A Sacramento County deputy sheriff gunned down in a two-county rampage last year was honored Friday afternoon by a small neighborhood where he made a difference.
The ceremony honoring Sacramento County sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver was held in grassy, green Pioneer Park in Old Foothill Farms to dedicate a bench and plaque in memory of Oliver.
Oliver was a Problem Oriented Policing officer for the older suburb made up of ranch-style homes near Interstate 80 and Madison Avenue, meaning he worked closely with residents to get abandoned cars towed away, clean up homeless camps and reduce the blight of rundown homes and closed storefronts.
“He took little problems and kept them from getting big,” said Lisbeth Gray, chairwoman of the Old Foothill Farms Community Task Force, to an assembled crowd of police officers and community members. “It was almost as if he lived in one of these houses.”
Sheriff Scott Jones told residents not to let the memorial nature of the bench prevent them from sitting on it.
“I want you to sit on it and let Danny support you in spirit in the way he did when he was alive,” he said.
Oliver was shot to death Oct. 24 in the parking lot of a Motel 6 off Arden Way in Sacramento that has since been razed. It marked the beginning of a daylong crime spree that included the subsequent shooting death of Placer County sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis Jr. in Auburn. Authorities later arrested Luis Enriquez Monroy Bracamontes and his wife, Janelle Marquez Monroy.
Bracamontes has not yet entered a plea. He faces charges of first-degree murder with five special-circumstance allegations. At a status conference hearing in February, he blurted out, “I killed them cops.”
The money for the bench arrived in sums from $5 to $200 from fellow officers and the District Attorney’s Office – but mostly from Old Foothill Farms residents, many of whom attended the dedication ceremony.
Also in attendance were Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters; Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova; District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert; Oliver’s partner and the community’s new POP officer, Deputy Scott Brown; and Oliver’s family.
“(The bench) shows how much this community loved and respected him,” said Oliver’s mother, Jerry Oliver. “Just the fact that they’re honoring him, that they loved him that much to honor him.”
She said it’s been difficult for her family in the wake of Oliver’s death. She and her husband were watching television when the shooting happened and she recognized her son’s car on the TV screen.
“In my heart, I knew,” she said. The chaplains from the department called her 30 minutes later.
“He was kind of the glue that held the family together,” his mother said. “Everybody turned to Danny for advice.”
Deputy Oliver had a wife and two daughters, ages 24 and 12. Taped to the bench during the service was a letter his 24-year-old daughter Melissa wrote to him when she was 10 years old.
“(My dad) is so great I could call him SUPERMAN,” she wrote. “The best thing he does, is giving out love. I don’t know what I’d do without all those great big bear hugs, but all I know is that it will always be with me in my heart.”
His sunny, cheerful personality made him the ideal POP officer, community members said.
“I felt like I knew him, even though I didn’t really,’ said Eloise Krough, an Old Foothill Farms resident. “He was well loved in this community.”
“Danny was here every day, every week,” Gray said. She said that because he spent most of his time in the community, not on patrol, his job sounded kind of benign. So when the news of his death in the line of duty came, it “just shattered us,” she said.
“When the shootings happened, we grieved for the other deputies,” she said. But Oliver’s death “was personal to us. We knew him, we loved him.”
Deputy Brown said he’d driven by the park where the memorial service was held with Oliver shortly before his death. He said seeing families and children in the park filled Oliver with pride.
“He had a sense of pride that his community was safe enough that families felt they could go to the park without worrying about gangs and stuff,” Brown said. “At his last community meeting, they gave him a standing ovation.”
Brown met Oliver about 10 years ago and worked closely with him as his partner in the POP program.
“He was always quick with a little quip in briefing,” he said. “He had an infectious smile, a goofy little grin, I can’t explain it ... Everybody has a good story about Danny.”
He said Oliver was a man who loved classic cars and Johnny Cash, and lived like every day could be his last – he took RV trips with his wife, volunteered on humanity projects in South America, and was proud of his daughters and determined to push them in the right direction.
Oliver had been with the Sheriff’s Department for 15 years, and Brown said he was planning to retire in three to five years and travel with his wife. Oliver had a lot of tattoos covered up by his deputy’s uniform, and many of his friends and family members got tattoos with an artistic representation of his badge in his memory.
Sheriff Jones said the bench will give Oliver’s fellow officers a place to come and reflect and remember Danny.
“I’ll take the long way home to be able to come here,” he said.
Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison at (916) 321-1006.