Their lives were cut short when they were on the job, but memories of two fallen Fullerton Police officers live on.
And soon, motorists will be reminded daily about the ultimate sacrifices made by Officer Jerry Hatch and Det. Tommy De La Rosa.
Recently approved legislation authored by Sen. Bob Huff (R-San Dimas) names two portions of local state highways for Hatch and De La Rosa.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 27 designates a portion of State Highway Route 91 as the “Fullerton Police Officer Jerry Hatch Memorial Highway.”
SCR 28 designates the northbound and southbound lanes of State Highway Route 5 at the SR 91 interchange in Fullerton as the “Fullerton Police Detective Tommy De La Rosa Memorial Interchange.”
The signs will be up within a year following the passage of the legislation in early August, a spokesman for Huff said.
“Both of these officers provided the public with exemplary service and dedication to their jobs throughout their careers with the Fullerton Police Department,” Huff said in a statement. “Det. De La Rosa served his country during the Vietnam War while in the Marine Corps. Officer Hatch was a dedicated family man and the first Fullerton police officer to be killed in the line of duty. Both paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
On Sunday, June 29, 1975, while on his way to work, Hatch stopped to assist a motorist with an engine fire on the Beach Boulevard off-ramp of the 91. As he was placing his fire extinguisher back in his trunk, a drunk driver struck Hatch from behind. He died a day later.
On June 21, 1990, De La Rosa was ambushed and shot five times during an undercover reverse sting narcotics operation. Gravely injured, he was still able to return fire and fatally wound one of the suspects before succumbing to his injuries. Three other suspects were convicted of De La Rosa’s murder and were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
No taxpayer money will be used for the memorial signs, Huff’s spokesman said. Donations from the FPD and members of the community will pay for the cost of both signs and installation.
Legislation is required for a portion of a state-owned roadway or highway to be named in honor of a particular person or group. The process can take a couple of years. Sometimes it starts with a police department going to a city council to get a resolution passed calling for the legislation.
Cpl. Ryan Warner, a motor officer and 17-year veteran assigned to the FPD, took the initiative that led to passage of the two pieces of Huff-sponsored legislation, Sgt. Kathryn Hamel said.
Warner said he has noticed over the years numerous memorial signs for officers and others but until now there had been no public memorials for Hatch and De La Rosa. So late last year he wrote a letter to Sen. Huff’s office outlining his proposal.
Huff agreed to sponsor the bills after the FPD worked with the State Department of Transportation to identify the two locations for the signs.
Warner said he was happy when the legislation passed.
“There’s no true way to honor them or bring them back, but hopefully these signs will make more people aware of who these officers were and the sacrifices they made,” Warner said.
To read a recent Behind the Badge OC story about De La Rosa, click here.