HANFORD — Six area law enforcement officers and a dozen more from all over the state who died in the line of duty were honored Wednesday morning during the Kings County Peace Officers’ Memorial ceremony held at the Kings County Government Center.
Officers from local agencies including the California Highway Patrol, Kings County Sherriff’s Office, Hanford Police Department, Lemoore Police Department and others attended the ceremony. Don Tripp, Commander of the Hanford area CHP, welcomed the hundreds of law enforcement officers, family members and members of the public who were there to show respect to the fallen officers.
“This morning we gather to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our county, our state, our country and for our precious freedoms, values and our way of life,” Tripp said. “We must — and we will always — remember them.”
Trip said in 2016, 143 federal, state and local officers who served all over the nation died while in uniform. He said although the officers come from different places and served in different agencies, they all share the common bond of service and sacrifice.
“Each [officer] served a cause greater than themselves,” Tripp said. “They put their love for their community and their dedication to duty above their own personal safety.”
Unlike most other professions, Tripp said officers know that their lives will one day be at risk, but they are willing to accept that risk on behalf of others. He thanked the families of the fallen officers for demonstrating grace and bravery during their respective times of tragedy.
Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever read the names on the Kings County Peace Officers Memorial: Solomon Gladden died in 1893; Fred Bird died in 1895; Dean Esquibel of the CHP died in 1985; William Lehn of the Fresno Police Department died in 1994; James Rapozo of the Kings County Sherriff’s Office, Hanford Police Department and Visalia Police Department died in 1998; and Allen Sharra of the Kings County Sherriff’s Office died in 1999.
Lemoore Police Chief Darrell Smith read the roll call of fallen heroes for the entire state of California, which included 12 names of officers from agencies including sheriff’s departments, police departments, CHP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“We must never forget the 900,000 law enforcement officers nationwide who risk their lives every day for our safety and protection,” Smith said. “Let us all resolve to respect, honor and remember those who have served us so well and sacrifice so much in the name of public safety.”
Assistant Chief Arend La Blue of the Avenal Police Department gave a remembrance speech about Allen Sharra, who died in a car accident en route to an emergency call. Retired Chief Jack Amoroso of the Avenal Police Department also gave a remembrance speech about Dean Esquibel, William Lehn and James Rapozo.
Rapozo, who was shot during a swat operation in Visalia, was a friend and colleague of Amoroso's for over a decade, and he became emotional when speaking about his friend. He commended all officers for always completing the mission placed before them and never backing down in the face of adversity.
“There is no shortage of courageous young men and women who are eager to join us in our efforts to make our community safe,” Amoroso said about the future of law enforcement.
Amoroso ended his speech with the quote that is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in Washington, D.C., which reads, “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.”
At the ceremony, a multi-agency armed guard did a presentation of colors while Officer Roberto Rodriguez of the Bakersfield area CHP sang the National Anthem; Chaplain Gene Pensiero of the Lemoore Police Department gave the invocation and later the benediction; and Kings County Sherriff David Robinson recited the “Police Officer’s Prayer.”
Also at the ceremony, a musical tribute of “Amazing Grace” was performed by bagpiper Mark Little and a 21-gun salute was given by an honor guard from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
Other Peace Officers’ Memorial ceremonies were held throughout the state this week.