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Local News

Santa Maria Memorial Honors Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

Representatives of local agencies participate in annual ceremony held at Santa Maria Police Department's station on Betteravia Road

Chris Nartatez, interim chief at the Allan Hancock College Police Department and a retired sergeant from the Santa Maria Police Department, speaks at the Peace Officers Memorial on Wednesday.
Chris Nartatez, interim chief at the Allan Hancock College Police Department and a retired sergeant from the Santa Maria Police Department, speaks at the Peace Officers Memorial on Wednesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

When a law enforcement officer leaves for work, family members bid farewell, knowing that it could be the final goodbye due to the dangers of the job, a retired police sergeant said Wednesday morning.

Chris Nartatez, a retired sergeant from the Santa Maria Police Department and acting chief for the Allan Hancock College Police Department, spoke during the annual Peace Officers’ Memorial in the parking lot of the new police station on Betteravia Road. 

“When a peace officer leaves his home, he kisses his loved ones goodbye,” said Nartatez, whose career began with the Guadalupe Police Department in 1977. 

What’s really in the back in their mind, but not verbalized, is whether they will see that law enforcement officer again.

“That’s why you are here today — to honor those who did not return home to their loved one. They have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Nartatez said. 

Approximately 200 people from multiple law enforcement agencies attended the ceremony to remember five fallen officers from California agencies and two police canines who died in the line of duty in 2015.

The Santa Maria Police Department Honor Guard stands while colleagues from other agencies raise the flag during the Santa Maria Peace Officers’ Memorial. Click to view larger
The Santa Maria Police Department Honor Guard stands while colleagues from other agencies raise the flag during the Santa Maria Peace Officers’ Memorial. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Remembered were Officer Michael J. Johnson of the San Jose Police Department; Sgt. Scott Lunger of the Hayward Police Department; Officer David Nelson of the Bakersfield Police Department; Officer Bryce Hanes of the San Bernardino Police Department; and Officer Ricky Galvez of the Downey Police Department.

Also noted were the deaths of police K-9s Sultan and Nitro, from the San Jacinto and Stockton police departments.

Santa Maria Mayor Pro Tem Etta Waterfield read a proclamation recognizing National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day, and encouraging “all residents and businesses to remember those individuals who gave their lives for our safety and express our appreciation to those who continue to dedicate themselves to making Santa Maria a safer place to live.”  

Across the nation, 128 law enforcement members were killed in 2015, Lt. Dan Cohen said, noting annually the number averages 100 deaths with most intentionally killed. 

Members of law enforcement work daily to protect neighborhoods, lives and property, according to Cohen. 

“When violent criminals threaten our property, peace officers are the first ones to shield others from harm,” Cohen said. “They provide protection for people they’ve never met. With their service comes great risk and sacrifice.”

An honor guard made up of members of multiple departments participates in the Santa Maria Peace Officers Memorial Wednesday morning. Click to view larger
An honor guard made up of members of multiple departments participates in the Santa Maria Peace Officers Memorial Wednesday morning. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The fallen law enforcement officers were fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, Cohen added.

“None of them wanted the spotlight,” Cohen said. “They simply put the welfare of others above their own personal safety.”

During the ceremony, retired Santa Maria police officer Richard Birdsall, who died last fall, was remembered with a special presentation — a plaque with 18 shell casings from his 21-gun-salute delivered during his memorial service. Three of the shell casings symbolizing respect, honor and duty, were wrapped in the American flag presented earlier to the family. 

“He will be remembered for his humor, generosity and the extraordinary strength he displayed while battling his disease,” Cohen said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Members of the Santa Maria Police Department honor guard walk by a table remembering fallen law enforcement officers in California in 2015. Click to view larger
Members of the Santa Maria Police Department honor guard walk by a table remembering fallen law enforcement officers in California in 2015. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

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