On Nov. 19, 1940, Orange County Sheriff’s Department Deputies Ezra Stanley and Carl Pryor were on patrol along Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach when a drunk driver slammed into their car from behind.
The impact caused the car to thrust more than 150 feet from the point of impact and strike a post along PCH, puncturing the gas tank and causing the car to burst into flames.
Pryor managed to escape from the burning vehicle, but was unsuccessful in his attempt to free Stanley, who was pinned tightly inside the car and was unconscious.
The vehicle was completely charred from front to back and Stanley died at the scene.
Stanley, who was 50, was a six-year veteran of the OCSD and left behind his wife, Bernice.
Nearly 80 years later, the Huntington Beach Police Department is making sure Stanley’s ultimate sacrifice is memorialized forever.
On Nov. 19, the 78th anniversary of Stanley’s line-of-duty death, members of the OCSD and Huntington Beach Police Department, along with other local officials, gathered at the wetlands at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve near the site of the crash to honor the fallen deputy by dedicating a street sign in his name.
“When people pass by Deputy Stanley’s sign, it will be an opportunity to think of him, his family, his coworkers, and our current and former public safety professionals,” said HBPD Lt. David Dereszynski, who headed a committee to devise a way to memorialize the three peace officers who have died in the line of duty in Huntington Beach.
“While Deputy Stanley served almost a century ago, the dangers to our current and future employees have not changed,” Dereszynski said. “It is for this very reason that we need to keep Deputy Stanley’s name and the names of all other fallen public safety personnel alive in our hearts and minds.”
With an HBPD and OCSD honor guard standing at attention on both sides of the sign post, OCSD Undersheriff Don Barnes unveiled the street sign, which displays an image of the OCSD badge and the words, “Deputy Ezra Stanley End of Watch, 11-19-1940.”
“Sadly, 78 years ago is a story that we are still telling today,” Barnes said. “Our law enforcement and our partners in public safety in fire are still putting their lives on the line every day, and bad things are still happening.”
Barnes referenced the recent death of Capt. Mike Kreza, of the Costa Mesa Fire Department, who was off duty while riding his bicycle when he was struck by an allegedly intoxicated driver.
Stanley is among nine OCSD deputies who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
His memorial also is one of three being unveiled in Huntington Beach to honor fallen officers.
On Oct. 13, the city unveiled a street sign honoring HBPD Officer Leo Roy “LeRoy” Darst, who was killed on that date in 1928.
In December, the city will commemorate HBPD Officer Leslie James Prince, who died in the line of duty on Dec. 1, 1974.