Lieutenant Ryan Kroeker got a call from Bakersfield Police Department’s Community Relations Department with an unusual request: Would he help someone propose to their girlfriend?
The police department receives more than 750,000 calls from the community each year, and some of them are requests to attend birthday parties or speak at neighborhood events, but a wedding proposal?
It was a first, but Kroeker was intrigued.
“I thought this could be a great opportunity to be a part of something that shows our other side in law enforcement,” Kroeker said. “We all love to help people and who doesn’t love a good proposal? The idea of being a part of something kind, it seemed like a wonderful thing to do.”
The couple was Christina Martinez and Fabian Perez, who have been dating for three years and are moving to Bakersfield to start their life together.
Perez was planning to propose, and he was looking to do something his girlfriend would never forget.
“I didn’t want it to be just another day. I wanted her to always remember how I proposed,” Perez said. “When I called the police, I thought it was a long shot. Why would they help me? But then they said yes, and I was surprised. Made me feel ‘wow, these guys really care.’”
Kroeker, Perez and the Bakersfield Police Department’s community relations unit collaborated to put the perfect plan in place.
Perez would get his girlfriend to the location and create a believable back story to keep her from becoming suspicious.
Kroeker wrote down the make and model of Perez’s car and made sure the location they picked wouldn’t cause a big crowd that would blow their cover.
The Bakersfield Community Relations unit coordinated with Kroeker and let dispatch know about this special “call for service.”
“Our department set up nearby so we could record the proposal and take photos,” said Kelsey Brackett, Public Information Officer for the Bakersfield Police Department. “We also were allowed to use body cameras for recording, which really made this special from our side since we don’t typically release ‘fun’ footage like this.”
On the afternoon of the proposal, Kroeker and Perez were texting, which made Martinez ask him who he was talking to, but he was able to throw her off track by saying he was checking in with friends they were meeting with later.
When they left to run “errands”, there was a small hiccup when Perez and Martinez realized they had a flat tire and needed to pull over and change it. Perez put in a call to Kroeker and let him know they were running a few minutes behind.
“Things got a little interesting when he called me to say he had a flat. But he took care of it so fast. He must have superhuman tire changing skills, because 15 minutes later he called me, and we were back on track,” Kroeker said.
As the couple made their way to the proposal destination, the reality that Perez was about ask his girlfriend the most important question of his life made him buzz with excitement and nervousness.
When Perez heard the police siren and the saw the red and blue lights flickering behind him, it was showtime.
“I was trying to be as professional as possible because she (Christina) looked nervous from the beginning,” Kroeker said. “When I asked him to step out of the car and we put handcuffs on him she started filming with her phone. I was trying to keep her at ease. But she looked really worried. She thought her boyfriend was going to jail.”
Perez asked Martinez to keep filming the traffic stop, and he was escorted to the police car by Kroeker, with the engagement ring tucked in his back pocket.
At this point, the staff from the Community Relations unit were across the street at a gas station where they were filming with their camera phones. Which isn’t an unusual thing to see anymore, according to Kroeker.
Martinez, who sat in the passenger seat of the car while her boyfriend was taken away in handcuffs, couldn’t keep herself from crying.
“When we got pulled over, I didn’t know what was going on. The street was crowded, and everyone was watching us from the gas station, and I saw people filming us. The police officer said the car was suspicious and that’s why we got pulled over and I kept trying to run scenarios through my head on why?” she said. “When they took Fabian away in handcuffs and then asked me to step out of the car, I thought this was my time, I was going to get arrested. I could barely say my name through my crying.“
As Martinez stepped out of the car, she was told to wait for Perez who was coming over to tell her something.
When he kneeled down and opened the ring box, Christina felt relief first and then happiness when Perez finally asked, “Will you marry me?”
“The first thing I thought was ‘Thank God!”,” she said with a laugh. “I was terrified and crying. I thought if he did propose it might have been in a simple way, maybe dinner. Not trying to give me a heart attack. But now I am thankful to have this special video the police department made for us, and we have this special story to share.”
Perez, who is relieved his girlfriend said “yes,” will never forget how the Bakersfield Police Department made it an unforgettable day.
“I just can’t thank them enough, they were incredible,” Perez said. “Police officers get a bad reputation, but people really underrate them. They protect us, but they also care about us. They gave us a memory to always cherish and that’s extremely nice of them.”
For Kroeker and the Bakersfield Police Department, the roadside proposal was a heartwarming “call of service” they don’t usually get to go on.
“I was excited to do this,” he said. “It’s nice to help people and being a part of Fabian and Christina’s big day was really special. People think of law enforcement and think of us just taking people to jail. That’s just part of our job. But doing something like this felt kind and it felt good to be a part of it.”