camps in south San Joaquin Valley and Southern California, Sessa said.

“There are no words to express the feeling of loss and sadness regarding Bo’s passing,” Warden Joel Martinez wrote in a memo to staff. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. We truly are a family here at SCC, and Bo’s loss will be felt throughout the prison, conservation camps, and Department.”

By Wednesday afternoon, more than 100 people had commented on the memo posted Tuesday evening to Inside CDCR, the department’s online newsletter.

“He was a camp supervisor,” Sessa said. “Camp staff are close, and he was a supervisor. Everybody knew him. Being a correctional officer is no different than being a policeman or a fireman. A lot of people wear the same badge.”

California employs about 25,000 correctional officers and close to 30,000 other employees, Sessa said.

Taylor started his CDCR career in January 1988 at Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center in Galt, about 30 miles west of Valley Springs. He attended a 16-week course, came out as a peace officer and from there was assigned to California Correctional Institution outside Tehachapi.

He transferred to Wasco State Prison in Kern County in 1994 and then went to High Desert State Prison in Susanville in 1995. He was promoted to correctional sergeant and transferred to Pleasant Valley State Prison in Fresno County in January 1997. He was promoted to correctional lieutenant in June 2001.

Most recently, Taylor lived in Oxnard, and he was commander at the fire camp in Ventura County, Sessa said.

An account has been established for donations to help defray costs and funeral expenses for the family of Denise Cohen, Taylor’s girlfriend, at www.gofundme.com/denise-cohen-family-memorial-fund .

A friend of Cohen, Leana Orsua, also of Carpinteria, posted an emotional message online Tuesday.

“With heavy heart, I have just confirmed the unbelievable news that Denise Cohen and Bo Taylor did not survive this horrific tragedy,” Orsua wrote in her post. “I am heartbroken beyond words … Please keep Denise's sons, Jeff and Brandon Reese, and Bo's sons, Kyle and Greg Taylor, in your thoughts. We are all hurting so much and can't understand why something like this happened. I love this woman with all my heart and I cannot believe that she's gone. RIP my beautiful, kind and loving friend. You were so special to me. I know you are up there in heaven dancing to your favorite country song and smiling down on us.”

The Oct. 1 shooting massacre in Las Vegas left at least 58 victims dead and more than 500 others wounded.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.