Garden Grove lieutenant among 200 police officers lost to COVID-19


The white hearse stood out in the cavalcade of police SUVs and motorcycles. The red and blue lights flashed, as it slowly escorted Lt. John Reynolds back the Garden Grove Police Station for the final time on Monday.

Two rows of officers, wearing masks and standing at attention, stood along Acacia Avenue and saluted as the procession passed the department where Reynolds served the community for 25 years.

Reynolds, 59, died Sunday due to complications related to COVID-19. He contracted the virus in late November and spent the last few months valiantly fighting for his life. South Pasadena Police Department announced Sunday that it too had lost an employee to complications connected to COVID-19 – 30-year-old Police Assistant Bayron Salguero, who had died a day earlier.

Garden Grove Police Officers salute as a hearse carrying the body of Lt. John Reynolds drives by police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The pandemic has hit policing hard.

In 2020, there were 315 police officers who died on the job – 197 of them COVID related, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. It’s a drastic increase from 2019 when there were 148 deaths. Among those lost were Riverside Sheriffs’ deputies Sheriff Terrell Young and Deputy Dave Werksman.

A career police officer, Reynolds is survived by his wife, Jena, two adult daughters and an 18-month-old son.

“We were hoping John would pull through, he hung on for so long showing what a fighter he was …” said Lt. Carl Whitney. “We are going to miss him, his smile and how much he loved the community.”

On Monday, Lt. Carl Whitney reflected on his history with Reynolds who he had known for close to 30 years. Going back to the early 1990s, when Reynolds worked for the Department of Probation before becoming a police officer.

Right up until the end, Reynolds was a person who was always thinking of others before himself, Whitney said.

“As bad as it was for him in the hospital, he was turning it around and talking to other offices and just encouraging them to be a better person,” Whitney said. “He was talking about your family, and your friends and your life as opposed to himself. He wasn’t worried about himself. He was worried about how everyone else was feeling.”

Reynolds was happiest, when he was serving the community, Whitney said.

Kids from Post Elementary School, part of the Garden Grove Unified School District, present decorated Christmas cookies to the Garden Grove PD, part of a Boys & Girls Club of Garden Grove project, during a visit by the officers that includes Sgt. John Reynolds, left, and officers Andy Flaws, Robert Kivler and Jason Fulton.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He served on the board of the Garden Groves Boys & Girls Club and volunteered with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Garden Grove.

In 2019, Reynolds was named “Man of the Year,” by the Garden Grove Chamber of Commerce.

He also volunteered with Garden Grove’s annual Strawberry Festival, Whitney said.

“He gave back to the community all the time,” the lieutenant said.

As a member of the police department, Reynolds mentored younger officers and was recognized by his peers, being named his agency’s Officer of the Year in 2005 and 2006.

He was instrumental in starting the Gang Reduction Intervention Program, commonly known as GRIP.

When working in the Youth Services Unit, Reynolds played a role in implementing active shooter training in local schools.

Reynolds most endearing trait was his engaging personality, Whitney said.

He laughed with you,” Whitney said. He laughed at himself. He always checked to see how you were doing. He was such a great guy.”

Garden Grove PD Range Masters Sgt. Rich Burillo, left, Sgt. John Reynolds, Sgt. Jon Wainwrigh and Sgt. Jim Fischer.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Garden Grove Police Officers stand at attention for a procession as they wait for a hearse carrying the body of Lt. John Reynolds drives by police headquarters.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Flowers are left at base of the Garden Grove Police Officer Memorial for Lt. John Reynolds who passed away of complications of COVID-19.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge