One was a new California Highway Patrol officer who died on Christmas Eve while his kids waited for him to open their presents.
Another was a deputy from Stanislaus County who was killed in a car crash while his department’s leaders were paying respects to fallen officers at a national memorial.
And one more was a career deputy in Sacramento County who commanded the respect of generations of cops. His name, Deputy Robert French, was the one that made an emcee’s voice crack Monday when police officers from around California gathered near the Capitol to recognize cops who were killed on duty last year.
“I’ve known Bobby 20 years. He was the best man at my wedding,” said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Mickelson, who read the names of fallen officers during the ceremony because he is president of the California Peace Officers’ Memorial Foundation.
The memorial now holds the names of 1,600 California police officers who were killed on duty since the 19th century. Speakers at this year’s ceremony stressed that the circumstances of the deaths varied, but the officers shared a commitment to serving their communities and a willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to protect people they never knew.
“I appreciate memorials such as this,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. It was his 11th memorial as governor. “This is something that will outlive all of us. It will outlive us by capturing and recreating the memory of those who served us by giving the ultimate sacrifice.”
The officers who died on duty in 2017 were:
Officer Keith Boyer, 53, of the Whittier Police Department. He was shot to death on Feb. 20, 2017.
Officer Lucas Chellew, 31, a Sacramento-based California Highway Patrol officer. He was killed during a vehicle chase on Feb. 22, 2017.
Deputy Jason Garner, 41, of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. He was killed in a car crash south of Modesto On May 13, 2017.
Deputy Robert Rumfelt, 50, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. He died after a vehicle crash on Aug. 22, 2017.
Deputy French of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. He was shot to death on Aug. 30, 2017.
And, California Highway Patrol Officer Andrew Camilleri, 33, who was killed on Christmas Eve in Hayward.
On Tuesday, the California Highway Patrol is scheduled to hold a memorial to its fallen officers at its academy in West Sacramento. Similar events are scheduled for next week in Washington, D.C.
The memorial in Sacramento is "a sacred place," Mickelson said. "These officers gave their lives. We do this for them, and we do this for their families."