Thursday, May. 17, 2012
Fallen officers remembered at somber event
From Game Warden George Rudolph in 1914 to Correctional Officer Jose Rivera in 2008, the names of 16 law enforcement officers are etched on an 8-foot-tall stone memorial outside the Merced County Administration Building.
The names engraved in the monument represent sacrifices that are never forgotten -- officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
"The law enforcement community has been entrusted to ensure that family and friends know, unequivocally, that the law enforcement family in Merced County will always remember, embrace and hold forever sacred in our hearts, our minds and our souls those persons etched on this memorial wall," Sheriff Mark Pazin said Wednesday.
Pazin, government officials and others from law enforcement gathered at the monument for this year's Peace Officers' Memorial observance.
The event was also a time to remember other officers killed across the state during the past year, Pazin said.
Some of the incidents date back nearly a century, but many are still vivid memories for families left behind by the fallen officers.
The freshest name on the memorial is Jose Rivera, a correctional officer killed at USP Atwater in 2008 by two drunken inmates. His mother, Terry Rivera, and sister, Teresa Contreras were on hand for the ceremony.
After its conclusion, the two knelt down by the memorial and helped 3-year-old Matthew Contreras, Jose Rivera's nephew, touch and kiss the engraved name that will forever memorialize his uncle.
Similar to Rivera and Contreras, Elyce Taylor, the daughter of California Highway Patrol officer Roger Gore, became emotional when remembering her father, who she lost when she was a child.
Gore was killed in 1970 along with three other CHP officers in Santa Clarita after trying to arrest two men accused of reckless driving and brandishing a weapon.
The CHP has been supportive of Taylor and her family, but she said that she'll never be able to forget the episode.
Several police chiefs from throughout Merced County attended Wednesday's event, as well as Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
"This is a time of reflection -- a time to remember the officers as human beings, not statistics," Mims said as she stood before Wednesday's crowd of more than 100 people. "They're heroes not only because of how they died, but how they lived."
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.