At Christmas

I just came in from lowering our flag to half-staff. Outside it is dark, cold, a light mist. Mirroring the faces of my fellow officers.

At Christmas.

A newlywed wife lost her husband Wednesday of this week, as he bled out on the street, having been shot in the neck.

At Christmas.

My department has had four deputies killed in two years.

Deputies Joe Kievernagel and Kevin Blount died on July 13th of 2005 in a helicopter crash near Lake Natoma. Pilot Kievernagel, having lost power, managed to maneuver the helo away from the heavily populated recreational area just beneath him at the time, which took him into the side of a hill in full view of hundreds of summer swimmers and boaters.

On October 27th of 2006, Deputy Jeff Mitchell was disarmed and shot to death by a suspect following a traffic stop. The suspect is still at large and unknown. Following his killing, my department began furiously installing in-dash camcorders in vehicles. Deputy Mitchell’s car was not so equipped.

And this week, just yesterday, my department lost an undercover narcotics detective. At 37 years old, Vu Nguyen gave up his life for the job he loved. His wife weeps. His family grieves, my department and the community feel the loss.

At Christmas.

Engine 56 and Medic 12 of the Sacramento Fire Department wanted to be anywhere but where they were that day.

Being the first to respond, and hearing that a deputy sheriff had been shot, they threw protocol away. They refused to stage and wait for a suspect to be declared “in custody.” They decided, on their own, they were going into the hot area, a completely unknown area, and they were going to apply state-of-the-art lifesaving techniques to that deputy. A man they didn’t know at all. They didn’t know his ethnicity, his assignment, his religion, his height, his weight. It didn’t matter. He was an American and a law enforcement officer and a fellow emergency responder. That is, literally, all they knew. And that they, like he, had valued and loved wives and children at home. And still they went because, frankly, they didn’t care. That was their job. That’s what they signed up for.

At Christmas.

And what they found was a deputy on top of a chicken coop, shot directly through the front of the neck. The second they placed the leads on him he was in V-fib. And they knew immediately about that 37-year-old deputy, right there. The 37-year-old deputy, Vu Nguyen, who had just gotten married in April of this year. A brand new wife. Who expected her husband back, that day, at the end of his shift.

At Christmas.

Three firefighters climbed into the back of the box rig and headed for the trauma center, performing heroic lifesaving measures. Giving their best. Knowing the truth. Awash in his blood. Vu Nguyen officially died at the hospital in surgery.

And Mrs. Nguyen had to be found, to be notified. Of the death of her husband. By violent gunfire.

At Christmas.

The area became flooded with cops. SSD, SPD, CHP, other local agencies, 100 to 150 officers. Three helos, two SWAT teams, multiple K9 units. Schools were locked down. Anyone callous enough or violent enough or indifferent enough as this killer was certainly capable of finding a child and taking a hostage, or worse.

Finally, many, many hours later the perimeter was taken down. No suspect was in custody.

No one stopped. No one gave up. No one went home. Leads were developed. Evidence documented and collected. Photographs taken. The investigation started. There was a job to do and no one complained or stopped for food or drink. There was only one thought in mind: find the suspect. Take him into custody. Now.

But make no mistake. There were many phone calls made on cells. To loved ones. “That wasn’t me, honey,” was what the bulk of the calls said. Perhaps a little guiltily. But truthfully. Because their wives deserved to know. Now.

People didn’t stop. No one went home, no one slept. More leads were developed. And now, today, there is a suspect in custody.

It is a 16-year-old suspect. A known Asian gangbanger. 5’4″ tall, 130 pounds. Who made his bones and will be spoken of, with reverence, in his own cloistered and demented groups. He made his bones, acquired his respect. Respect that will follow him, in the gangs, in the jails, in the prisons, wherever he goes now. Until he dies. Forever.

In the meantime, we’ll continue with the investigation, collect more evidence, document, process and do what we are tasked with and what we have sworn to do: our jobs.

We’ll don our hats, wear our gloves, a black band over our badges, attend the funeral, watch the motors in the procession. One of our own has fallen.

And then we’ll go back to our jobs, every day. And love our wives, our husbands, hold our kids. Shed tears. Probably clutch and hug our dear ones even harder, closer.

Because life is so precious.

Not just at Christmas.

But all the time.

BZ

19 thoughts on “At Christmas

  1. I wish these gangbanger pieces of sh*t would all self terminate.

    My thoughts and heartfelt sympathies for his wife and family and the cops that fought so hard not only to save him but to catch the rat bastard who killed him.

    You can only blame the parents and the circumstances so much. At 16 I knew full well a loaded gun discharged directly at another human being would kill them. NO MERCY.

  2. We lost one on Christmas Eve in 2000… I was literally heartbroken, for many reasons, the officer himself, his family, all the normal reasons…

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to your officer, his family, friends and colleagues, you know where I’m coming from BZ, I have too many friends and family in the business, and this breaks my heart at any time, but here at Christmas it’s even worse…
    ********************

    Aubrey Hawkins, 29, was shot when he and several other police officers responded to a robbery call from a sporting goods store at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Cannaday said.

    CNN.com – Police search for escaped convicts linked to officer’s death – December 26, 2000

  3. I am truly sorry for him and his family.
    The one thing that always amazes me in situations like this is that the perp is most of the caught alive. I have to admit that I would probably cap the POS before he wasted any more taxpayer money.

  4. And with dear grace we mourn our honored dead and protector. May he find mercy in the hereafter and seek justice to ensure that his honor is upheld.

    For the unjust we seek justice being better than they are, so that a defender’s sacrifice need not go in vain.

    And if we cannot give justice then our end is deserved and our existance undeserving of such protectors.

    Justice without mercy is uncivilized.

    Mercy without justice enslaves us to our fears.

    May the drops of mercy be measured only for those who demonstrate their deserving of it by remorse and making deep amends.

    Give none to enslavers.

    Give none that do not know remorse.

    Give none to those that slay our protectors, as they deserve it not being beyond comprehension of law and, thus, outlaw forever.

  5. Sorry to hear about this BZ, in your line of work unfortunately it’s unavoidable…
    No matter how much preparation, planning and training you do some idiot with bad intentions is going to cause GOOD men to lose their lives.

    The murdering POS that caused this good man to lose his life should be locked in a room with the victims brethren, and it should be video taped and broadcast so the criminal element would know the consequences of the act.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS

  6. It’s all been said before, but it’s never been better said. Thank you, and thanks to my friend from your area who forwarded the link. As one who has been a part of the investigative team on a murdered comrade I now well of what you speak. There is no justice for this, as exchanging a life full of promise and service for the life the Street Rat is not ever an even trade. The next part is also hard as we in our Department and Community have waited over 6 years and still no trial for the killer. Thank you for speaking so powerfully what we all feel..

  7. I’m sorry to read about this BZ. It takes a special person to put their life on the line in order to protect others. What a huge loss.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to your community.

  8. BZ,
    SOrry I missed this. I have as much respect for law enforcement as I do our military. I am proud of you and your comrads BZ and may your friend rest in peace.

    These things are so hard to take around Christams but really any time.

  9. Sorry for the loss- the murder- of your comrade. Four deputies in 2 years- 2 by violent murder- is a horrible, horrible loss to our nation.

    God bless you and your fellow law enforcement officers for protecting and serving our society from the criminal scum out there. I hope Jeff Mitchell’s killer is found.

    And prayers for Vu Nguyen’s family.

Comments are closed.