As I began to write this article on Saturday morning, March 10, 2018, I learned the tragic news that California had its first peace officer killed in the line of duty in 2018. One too many … but the sad reality is every peace officer who upholds the sacred oath of office knows and accepts that they may lose his or her life in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others whom almost without exception they do not know.
On Friday evening, March 9, a Pomona police officer’s wife and their two young children (4 years old and 5 months old) were solemnly told the unthinkable: their hero would not be coming home. Pomona Police Officer Greggory Casillas, 30, made the ultimate sacrifice as he ran after a suspect who had crashed a vehicle and fled on foot into an apartment complex. The suspect entered an apartment, where he fired a weapon, striking Officer Casillas, who was outside. A second officer tried to rescue Officer Casillas but the suspect fired again, hitting the officer in the jaw. He had surgery and is expected to recover. Despite gallant efforts to save Officer Casillas, he succumbed to his injuries.
The suspect barricaded himself in the apartment for the next 15 hours before being taken into custody. Early reports indicate the suspect is a felon with a lengthy criminal background, and as more time passes, I’m certain information will surface that the suspect more than likely belonged behind bars at the time of this murder and attempted murder.
PPOA continues to pray and offer our unwavering support to the Casillas family, the recovering Pomona officer, the Pomona Police Department, the Pomona Police Officers’ Association and the city of Pomona as they honor and remember Officer Greggory Casillas, EOW: March 9, 2018.
Each year in the April issue of the Star & Shield magazine, I will continue to honor our California peace officers who had paid the ultimate price during the previous year and who will be memorialized in May at local, state and national ceremonies.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week. A joint resolution of Congress established the resolution that year.
Since 1977, California has memorialized our state’s fallen heroes by conducting the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremonies at our state Capitol during the month of May. The annual Los Angeles County Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony is also held in May. It is my hope that you attend at least one of the following memorial ceremonies to publicly commit that our fallen officers and their surviving families left behind will never be forgotten:
- May 6 and 7: California Peace Officers’ Memorial Candlelight Vigil and Enrollment Ceremonies, Sacramento, California
- May 13 and 15: National Law Enforcement Officers’ Candlelight Vigil and Memorial Ceremonies, Washington, D.C.
- May 23: Los Angeles County Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony, Biscailuz Academy
Last year, 128 officers nationwide died in the line of duty; 44 of these officers were killed by gunfire. This is a 10 percent decrease from 2016, which saw 143 officer line of duty deaths, with 66 shot and killed. Although the 10 percent decrease might sound “encouraging” to some, 17 officers in 2018 have already died from shootings. I hope this startling trend is not the beginning of a very dangerous and deadly 2018 for the men and women who wear the badge and put their lives on the line every day.
In 2017, six peace officers in California died in the line of duty. Two officers were shot, three officers were in motor/vehicular incidents, and one officer suffered a medical emergency:
Officer Keith Boyer
Whittier Police Department
EOW: Feb 20, 2017
Officer Lucas F. Chellew
California Highway Patrol – South Sacramento
EOW: Feb 22, 2017
Deputy Jason Garner
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department
EOW: May 13, 2017
Deputy Sheriff Robert Rumfelt
Lake County Sheriff’s Department
EOW: Aug 22, 2017
Deputy Sheriff Robert “Bob” French
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department
EOW: Aug 30, 2017
Officer Andrew Camilleri Sr.
California Highway Patrol – Hayward Area Office
EOW: Dec 24, 2017
I encourage you to visit the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation (CPOMF) website, www.camemorial.org, for additional information on our six fallen heroes who will be enrolled this May. Also, on May 1, PPOA’s website as well as CPOMF’s will have a digital copy of the annual In the Line of Duty memorial magazine, which details this year’s enrollment of our six peace officers from 2017 and our two peace officers from the past.
Through dedicated research by agencies and individuals, names of officers from the past who died in the line of duty are added, providing the recognition and honor they so richly deserve. This year, two California peace officers are being honored and enrolled this May at all three memorial ceremonies listed above:
Officer Louis Allinson
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
EOW: March 27, 1915
Motor Officer Louis Allinson was conducting speed enforcement on Wilshire Boulevard near the Sawtelle Veterans Home in Los Angeles on March 26, 1915. He took off after a speeding motorist along a newly laid road. His front wheel struck a rock, causing him to be thrown from the motorcycle. A witness transported him to St. Catherine’s Hospital, where he died of his injuries the following day. The 37-year-old officer was a U.S. Army veteran of the Spanish-American War and had served with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for three years. He was survived by his wife, Minnie, and their two children.
Officer Murray F. Olsen
Los Angeles County, Department of Health Services
EOW: March 9, 1975
On the evening of March 9, 1975, Officer Murray Olsen saw a truck drive through the fence of Olive View Medical Center. He confronted the suspect, who was attempting to steal X-ray equipment. Officer Olsen was attacked with a knife from behind by a second man. One of the men took the officer’s service revolver and then shot him three times in the chest. Responding officers found Officer Olsen’s body near his patrol car. Officer Olsen was survived by his wife, Isabel. The suspect was later killed in a gunbattle with the LAPD. Officers from the Department of Health Services were later absorbed into the Los Angeles County Safety Police, which then became the Los Angeles County Office of Public Safety. That agency was subsequently taken over by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
This May, as we remember the brave men and women who died in the line of duty in our communities, our state and across our great nation, we must remember those five words etched with the names of more than 20,000 peace officers on the granite walls at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: “In valor there is hope.”