This week is National Police Week. It’s a time when we as a country reflect on the sacrifice and service law enforcement officers across the country make every day. We also recognize those law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in service to others.
These eight officers were recognized for their sacrifice this week in Sacramento as their names were added to the California Peace Officers Memorial.
Deputy Steven Belanger, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
On December 10, 1994, a then 29-year-old Deputy Steven Belanger pulled over an assault suspect in Rowland Heights, CA. During the course of his investigation, a 20-year-old suspect rode up on a skateboard with a gun in hand. Belanger was shot in the head and foot. The suspect was a friend of the person driving the car Belanger had pulled over. At the time of the shooting, Belanger was married and had a 15-month-old daughter. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet, which remained lodged in his skull. Belanger would never completely recover from his injures and passed away on February 6, 2018, from complications directly related to the shooting.
Officer Gregory Casillas, Pomona Police Department
On March 9, 2018, 30-year-old Officer Gregory Casillas responded to a call of a reckless driver. A pursuit ensued. The driver crashed and ran into an apartment complex, where the suspect ran into an apartment and barricaded himself. When officers attempted to make contact, the suspect shot through the door, wounding an officer. Casillas attempted to render aid and was fatally wounded. Casillas had just completed his field training when he was killed. He was married and left behind his wife, a five-month-old-son and a four-year-old son.
Deputy Ryan Zirkle, Marin County Sheriff’s Department
On March 15, 2018, Deputy Ryan Zirkle was responding to a 911 hang-up call in the early morning hours when he was involved in a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1 in Marin County. His vehicle was located down an embankment. Despite efforts to save him, Zirkle succumbed to his injuries. Zirkle was 24 years old and had been a deputy for 2 ½ years. He was engaged to be married at the time of his passing.
Officer Kirk Griess, California Highway Patrol
On August 10, 2018, Officer Kirk Griess was conducting a traffic stop when a pick-up truck veered off the road into him and the vehicle he had pulled over. Both Griess and the driver of the vehicle he had pulled over were killed. Griess was a 19-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol assigned as a motor officer. He was also a Marine Corps veteran. Griess was 46 years old and married with three children. The driver of the vehicle was allegedly using a phone and was distracted at the time of the collision.
Deputy Mark Stasyuk, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department
On September 17, 2018, 27-year-old Deputy Mark Stasyuk and his partner were called to a Rancho Cordova Pep Boys regarding a person threatening employees. Almost immediately upon stepping inside the store, the suspect opened fire on the officers with a handgun. Stasyuk was wounded and ran out of the store in an attempt to seek cover. His partner and a store employee were also wounded. The suspect followed Stasyuk outside and continued to shoot. Stasyuk was shot in the head and killed. The suspect was wounded and was eventually taken into custody. Stasyuk was a newlywed and is survived by his wife and parents.
Sergeant Ron Helus, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office
On November 8, 2018, 54-year-old Sergeant Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer responded to a call of an active shooter at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. Hearing screams and gunshots coming from inside the bar, the officers immediately made entry. A gunfight ensued and Helus was mortally wounded. Eleven people were shot and killed by the suspect. Helus was set to retire at the end of this year. He is survived by his wife and 24-year-old son.
Deputy Antonio Hinostroza, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department
Deputy Antonio Hinostroza, 45, was in pursuit of an impaired driver when he lost control of his vehicle and struck a power pole. The suspect was later captured after his vehicle was disabled with spike strips. Hinostroza was a 19-year veteran of the department and a Marine veteran. He left behind two sons.
Corporal Ronil Singh, Newman Police Department
In the early morning of December 26, 2018, Cpl. Ronil Singh, 33, stopped a vehicle and the driver opened fire with a handgun and shot him. Singh radioed for help but passed away from his injuries. Singh was an immigrant from the Fiji Islands and left behind a wife and 5-month-old son. A widely circulated photo showed Singh with his wife and child posing in front of a Christmas tree just hours before his death.
Joe Vargas is a retired police captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.