Eight peace officers died in the line of duty in California in 2018, lifting the total number of line-of-duty deaths in the state to 1,649.
Nationally, 163 officers died in the line of duty in 2018, and another 47 have fallen over the first five months of 2019.
To keep the memories of every fallen officer alive, teams of Orange County peace officers complete a 630-bike ride every year.
Roughly two dozen officers from the Westminster and Tustin police departments and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) completed a four-day cycling trek from the California Peace Officers’ Memorial to Westminster Police Department’s fallen officer memorial, arriving at about 2:30 p.m. May 23.
Family members, friends, and fellow officers were there to greet the cyclists, who got off their bicycles, circled the memorial, held hands, and observed a moment of silence to remember their fallen brothers and sisters.
The annual ride coincides with National Police Week and takes place to honor peace officers who’ve lost their lives in the line of duty and to raise money for the families of those fallen officers.
“Cops are close with each other anyway,” said Westminster Police Sgt. Bill Drinnin, one of the organizers of the annual ride. “Every single officer that is involved in it was beyond dedicated to this cause so we all are truly (united) for that one reason … and this makes us even closer.”
The cyclists were divided into three groups, with each group riding 50 to 80 miles a day.
“It’s not easy,” Drinnin said. “It was cold and windy and there was some rain, but the miles have to get covered and they were.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Department retired Deputy Ron Dunlap started the interagency ride in 2001 to raise funds for the Project 999 Foundation, which supports Orange County officers injured or killed in the line of duty.
In 2012, Drinnin began organizing the event, adding Code 3 Cycling to the cause. Code 3 is the Westminster Police Department’s memorial foundation supporting fallen and injured officers and their families locally and across the country.
Tustin Police Officer Bonnie Breeze is an avid cyclist who participated in the ride for at least the eighth time.
“(It’s) four days of suffering and eating together,” Breeze said. “We’re in vans together. We definitely get to know each other a lot better.”
As a member of the OCSD honor guard, Breeze has also participated in funerals and memorial services for fallen officers.
“I’ve been to a lot of funerals and I’ve gone all across the country to many different agencies to honor these guys,” she said.
OCSD Deputy Chris Yurial completed the ride for the second time and was among four OCSD deputies who participated.
“It’s a great experience,” said Yurial, who is assigned to the Theo Lacy Facility. “We do it for a great cause. At the end of the day, we’re all here for one purpose and it’s for our fallen brothers and sisters. We make it down here and it’s a sense of accomplishment that you can’t take away. The bond that you get is indescribable. We’ll forever remember this.”