As the grieving mother bid farewell to her only child, she found room in her heart for gratitude – a word repeated often at a memorial service Thursday for fallen Orange County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Carlos J. Cammon.
Cammon was 29 when he collapsed on July 18, 2013, during an extremely strenuous SWAT tryout at the OCSD’s Regional Training Facility in Tustin, said Lt. Nate Wilson, chief of the OCSD’s Stanton Police Services.
Cammon, a six-year OCSD veteran, was a patrol deputy in Stanton when he collapsed.
He died Aug. 23, 2019 at a long-term care facility, Kindred Hospital, in Los Angeles.
Cammon’s mother, LeNora “Cookie” Sturdivant, was beside him almost every day during those six-plus years. Her son would at times open his eyes and look around and make noises, but was unable to communicate.
On Sept. 5, during a celebration of life ceremony before Cammon was laid to rest at Fairhaven Memorial Park & Mortuary in Santa Ana, Sturdivant thanked hundreds of deputies and law enforcement officers from several agencies for coming to pay their respects.
Sturdivant thanked God for the six years she had with her son after he was injured.
She thanked God for being able to be with him when he took his last breath.
And she thanked God for the time she said she heard him say “mom” to her from his hospital bed.
“Father God, my heart is broken,” Sturdivant said in her remarks, which came at the end of the hour-long service.
“I feel like a broken vessel. Please put me back together again, God. I’m missing my son.”
Several deputies from Stanton Police Services took up the front rows at the Thursday’s ceremony, which included a helicopter flyover, the playing of “Taps” by the OCSD Honor Guard, the playing of “Amazing Grace” by the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs Pipe Band, a flag-folding and presentation ceremony, and remarks by a handful of speakers.
“Carlos was a son first and a deputy sheriff second,” Sheriff Don Barnes said. “This is how his mother wanted him to be honored and remembered and we are going to do exactly that: love our brother, honor him as he deserved, and remember him for the man God intended him to be.”’
Barnes said Cammon, who was a big presence with a magnetic smile – someone who radiated happiness no matter what he was doing – was the standard for what a deputy sheriff should be.
“A deputy must be courageous and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Barnes said. “Time and again, Carlos demonstrated his willingness to lay down his life for friend and stranger alike, whether on or off duty.”
In 2010, Cammon received a Medal of Courage after he and three other deputies, while off duty, subdued a man armed with a knife who was assaulting a woman at a restaurant in Orange.
“Many watched,” Barnes said, “and a few brave men acted. A deputy should have a servant’s heart and desire to help others.”
Cammon, Barnes said, exuded “a sense of energy and light.”
He also was humble, Barnes and other speakers said.
“Carlos was the best he could be and he was the best of all of us,” said Stu Greenberg, who was chief of police for Stanton Police Services when he met Cammon.
“I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘Here’s this big strong … guy who you always want on your team,” said Greenberg, a retired assistant sheriff who now is chief of police in Tustin. “He was confident. And I thought, ‘How am I supposed to lead somebody like this?’ But he was also humble and perhaps one of the happiest people I’ve ever met.”
Greenberg said Cammon lived life large.
“Everything he did was big,” Greenberg said. “He had a big washer and dryer. He had big dogs. One of them was a Rhodesian ridgeback…And he had a big truck.
“He lived life on his terms, and he was bigger than life and he had a heart to go with it. And a smile to go with it.”
Cammon was born in Los Angeles on Feb. 7, 1984 and was raised in San Gabriel.
As a child, he worked as an actor and was featured in several commercials for major restaurant chains and clothing retailers.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law and Society from UC Irvine, graduating with honors in 2006.
Cammon began his career with the OCSD in 2007 and was first assigned to the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. He then worked in the Intake Release Center before transferring to patrol for Stanton Police Services.
Cammon had plans to return to school to obtain a master’s degree in Homeland Security in the hopes of working within that division for the OCSD, officials said.
At Thursday’s ceremony, Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs President Tom Dominguez offered a few “words of gratitude,” as he put it.
“When Carlos went down,” Dominguez said, “it was very difficult for the agency to digest… It was sudden. It was obviously unexpected.”
Dominguez expressed his gratitude for Sturdivant.
“Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful…and we want to express our extreme gratitude to you for caring for your son nearly every day while he fought and while he struggled, and there is nothing that we could ever do to return that kindness,” he said.
“There is no greater blessing that a child can receive than the love from a mother,” Dominguez added. “And Carlos is truly, truly blessed. And for that, I want to say thank you for being by his side while we carried (out our) duties.”
Pastor Lynette M. Long delivered an opening prayer, a eulogy, and closing remarks.
She told those in attendance to walk with joy and a smile on your face – as Cammon did.
“Don’t walk dead,” Long said. “Be alive. Whatever you’re doing, whatever your mission is, whatever your purpose is, you must walk alive.”
Barnes thanked Sturdivant for raising “an exceptional young man.”
He added: “Carlos didn’t turn out the way he did by accident or default, but by instead deliberate intent of a caring and loving mother. Thank you for sharing Carlos with us. His years were short, but his impact on those he touched everlasting….”
“Thank you, Carlos, for a job well done and a life well lived.”