He was a guardian. A warrior. A protector. A man who served his family, his neighbors and his fellow Americans.
He was a hero.
Officer Rick Nilos, an 11-year member of the Fountain Valley Police Department, who died March 29, was described with those words over and over by fellow officers, family members and by men of God during Nilos’ funeral at Calvary Chapel in Oceanside on Monday, April 17.
Nilos was 35. He was found unresponsive at home while off duty.
The sentiments and reflections were shared in front of nearly 1,000 mourners.
Among the attendees were law enforcement personnel from the Fountain Valley, Irvine, Orange, Anaheim and Garden Grove police departments, as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“He was a warrior for the freedoms and securities of this great nation, for our community, for our families and friends,” said Brent Wagner, pastor of Voyage Calvary Chapel in Fountain Valley and the police department’s chaplain. “He was a true public servant, a true friend.”
“Ricky,” as everyone called him, was a consummate family man, his younger sister Nicole Boyer said.
He met his future wife, Becky, when they were 14. They started dating at 16 and married at 20.
Nilos is a father of three boys, ages 12, 10 and 7.
He loved barbecuing for family and friends, camping and playing ball with his boys, his sister said.
“His easygoing, relaxed nature made him a delight to be around,” Boyer said. “People naturally gravitated toward him.”
In his eulogy, Calvary Chapel Pastor T.K. Williams said: “He is all of the man I want my four boys to be and all of the man I want my three daughters to marry.”
Nilos was a decorated U.S. Marine who was among the first wave to enter and liberate Iraq in 2003.
He was awarded an honorable discharge from the Marines in 2008.
Nilos was hired on at the Fountain Valley PD while still in the Police Academy at Palomar College.
As a motor officer in the Traffic Division, Nilos received his department’s Medal of Valor in 2010 for his involvement in a gun battle with a mentally ill man armed with an assault rifle.
Nilos also was a two-time recipient of the department’s lifesaving medal.
The first stems from Nilos’ actions after responding to a traffic collision in May 2011. The female driver of one of the vehicles was severally injured. Nilos noticed the woman wasn’t breathing.
He climbed into the vehicle and realized that she couldn’t breathe because the position of her head was cutting off her airway.
He repositioned her head and she took a breath. He supported her head and neck until paramedics could render aid.
Doctors and paramedics later credited Nilos for saving her life.
Nilos’ earned a second life-saving medal for actions during a February 2014 call in which he administered CPR to a man who was overdosing on prescription drugs.
“He left pretty big footprints, and it was footprints that are filled with all good stuff,” said his longtime friend and fellow FVPD Officer Brian Casteel.
Nilos also served on the FVPD Color Guard, the West County SWAT Crisis Negotiation Team and the department’s Peer Support Team.
“He knew he had the ability to impact a person’s life,” FVPD Lt. Bob Sweaza said. “He had empathy. He believed his role was that of a guardian. Each ticket he wrote, he believed that he saved a life.”
Nilos received military honors from the U.S. Marine Corps and is interred at Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.
Said Wagner: “Death is not the end of the story of Rick Nilos. I believe Jesus would say to the family that he is strong and free and safely home with me.”
Anyone wanting to make donations to Nilos’ family should make checks payable to the Fountain Valley Police Officers’ Association, 18627 Brookhurst St. No. 441, Fountain Valley, CA 92708.
Click here to support.