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Saturday, May 8, 2004

Lodi officers join thousands to remember peers killed in line of duty

Tears filled the eyes of more than one Lodi police officer Friday morning as they joined thousands of colleagues at the state Capitol to remember those killed in the line of duty last year.

Birds sang in the trees overhead and sniffles were occasionally heard, but the only other sound was the reading of 17 officers' names. One by one, the police officers were remembered and their family members moved forward to place flowers on a memorial at the Capitol.

Lodi Police Honor Guard members Sgt. Bill Barry, Officer Mike Oden, Cpl. Jose Nuno, Cpl. DeeDee Dutra and Detective Scott Powell pay tribute to officers who died in the line of duty, during the annual memorial ceremony at the state Capitol on Friday morning. (Layla Bohm/News-Sentinel)

The annual ceremony is not something that ever gets easier, said Lodi police Sgt. Bill Barry, who wiped tears from his cheeks more than once.

"Every time you see those families bring up those roses..." he said as his voice trailed off.

The Lodi officers gathered around 10 a.m. outside the Capitol on Friday, where thousands of police officers milled around on the grass. Police cars and motorcycles filled city blocks, while horses stood quietly.

Then, just before 10:30 a.m., came the call: "Form up."

Honor Guard members and officers from across the state stood at attention, their white-gloved hands raised to their foreheads. Wearing shiny black shoes, pants with a yellow stripe down the side, cords around their right shoulder and stiff hats, Lodi's Honor Guard joined the ranks.

Lodi Police Department Bagpiper, Dr. Raphael Pazo, broke from the ranks and assumed his position at the center of the event.  He was the featured performer of and original Piobaireachd (bagpipe classical music) titled "Lament for the Fallen Heroes", composed by Dr. Pazo especially for the ocassion.

The officers also wore black bands over their badges, as they do everytime an officer is killed. The bands are worn until the officer is laid to rest, and Lodi officers have been recently been wearing them nearly every day: In the past month, four California officers have died in the line of duty.

On Friday, the officers lined the walkway heading west from the Capitol, looking straight ahead as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger descended the steps and walked past them.

He was followed by the family members of those police officers who died in the line of duty.

Chaplain Bill Sherill of the Lodi Police Department bows his head during a memorial ceremony Friday at the state Capitol honoring 17 California peace officers killed in the line of duty last year. (Layla Bohm/News-Sentinel)

Bagpiper Raphael Pazo, a member of the Lodi Police Honor Guard, cried when he saw a mother and her six children make their way down the walkway while drums sounded in the background.

"Imagine what it must be like for the families to come down the steps and see all these officers," Barry later said.

High above the crowd, snipers were posted on the roof of the Capitol and other buildings. A light breeze rustled through the frawns of the tall palm trees.

The crowd moved east to the California Peace Officers' Memorial, a large statue standing before a low, circular monument. On the sides, the names of 1,430 officers are inscribed.

Among the names, on the northern side, is that of Rick Cromwell, Lodi's only police officer to have been killed in the line of duty. The 10-year veteran died in a traffic accident in 1998.

Schwarzenegger stood near the monument and addressed the officers and family members.

"There is no profession more noble than the one you have chosen," he told them.

The governor received applause when he addressed those charged with killing an officer.

The applause was louder when Attorney General Bill Lockyer echoed those sentiments, then almost seemed to address San Francisco's District Attorney, though he stopped short of mentioning names.

In April, an eight-year San Francisco police veteran was gunned down, and a suspect was soon arrested and charged with murder. Following up on a campaign promise, the District Attorney declined to seek the death penalty.

For those who don't seek the death penalty in such cases, Lockyer said, "I will take the case away from you and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law."

And, while one case took 46 years to solve, Lockyer promised not to give up.

"We will never forget, and it's a promise we make to the families and those who carry the shield," he said.

While the applause was genuine, it was also reserved. And beneath many sunglasses, eyes were red.

Lodi Traffic Enforcement Officer Aleisa Nunes wiped her eyes, looked at the ground, then drew a breath and looked back at the families placing roses on the memorial.

Barry quietly sang along as an officer sang a James Taylor song and slightly changed the last line of the lyrics: "I've seen fire and I've seen rain; I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend; But I always thought that I'd see you, partner, again."

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com. Edit Text

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Music of Elegance and Distinction

by Dr. Raphael Pazo, Highland Bagpiper 


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