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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 7:19 am | Fair 45º


Santa Maria Memorial Remembers Fallen Law Enforcement Officers

Chief Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola says appreciating current law enforcement members also honors those who died in the line of duty

Santa Maria police officers salute the flag during the Peace Officers’ Memorial on Wednesday.
Santa Maria police officers salute the flag during the Peace Officers’ Memorial on Wednesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In honoring fallen law enforcement members from 2014, it’s also important to remember “the heroes among us” who continue to protect their communities, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mag Nicola said Wednesday at the Santa Maria Peace Officers’ Memorial.

Those fallen heroes of 2014 across California share traits with their fellow law enforcement members, like the dozens who attended Wednesday’s ceremony, Nicola said during a keynote speech.

“They are driven by a relentless desire to make a difference,” Nicola said. “They will run towards danger when everyone else is running from it. They know even when they are not chasing danger, the very nature of their job often results in danger finding them.”

Several hundred people gathered at the Santa Maria Police Department for the annual Peace Officers’ Memorial remembering several fallen law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in California last year. The event was organized by members of the Santa Maria Police Department and included representatives from other local law enforcement agencies. 

“They never know what their shift will bring and they never know whether they will make it back home to their loved ones,” Nicola said. “None of the fallen of 2014 began their end of watch day knowing it was their last.”

Mag Nicola, chief deputy district attorney for the North County, delivers the keynote speech during the Santa Maria Peace Officers' Memorial on Wednesday. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin read the names of the 13 fallen members from 2014, noting they were fathers, sons, brothers and uncles. 

The list includes Deputy Eugene Kostiuchenko from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. He was killed by a drunken driver Oct. 28, 2014.

Also remembered was Placer County Sheriff’s Office Detective Michael Davis Jr., who died in the line of duty on the anniversary of when his father, a law enforcement officer, was killed 26 years earlier.

“The pictures are down in front of you there, right below me, and I want you to look at each one of them as I read their name,” Martin said.

While Wednesday’s ceremony focused on fallen heroes from 2014, Nicola called on those in attendance to also pay their respects to local law enforcement members who died years ago, including California Highway Patrol Officers Rick Stovall and Britt Irvine. They were killed in 1998 when their patrol vehicle drove off a washed-out Highway 166 and dropped into the flood-swollen Cuyama River.

Others were Robert Ramos, a Santa Maria police officer killed when his gun accidentally fired as he put it into the holster in 2003, Scott Williams, a Lompoc federal prison guard killed by an inmate in 1997, Laura Cleaves, a District Attorney’s Office investigator killed when a drunken driver hit her vehicle on Highway 154 in 2008, and Richard May, an East Palo Alto police officer killed in 2006. May formerly worked for Lompoc Police Department and his family lived in Orcutt at the time of his death.

Santa Maria Police Explorers place white roses in vases near the pictures of the fallen law enforcement members from 2014 in California. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“It is important that we not let the passage of time soften our expression of gratitude for their service nor diminish our compassion for the loved ones they left behind,” Nicola said. “But perhaps, the greatest tribute to the fallen would be for us to express our deepest gratitude, respect and appreciation to the peace officers standing before us and where ever else they may be today.”

Without singling any cities out by name amid unrest experienced across the nation, Nicola said “too many provocateurs call for violence against those sworn to protect against violence.”

He added: “Let us take cautious note of those communities who have forgotten these simple truths. Heroes choose to wear the uniform. They choose to wear the badge. They will lay down their lives in your defense, wanting only the support of the citizens they serve. Let us instead continue to be a community that openly reveres and supports the heroes among us who do so much more than enforce our laws.”

Santa Maria Lt. Dan Cohen served as master of ceremonies.  

“We pay tribute with how we live our life, how we carry out our duties, remaining professional in our contacts with the community, going the extra mile in times of crisis when people are in distress, by remaining true to the principles of our profession and being ever mindful of what we represent so as to not tarnish the badge,” Cohen said.

“To our heroes,” Nicola said, “We thank you for your courage, your bravery, your vigilance and your devotion. Thank you for the sacrifices you and your families make each day for the benefit of all of us.”

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.

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