Months after her husband was shot dead in a motel parking lot, Susan Oliver, widow of Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, is receiving what she says is the opportunity of a lifetime – a seat at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
On Saturday, Susan Oliver, 46, reflected on her recovery process and announced plans to “repair” the trust between law enforcement and their communities.
“Right now, it’s really awful,” she said, noting the violent aftermath of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. “People don’t trust law enforcement.”
Danny Oliver, 47, was killed Oct. 24 at a Motel 6 parking lot near Arden Way. According to police, Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes was the triggerman in a string of crimes that began when he shot Danny Oliver as the deputy approached a car Bracamontes and his wife, Janelle Marquez Monroy, were in.
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Authorities said the couple, armed with an AR-15 rifle and at least two pistols, then took off and carjacked two other vehicles, shot a motorist who resisted giving up his car and fled to Auburn. There, two Placer County deputies confronted them along a roadway and Bracamontes shot and killed Detective Michael Davis Jr. and wounded Deputy Jeff Davis, police said.
Danny Oliver, a 15-year department veteran, was remembered for his soft heart and service in problem-oriented policing.
The invitation to Tuesday’s State of the Union address was extended by Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who praised Danny Oliver as a “true hero.”
Oliver’s death came against a backdrop of broader discussion nationally of race relations and tensions between police and the communities they serve. Susan Oliver characterized some of the incidents as misunderstandings, suggesting that activists tried to “excite people who don’t know all the facts.”
“People will do negative things just because there’s an opportunity,” Susan Oliver said. “There are doctors who don’t always do the right and ethical things. And for some reason, there’s a focus on law enforcement.”
Susan Oliver is starting the Danny Oliver Foundation, which will seek to change the public’s view about law enforcement. She doesn’t want her children to “remember that their father died at a time when people were against police.”
For the Oliver family, the mourning process has been slow and painful. Danny Oliver played an active role in his daughters’ lives. He would exercise with them and help with homework.
Struggling to fill the void, Susan Oliver recently stepped away from running her homeowner association management firm to be with her children, Jenny, 12, and Melissa, 24.
“The biggest challenge for me is being two parents at once,” Susan Oliver said. “Danny was an amazing father.”
The family spent Christmas at Disneyland so they could take their “take their minds off” the death. Still, there are times of guilt, like “the moment we start to enjoy ourselves and find ourselves laughing,” Susan Oliver said.
But, she added, “We know we can’t stay grieving. It’s just not a healthy place.”
Susan Oliver will make the trip to Washington, D.C., alone Monday and return Wednesday evening. She is not planning any other public appearances during her stay. Bera’s office said the White House has been informed of the invitation.
Susan Oliver offered this message for President Obama: “Build unity between citizens and law enforcement ... The damage is tearing people apart.”
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.