Public safety responders throughout San Benito County took a moment during their shifts May 14 to honor law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in California in 2020 with a public tribute that could be heard and seen throughout the community.
The End of Watch ceremony was part of local agencies’ participation in National Police Week, which took place this year from May 9-15.
At noon on May 14, dozens of officers from the Hollister Police Department, San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, state forestry department and California Highway Patrol gathered on Prospect Avenue to pay their respects to the officers who died in 2020. They were joined by paramedics, firefighters and probation officers from local agencies. A similar tribute was scheduled at the same time at local fire stations and the county jail.
Patrol vehicles and ambulances lined up in the parking lot on the east side of Rancho San Justo Park, their emergency lights flashing as a Hollister Police dispatcher read off the names of all 18 law enforcement officers who died in California in 2020. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page website, 13 of these officers died of Covid-19, two died from gunfire, two died in vehicle crashes and one died of a heart attack while on duty.
After the dispatcher read the names, the assembled public safety officials observed a moment of silence, then wailed their vehicles’ sirens for about 30 seconds before proceeding to continue their shifts.
The fallen officer tribute was organized by the Hollister Police Department. Interim Police Chief Carlos Reynoso said they didn’t want to include any speeches in the ceremony because they wanted to maintain the focus on the officers who died. Reynoso wrote in an email last week announcing the tribute event, “The idea is for our entire community to hear the sirens at the same time and take a moment to remember those that paid the ultimate price.”
According to the Officer Down Memorial page, law enforcement officers who died in California in 2020 are: Fresno Police Officer Angel De La Fuente, CHP Officer Andy Ornelas, Riverside County Deputy Probation Officer Julio Lopez Beltran, Riverside County Sheriff’s Sgt. Harry Morris Cohen, U.S. Homeland Security Officer Carlo Jay Cayabyab, Fresno County Sheriff’s Det. Jose C. Mora; Richmond Police Sgt. Virgil Thomas, California Corrections Sgt. Gilbert Polanco, Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Walter Rocha, Patton State Hospital Police Investigator Donald Keith Sumner, California Corrections Officer Joe Alfredo Diramos “Joe” Kates, California Corrections Officer Richard Bianchi, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, El Centro Police Officer Efren Coronel, Corrections Officer Daniel Lopez Mendoza, III, San Diego Police Officer Daniel Gene Walters, Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Terrell Young and Santa Rosa Police Det. Marylou P. Hernandez-Armer.